Many women who have experienced sexual violence such as torture understandably do not feel able to tell anyone of their experiences. As a result, women go through legal procedures, such as asylum determination processes, often with no one knowing what they have experienced in terms of rape or other torture-- not their lawyer, immigration authorities or health professionals they may have seen. This non-disclosure can have a serious negative impact on the health of those women who would not be properly identified or have access to appropriate healthcare; and for some, on their asylum case which may be negatively affected.
This research employed a qualitative research methodology using semi-structured, in-depth interviews with 25 women torture survivors in the UK to explore their perspectives and experiences of disclosing (or not) their experiences of sexual violence and other torture. Interviews were transcribed and analysed using Thematic Analysis, informed by Foucauldian Discourse Analysis.
The findings suggest a number of critical themes, one of which will be examined in more detail in this paper. This theme is on the notion of `disclosure' and `To tell (or not to tell)'. The findings from this study are triangulated with findings from two other parallel studies (conducted by the same authors) on the same topic, but with two separate samples, one of health professionals and the other with legal professionals working with women survivors of torture. Discussion of the findings from this study will highlight the paradoxical and contradictory notions of `disclosure' and the construction of `late' disclosure and its implications for policy-makers and implications for practice by lawyers and health professionals working with women survivors.
Funding & No Conflicts Declaration
We are grateful to Comic Relief UK and International Centre for Health and Human Rights for financial support. No conflicts of interest to declare.