This is the joint website of  Women Against Rape and Black Women's Rape Action Project. Both organisations are based on self-help and provide support, legal information and advocacy. We campaign for justice and protection for all women and girls, including asylum seekers, who have suffered sexual, domestic and/or racist violence.

WAR was founded in 1976. It has won changes in the law, such as making rape in marriage a crime, set legal precedents and achieved compensation for many women. BWRAP was founded in 1991. It focuses on getting justice for women of colour, bringing out the particular discrimination they face. It has prevented the deportation of many rape survivors. Both organisations are multiracial.




Where the MPs' expenses money would have been better spent

In the Media

Public money should be used to give the most vulnerable a safety net, not to line pockets of the already affluent, writes Rowenna Davis

Guardian, JoePublic blog

As the moats, horse manure, chandeliers and duck houses have come pouring out of the Westminster expenses bag over the last fortnight, I have been working on a series of interviews with asylum seekers. The power inequalities couldn't be more pronounced. While those at the top are getting more than they are entitled to, those at the bottom are consistently getting less than they deserve.

Half an hour's tube journey from the ornate House of Commons, a group of African women bustle into the Crossroads Women's Centre in Kentish Town. They squeeze into the room with their prams, talk quietly to advisers on worn seats and rummage through jumbles of old clothes. They're here because there's nowhere else for them to go; statutory services have failed to provide them with the support they need.

Many would argue that these women should not be entitled to the same support as vulnerable British citizens. But they are not. Their benefits are just two thirds of the average and often come in vouchers rather than cash; their education is segregated and their health benefits are difficult to obtain. But talking to the women at the centre, it became clear that most of them are not even getting the small, second-class services they are entitled to, let alone the ones they need.

One woman told me about how she arrived in Heathrow airport when she was 13, alone and clutching little more than a passport. She'd made a lucky escape from armed rebels in Uganda, and was looking for refuge. As an unaccompanied minor, she should have been entitled to state support until she was 18, but this was denied. With no benefits, she fell on to the streets. When she begged the council for help, they shouted at her to go away.

In cases like these, asylum seekers don't get what they are legally entitled to because of discrimination. In others, it is because social workers do not have the time or training to get to grips with an overly complicated and ever-changing system of benefits. But most frequently, social workers cannot help because national policy prevents them from doing so.

One woman I spoke to for example, a lady who had fled rape in Burundi, was left pregnant on the streets after she was told she wasn't eligible for benefits. After a month sleeping on buses and inside doorways, she tried to kill herself. Luckily she was rescued and admitted into a psychiatric hospital where the doctors – knowing the state would not provide for her – decided to keep her in the ward until she gave birth. But when she was too weak to breastfeed her newborn son, the nurses still said she was "not eligible" for milk on the ward.

After days spent hearing stories like this, I'd go home and switch on the news. To hear that an MP had managed to claim £1,600 for a floating duck house while an unaccompanied child was being denied shelter was shocking. To hear that claims were being made for champagne when babies were being denied milk was diabolical. If this sounds overly emotive, it shouldn't. We must be clear about this – MPs expenses are paid with public money – these funds should be going to provide a safety net for the most vulnerable, not being redirected into pockets that are already adequately full.

These women's stories throw the stark power inequalities in society into sharp relief. While MPs – the majority of whom are privileged, white and male – take more than they are entitled to, the most vulnerable – largely women and children from ethnic minority backgrounds – are getting less than they deserve. When thinking about how to move to a fairer system of claims in Westminster, we should also think about a fairer deal for those outside it. The injustice of entitlement for those at the bottom is as big as those at the top.

• For advice and information, please contact Black Women's Rape Action Project, based at the Crossroads Women's Centre on 020 7482 2496 or