asylum/human: a meditation

asylum/human: a meditation in 8 parts


Sometime in the middle of the night, she reports, she was briefly disturbed out of her sleep by the sound of the policemen laughing and drinking in the station, but fell back asleep. Later, she was woken up again by the sound of the policemen closer to her, talking amongst themselves about how they found her “so muhle [beautiful].” She reports that they had been drinking shots of mahewu, moonshine. She states that the police officers threatened her with a gun and demanded that she have intercourse with them. Despite her verbal resistance and her attempts to keep her thighs pressed together, the officers then began to take turns raping her. She states that at one point, she tried to run, but they caught her and stabbed her in the back with a broken bottle. One of the men also smacked her in the face with the end of a long gun, causing her mouth to bleed and dislodging several teeth. There were 7 officers in total.  After the last police officer finished, he called her “sweet” and gave her some money. This officer told her to leave before the morning or they would “silence” her. Terrified, she ran away from the police station.


“The goal of a medical affidavit is to record evidence of physical and psychological trauma as an objective medical professional… Throughout the narrative portion of the affidavit, be careful not to report information as proven facts. Always state that the client “states” or “reports” events or incidents. Direct quotes are very helpful; they can vividly illustrate the client’s experiences and personality.”

– Asylum Affidavit Training Manual


 When she was 13 years old, she states that she was walking from school by herself when she ran into a neighbor that was a family friend. She reports that he grabbed her, groped her, and took out his most “íntimo” parts for her to see. He called her “nigger.”  She reports that she tried to scream, but because neighbors were making a lot of noise, no one heard her. She states that she told her mother about the event, but she didn’t believe her and blamed her for it. 


“Je suis déprimé,” (she stated), because she is worrying about her immigration case, about her return to her country. Her sadness is noticeable to her children, who hug and kiss her when she “looks sad.”


Laughing, the psychologist tells me she can tell I’m an anthropologist. The reports shouldn’t be so literary, so full of detail. “Write more objectively, with less adjectives,” she suggests. “I can tell you identify with them.”


She was 16 years old when 

she first met her husband, 

her first long-term boyfriend.

She stated that 

she soon became pregnant, and then felt 

she had to continue to “go with him.” 

She reported that 

her husband “treated her badly,” hit 

her while her children were present. 

She stated that 

she never went to the police;

she was afraid of him, and 

she reported that he threatened to kill her if 

she reported him. 

She stated that

she did not trust the police, because

en nuestro país las leyes no nos protegen; 

la policía sólo viene cuando ya estás muerto.

Abuse was an open secret. 



She generally had a neutral or flat affect, smiling or laughing only occasionally.



Sitting in a dimly lit room, institutional lights casting pale yellow beams.  Across the table a girl, six years old, her mother, and her uncle. Staring, wondering why there needed to be three of us: a shrink, an interpreter, me.

where did he hurt you just point right here, okay?

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