Can I apply for asylum in the United States since I was raped in my country?

Rape is recognized as persecution and potentially grounds for a grant of asylum, if other eligibility requirements are met.

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Question

I am a 21-year-old woman from Azerbaijan who was raped by police officers in Baku. During the rape they called me an Armenian whore. I want to stay in the United States. Can I apply for asylum?

Answer

Rape and other serious sexual harm are always considered severe enough to constitute persecution. As long as you are able to credibly testify that you were raped, the Immigration Judge or Asylum Officer should find that you have suffered persecution in the past.

Credible testimony is testimony that is detailed, consistent and plausible. It is important that you explain what happened to you in a coherent manner, so that the judge or officer can see the whole picture as if he or she was there. You should never, however, feel pressured to describe the rape itself if you don’t feel comfortable doing so. But do your best to detail what led up to the incident and what happened afterwards. Always remember to describe what was said to you if it explains why you believe you were persecuted.

It is also important that you explain why you believe you were raped. There are several important parts of your story that you should point out.

First, you were raped by police officers. Because the government is your persecutor, you will not have to prove that you could live safely in another part of your country. (If you had been raped by anyone outside the government – even if it was on political, racial, religious, or similarly significant grounds – you would need to show that you couldn’t escape the problem by moving to a part of your country far away from the perpetrator.)

Next, the persecutors referred to your nationality before the rape, so that a reasonable person would believe your nationality is the reason for the persecution. That’s very important, because it helps establish that this was no mere random or criminal act, but has a connection or “nexus” to one of the five grounds mentioned in U.S. immigration law. (See “Proving the "Nexus" or Reason for an Asylum Claimant's Persecution” for more on this.) Make sure to write what the police said to you on an affidavit that you should submit along with your application for asylum. Also make sure you explain the reference during your interview or hearing.

If you have any evidence other than your own testimony that the rape occurred – for example, a police or hospital report – be sure to include this in your application. (See “Preparing Persuasive Documents for Your Asylum Application.”)

If the judge or officer finds that you have been persecuted in the past on account of your nationality, you will be entitled to asylum. It is always a good idea to consult with an experienced immigration attorney when compiling your claim.

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