“God Helped Us”: Resilience, Religion and Experiences of Gender-Based Violence and Trafficking among African Forced Migrant Women
1. Background and Introduction
3.1. Seeking Asylum and Experiencing Violence and Exploitation
“… when I ask them—all of them they get problems. They were raped, they were bad treated … 90% of the women I have seen, they say they get problems in Libya. They were raped or they were abused …”(Salim, Chair of a Tunisian NGO)
“When I was leaving Libya, in the house where we were waiting to be brought to Europe, with the man who I was collaborating with … they moved us to another house. Women, on another side, in another house, men, on the other side … And from this moment, they started raping us. It was no longer about the trip. We didn’t see the man [smuggler] anymore …”(Sophia from the DRC, Christian, Irregular migrant)
“If I don’t allow men to sleep with me, they will beat me … There are plenty of girls, they would lock us in a room and many men would come and sleep with us, they would collect the money”.(Orisa from Nigeria, Christian, Irregular migrant)
… We registered [for refugee status] in 2014. They didn’t follow it for two years … After that, I came in 2018 and renewed the registration … We wanted to go to another country … Last April 2019, there was war in the place we were living [in Libya] … we went to the shelter … the militias kept coming … [dressed] as the police officers … Libya is unsafe … there’s discrimination in Sudan, ethnic cleansing and women get raped … I applied for asylum … They are going through the procedures, but it’s very slow”(Halima from South Sudan, Muslim, Refugee)
3.2. Faith and Religion-Enabled Resilience
3.2.1. “I Had Hope … I Imagined, I Prayed”: The Power of Prayers
“After all these events, I had not lost faith. I had hope that God would do something. Often, I imagined, I prayed, I prayed. It made me stronger.”(Anisa from Ghana, Christian, Irregular migrant)
“Sometimes we ask them ‘you know it’s very difficult and dangerous to take the sea, and why do you want again to go? You are a survivor …’ He said ‘no, God is doing everything for me. If I have to die, ok’ … God will decide if I will arrive, or I will die, I will do it ’ …”(Sarah, Psychologist, INGO, Tunisia)
“… for Libya we don’t have a chance to pray … it made me fired because instead of what you are supposed to speak out, you speak inside”.(Sophia from DRC, Christian, Irregular migrant)
“When I was in Guinea, I was praying frequently, but since I left Guinea I am not praying that frequently because my mind is not at rest, when I was in Libya I wasn’t at peace …”(Naila from Guinea, Muslim, Asylum-seeker)
“I assume now is 2 o’clock or 4 o’clock, or isha [night prayer], fajr [pre-sunrise prayer], so I just stand and pray just like that … I pray with surah [a Qur’an’s chapter] … sometimes I say these … astaghfarallah [‘I seek forgiveness in God’], I use it and count it, sometimes, I count it over one thousand times … So, I was more prayerful than ever because I don’t have anything to do, expect from the people that normally came and rape us … [I] cry and talk to God … I was so weak … I just lean to the wall … and I pray …”(Asia from Sierra Leone, Muslim, Refugee)
“He directed me and encouraged me to pray more … He says to me … to be strong, God will do everything fine for me, I should not cry and should not worry for things are out of my control, the only thing that I can do is to just pray …”(Asia from Sierra Leone, Muslim, Refugee)
3.2.2. “God Gave Me Power …”: Cooperating with God to Survive
“… the glory of God, it was God, because some in front of me died … I had already died, it was God who brought me back to life … I was praying when our boat cascaded, there were so many of us … some are not here today … even for the operation [invoked premature birth by her traffickers], after I gave birth to this boy … I thank God for everything … When I was in Libya and doing all these [forced prostitution], every day I go and cry to my God, so my God just takes me out of this place because I can’t go outside … they locked us inside … I thank God for making me alive today …”(Orisa from Nigeria, Christian, Irregular migrant)
“Thanks to God that he helped me to leave for Europe, he gives me protection. In Libya, God helps me to get through all of this … Of course my faith is stronger. We were travelling through the desert at 20:00 at night until 5 in the morning … You don’t know where you’re going. I saw a young boy shouting, ‘Mummy? I can see the sunrise, I can see lorries.’ These were the Jeeps that were coming to collect us. God helped us … Many people die. God gave me power to help my boy … To go from the beach, to swim … I praise God every day … When we were left in the desert, we had no one. It was God who took care of us in the Sahara … Sometimes I say to God, why are you leaving me like this? I’m crying … You start to talk and see that it does good … God hears me … you will see other people come and give food … Glory to God … It is not something you forget in your life.”(Gloria from the DRC, Christian, Irregular migrant)
3.3. “Every Day I Ask God …”: Spiritual Struggles and Unmet Religious Needs
“Every day I ask God, I know the question is not good … ’why did you abandon me?’ … I pray to God to remember about me to change my life … (sobbing) … Every day I used to ask why are you leaving me to suffering like this …”(Nathalie from Nigeria, Christian, Refused asylum seeker)
“They [religious needs] are my primary needs, they are equal to other needs … They are important to me because nobody would exist without God …”(Violette from Ivory Coast, Muslim, Irregular migrant)
“I don’t bring up the religion … but sometimes … one person needs to talk about God … will say ‘why God made all this happen to me, or why God forgot about me?’. Then you have to talk about it, so we talk … I don’t see it as important as much, only if a person is in need … because sometimes they will tell you that ‘I am punished by God’ … ’maybe I did something wrong’ … With some psychological troubles you cannot bring religion because it will make the person feel worse.”(Sarah, psychologist, INGO, Tunisia)
“If I had Bible, I would have life again now, because everything about me is a loss, so if I have Bible I could have hope, every day it could talk to me. At the moment, I have nothing, so I would pray, sit, think … I could start live again, because inside me I am crying, I have pain … Bible could help me and teach me about life … give me more courage.”(Nathalie from Nigeria, Christian, Refused asylum seeker)
4. Discussion and Conclusions
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
Christian respondents identified themselves as Protestants, Catholics, Baptist, the Assembly of God, the Church of Christ.
- Ager, Alastair, and Joey Ager. 2011. Faith and the Discourse of Secular Humanitarianism. Journal of Refugee Studies 24: 456–72. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Akkerman, Mark. 2021. Outsourcing Oppression: How Europe Externalises Migrant Detention beyond Its Shores. Border Wars Briefing. Amsterdam: Transnational Institute and Stop Wapenhandel, April, Available online: https://www.tni.org/files/publication-downloads/outsourcingoppression-report-tni.pdf (accessed on 20 May 2021).
- Babatunde-Sowole, Olutoyin, Tamara Power, Debra Jackson, Patricia M. Davidson, and Michelle DiGiacomo. 2016. Resilience of African Migrants: An Integrative Review. Health Care for Women International 37: 946–63. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed]
- Barada, Rassil, Alina Potts, Angela Bourassa, Manuel Contreras-Urbina, and Krystel Nasr. 2021. “I Go up to the Edge of the Valley, and I Talk to God”: Using Mixed Methods to Understand the Relationship between Gender-Based Violence and Mental Health among Lebanese and Syrian Refugee Women Engaged in Psychosocial Programming. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 18: 4500. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed]
- Bonanno, George A., Sandro Galea, Angela Bucciarelli, and David Vlahov. 2007. What Predicts Psychological Resilience after Disaster? The Role of Demographics, Resources, and Life Stress. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 75: 671–82. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Braun, Virginia, and Victoria Clarke. 2006. Using Thematic Analysis in Psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology 3: 77–101. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef][Green Version]
- Canning, Victoria. 2017. Gendered Harm and Structural Violence in the British Asylum System. Routledge Studies in Criminal Justice, Borders and Citizenship. London: Routledge. [Google Scholar]
- Davies, Thom, Arshad Isakjee, and Surindar Dhesi. 2017. Violent Inaction: The Necropolitical Experience of Refugees in Europe. Antipode 49: 1263–84. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Fargues, Phillippe, Marzia Rango, Emma Börgnas, and Irene Schöfberger, eds. 2020. Migration in West and North Africa and across the Mediterranean. Geneva: International Organization for Migration (IOM). [Google Scholar]
- Fineman, Martha Albertson. 2017. Vulnerability and Inevitable Inequality. Oslo Law Review 4: 133–49. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef][Green Version]
- Freedman, Jane. 2016. Sexual and Gender-Based Violence against Refugee Women: A Hidden Aspect of the Refugee “Crisis”. Reproductive Health Matters 24: 18–26. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Gezie, Lemma Derseh, Alemayehu Worku, Yigzaw Kebede, and Abebaw Gebeyehu. 2019. Sexual Violence at Each Stage of Human Trafficking Cycle and Associated Factors: A Retrospective Cohort Study on Ethiopian Female Returnees via Three Major Trafficking Corridors. BMJ Open 9: e024515. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef][Green Version]
- Gianesini, Giovanna. 2018. Forced Migration: Trauma, Faith, and Resilience. Social Work & Society 45: 98–121. [Google Scholar]
- Goodson, Lisa, Hoayda Darkal, Pakinam Hassan, Sarah Taal, Rawan Altaweel, and Jennny Phillimore. 2020. Forced Migration and Sexual and Gender-Based Violence: The Experiences of Forced Migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa in the UK. IRiS Working Paper No. 44/2020. Birmingham: Institute for Research into Superdiversity. [Google Scholar]
- Gozdziak, Elzbieta M. 2002. Spiritual Emergency Room: The Role of Spirituality and Religion in the Resettlement of Kosovar Albanians. Journal of Refugee Studies 15: 136–52. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Gubrium, Jaber, James Holstein, Amir Marvasti, and Karyn McKinney. 2012. The SAGE Handbook of Interview Research: The Complexity of the Craft. Newbury Park: SAGE Publications, Inc. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Hawkes, Clare, Kimberley Norris, Janine Joyce, and Douglas Paton. 2020. Resilience Factors in Women of Refugee Background: A Qualitative Systematic Review. Community Psychology in Global Perspective 6: 101–27. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Hodge, David R. 2020. How Do Trafficking Survivors Cope? Identifying the General and Spiritual Coping Strategies of Men Trafficked into the United States. Journal of Social Service Research 47: 1–12. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Hutchinson, Mary, and Pat Dorsett. 2012. What Does the Literature Say about Resilience in Refugee People? Implications for Practice. Journal of Social Inclusion 3: 55–78. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef][Green Version]
- IASC. 2015. Guidelines for Integrating Gender-Based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Action; Reducing Risk, Promoting Resilience and Aiding Recovery. Global Protection Cluster and Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC). Available online: https://gbvguidelines.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/2015-IASC-Gender-based-Violence-Guidelines_lo-res.pdf (accessed on 15 May 2018).
- Keck, Markus, and Patrick Sakdapolrak. 2013. What Is Social Resilience? Lessons Learned and Ways Forward. Erdkunde 67: 5–19. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Kelly, Liz. 2005. “You Can Find Anything You Want”: A Critical Reflection on Research on Trafficking in Persons within and into Europe. International Migration 43: 235–65. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Knott, Kim. 2016. Living Religious Practices. In Intersections of Religion and Migration. Religion and Global Migrations. Edited by Jennifer B. Saunders, Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh and Susanna Snyder. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Krause, Ulrike. 2015. A Continuum of Violence? Linking Sexual and Gender-Based Violence during Conflict, Flight, and Encampment. Refugee Survey Quarterly 34: 1–19. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Lazarus, Richard S., and Susan Folkman. 1984. Stress, Appraisal, and Coping. New York: Springer Publishing Company. [Google Scholar]
- Lunn, Jenny. 2009. The Role of Religion, Spirituality and Faith in Development: A Critical Theory Approach. Third World Quarterly 30: 937–51. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Lusk, Mark, Sam Terrazas, Janette Caro, Perla Chaparro, and Delia Puga Antúnez. 2021. Resilience, Faith, and Social Supports among Migrants and Refugees from Central America and Mexico. Journal of Spirituality in Mental Health 23: 1–22. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Nagai, M., U. Karunakara, E. Rowley, and G. Burnham. 2008. Violence against Refugees, Non-Refugees and Host Populations in Southern Sudan and Northern Uganda. Global Public Health 3: 249–70. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Ögtem-Young, Özlem. 2018. Faith Resilience: Everyday Experiences. Societies 8: 10. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef][Green Version]
- OHCHR. 2000. Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children, Supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. Article 3. Available online: https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/protocoltraffickinginpersons.aspx (accessed on 12 April 2021).
- Oram, Siân, Heidi Stöckl, Joanna Busza, Louise M. Howard, and Cathy Zimmerman. 2012. Prevalence and Risk of Violence and the Physical, Mental, and Sexual Health Problems Associated with Human Trafficking: Systematic Review. PLoS Medicine 9: e1001224. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed]
- Ottisova, L., S. Hemmings, L. M. Howard, C. Zimmerman, and S. Oram. 2016. Prevalence and Risk of Violence and the Mental, Physical and Sexual Health Problems Associated with Human Trafficking: An Updated Systematic Review. Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences 25: 317–41. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed][Green Version]
- Pargament, Kenneth I. 1997. The Psychology of Religion and Coping. New York: Guilford Press. [Google Scholar]
- Pargament, Kenneth I., Harold G. Koenig, and Lisa M. Perez. 2000. The Many Methods of Religious Coping: Development and Initial Validation of the RCOPE. Journal of Clinical Psychology 56: 519–43. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Parsitau, Damaris Seleina. 2011. The Role of Faith and Faith-Based Organisations among Internally Displaced Persons in Kenya. Journal of Refugee Studies 24: 493–512. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Pertek, Sandra. 2021. Rethinking resilience: Adapted religious coping among forced migrant women survivors of violence. Paper presented at Bold New Voices in Migration Research: Understanding Displacement, Hope, Resistance, Online, March 31. [Google Scholar]
- Pertek, Sandra Iman. 2022. Religion, Forced Migration and the Continuum of Violence: An Intersectional and Ecological Analysis. Ph.D Dissertation, University of Birmingham, UK. [Google Scholar]
- Pertek, Sandra, Jenny Phillimore, Selin Akyüz, Karen Block, Hannah Bradby, Saime Özçürümez, Anna Perez Aronsson, and Cathy Vaughan. 2022. “Nobody Helped Me”: Forced Migration and Sexual and Genderbased Violence: Findings from the SEREDA Project. Research Report. University of Birmingham. Available online: https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/documents/college-social-sciences/social-policy/iris/2022/sereda-international-report.pdf (accessed on 1 April 2022).
- Pertek, Sandra, Jenny Phillimore, Lisa Goodson with Amy Stevens, Sian Thomas, Pakinam Hassan, Hoayda Darkal, Sarah Taal, and Rowan Altaweel. 2021. Forced Migration and Sexual and Gender-Based Violence: Findings from the SEREDA Project in the UK. Research Report. University of Birmingham. Available online: https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/documents/college-social-sciences/social-policy/iris/2021/sereda-full-report.pdf (accessed on 1 December 2021).
- PEW Research Center. 2012. Faith on the Move. The Religious Affiliation of International Migrants. Global Religious Futures Project. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center, Available online: https://www.pewforum.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/7/2012/03/Faithonthemove.pdf (accessed on 20 October 2019).
- Phillimore, Jenny, Sandra Pertek, Jeanine Hourani, Saime Özçürümez, Selin Akyuz, Hoayda Darkal, and Hannah Bradby. 2021. “We are forgotten”: Forced migration, SGBV and COVID-19. Violence Against Women, 1–27. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Pertek, Sandra, Jenny Phillimore, and Pip McKnight. 2020. Forced Migration, SGBV and COVID-19: Understanding the Impact of COVID-19 on the Forced Migrant Survivors of SGBV. University of Birmingham. Available online: https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/Documents/college-social-sciences/social-policy/iris/2020/sgbv-covid-19.pdf (accessed on 1 December 2021).
- Rutledge, Kathleen, Sandra Pertek, Mohammad Abo-Hilal, and Atallah Fitzgibbon. 2021. Faith and Mental Health and Psycho-Social Support among Displaced Muslim Women. Forced Migration Review. Available online: https://www.fmreview.org/issue66/rutledge-pertek-abohilal-fitzgibbon (accessed on 1 December 2021).
- UNHCR. 2021. Global Trends. Forced Displacement in 2020. Available online: https://www.unhcr.org/60b638e37/unhcr-global-trends-2020 (accessed on 20 May 2021).
- Walker, Peter, Dyan Mazurana, Amy Warren, George Scarlett, and Henry Louis. 2012. The Role of Spirituality in Humanitarian Crisis Survival and Recovery. In Sacred Aid. Oxford: Oxford University Press, Available online: https://oxford-universitypressscholarship-com.ezproxyd.bham.ac.uk/view/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199916023.001.0001/acprof-9780199916023-chapter-5 (accessed on 2 May 2021).
- Wasco, Sharon M. 2003. Conceptualising the Harm Done by Rape: Applications of Trauma Theory to Experiences of Sexual Assault. Trauma, Violence & Abuse 4: 309–22. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Williamson, John, and Malia Robinson. 2006. Psychosocial Interventions, or Integrated Programming for Well-Being? Intervention: International Journal of Mental Health, Psychosocial Work & Counselling in Areas of Armed Conflict 4: 4–25. [Google Scholar]
- Wilson, Erin, and Luca Mavelli. 2016. The Refugee Crisis and Religion. Beyond Conceptual and Physical Boundaries. In The Refugee Crisis and Religion: Secularism, Security and Hospitality in Question. Edited by Luca Mavelli and Erin Wilson. London: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, pp. 1–22. [Google Scholar]
- Winkler, Kathrin. 2017. Reflecting on European Migration and Refugees: From a Feminist Perspective. Journalism and Mass Communication 7: 90–96. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
Publisher’s Note: MDPI stays neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
© 2022 by the author. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Pertek, S.I. “God Helped Us”: Resilience, Religion and Experiences of Gender-Based Violence and Trafficking among African Forced Migrant Women. Soc. Sci. 2022, 11, 201. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci11050201
Pertek SI. “God Helped Us”: Resilience, Religion and Experiences of Gender-Based Violence and Trafficking among African Forced Migrant Women. Social Sciences. 2022; 11(5):201. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci11050201Chicago/Turabian Style
Pertek, Sandra Iman. 2022. "“God Helped Us”: Resilience, Religion and Experiences of Gender-Based Violence and Trafficking among African Forced Migrant Women" Social Sciences 11, no. 5: 201. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci11050201