Refugee Voices: Facing Xenophobia in the Health System
09 September 2018

Victoria is a survivor of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV).

Victoria* lived in the Democratic Republic of Congo until 2006 when tragedy struck. Three men came to her home, gang raped her, and killed her husband, who was a soldier. She ran away with nothing and no plans of where to go or how to survive. It took her four days, by truck to reach South Africa. When she arrived, she came to JRS which offered her financial support to pay rent and start a small laundry business. She also sold cream and cooked fish. Slowly she was earning money to pay rent and survive.

In 2007, she had her first operation to remove fibroids from her abdomen. Again in 2014, she needed the surgery. It was during this second surgery that the doctor treated Victoria poorly, leaving medical utensils inside her by mistake. The doctor called her names and said things like, “Go back to your country. What are you doing here, foreigner?” She had to have a third operation to correct the doctor’s mistake. The recovery was long and she has scars over a foot long all across her abdomen. JRS assisted Victoria with rent, food, and transport for her hospital visits. Her fibroids have returned and she needs a fourth operation, but she is afraid. She has high blood pressure and a lot of stress. She does not want to endure the same xenophobia and discrimination she has experienced in the health care system already.

Victoria joined the Women of Power group, a JRS support group for women who have experienced Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV). In sharing her experiences with the other women, Victoria says, “You feel better. Everyone has problems”. There is a sense of community and healing in the Women of Power group. Victoria finds solace in this group and in her faith. “God is everything”, she shares as a testament of her hope moving forward.

*All names have been changed for the privacy and safety of the women.

Sarah Garwood

Intern Advocacy & Communications Officer, JRS South Africa

Press Contact Information
Mr. Tim Smith
+27 11 618 3404