Women’s Stories

Some first-hand stories from our service users:

Sabrina

My name is Sabrina I am 24 years old; I was born in Pakistan and lived with my brother, sister mum and the rest of my extended family.

At the age of 18 years my family arranged for me to marry my Aunt’s son in England. This was a common practice due to cultural family pressures. I didn’t know until I arrived to England I was to be his 3rd Wife.

On arrival, I was to live with my husband and his extended family in Birmingham. It was all very daunting as I was in a new country and felt very lonely and isolated.

After a few months of marriage, I became pregnant and gave birth to a beautiful daughter, however, my husband and extended family wouldn’t accept the child as they wanted the child to be a ‘ boy’, as in my culture the boys  are seen as of more value, than girls, as they are  seen as ‘heirs’ of  the  family. I really had a hard time with my new family, not accepting my baby and this is when the abuse started.

I was not allowed to have any control of any monies, I was unable to leave the house on my own, I felt like a prisoner. My mother- in- law became so eager for me to become pregnant again, and so arranged an appointment for me to attend the ‘Fertility Clinic’ and they verified, I was healthy. Around 6 months later I became pregnant and again 10 months later, and gave birth to 2 lovely boys. The extended family was satisfied, and only paid attention to my son’s and little attention to my daughter. This became more and more apparent, my daughter started to feel this segregation, and on one occasion my husband had stamped a cigarette on her hand, which had left a burn mark.

I was often called names, saying I was ugly not worthy, was made to do all the house work and have little contact with my children therefore there was little bonding and boundaries between us.

The last incident involved my husband pushing me down the stairs, pulling my hair, dragging me at the bottom of the stairs and kicking me across my arms and legs. My eldest child had witnessed this, and there was blood everywhere. I managed to escape from a house window with my 3 children and the police made a referral to social services to ensure my children were protected. The police took statements and took photos of me, I was very anxious as I was unsure with how the legal system works.  Social service then helped me to move to Leeds Women’s Aid Refuge.

When I arrived, I was relieved to get out of the domestic violence, with my children.  I was very worried as I had no money, food, baby milk, or nappies. All my finances were controlled by my husband and the extended family. When I first met my key workers at Leeds Women’s Aid, I was pleasantly surprised that they were Asian and were able to communicate with me, as I spoke very little English. I was given a self contained unit, which was fully furnished and beautifully decorated, this was such a relief, I couldn’t believe how lovely the flat was, I thought   this could give me a chance to gain support and confidence to live independently in safety  away from the violence and abuse.

There was some uncertainty, with my immigration status, and I had no national insurance number, my Key workers applied for crisis loans for a number of weeks until my status was established. They also had made a claim for benefits I was entitled to. Due to my language barrier, they attended appointments with me to get my finances up and running and gave me plenty of other practical and emotional support. It was a priority to start gaining my independence back as I had never had any control of my money or the parenting of my children.

Whilst living in supported housing, with  3 children under 5 years of age, with challenging behaviour and feeling very unstable;  my key workers,  made referrals to external agencies, so I could receive parenting support and attend the local children’s centre. I gradually started to gain independence and confidence in giving love, care, attention and developing excellent parenting skills, the children’s behaviour started to improve greatly and we started to bond.

I was also supported by my key workers with housing and successfully obtained a private rented accommodation locally, and was able to start a fresh life with my children. I am very grateful for the support given to me by Leeds Women’s Aid, without this support I would not have been able to go forward in my life.

Nina

Nina was a young girl born and raised in Somalia. Due to the militant regime life was a struggle, both her parents died and Nina was left in the care of her elderly grandmother, generally fending for herself, Nina was befriended by a  man who brought her to the UK with the promise of a better life. On arrival she was locked in a cellar and forced to perform sexual favours for many men. A lapse of judgement on the man’s part allowed Nina to escape and find help

Since coming to Leeds Women’s Aid Nina has been granted Indefinite Leave to Remain. She has completed Level 1 & 2 in Child Care Studies, she volunteers teaching English at her local church, has a placement in a children’s nursery, she starts  College in September and is now moving on into her own property.