‘One woman’s story’
Let’s call our woman ‘Awira’. Awira came to the UK using a ‘spouse visa’. Her marriage was arranged as payment of family debt, and she only met her husband briefly before the marriage. Once married, her husband left for the UK, and 3 years later she followed.
Awira found herself in the UK with a husband she barely knew, with no English and no other friends. Her husband began shouting at her and not letting her out of the house or have any money. Once he discovered she would not be able to have children, the abuse escalated. She was physically abused and told she would become the second wife as he would find a new one. Awira had no one in the UK to turn to. She spoke to her mother and was told that, if she returned to her home country, her brother and uncle would kill her.
No woman should have to experience this.
Abused, controlled and with no route out of the relationship, Awira decided her only way out was to kill herself. She would walk to the train station trying to have the courage to throw herself under a train.
Then she found Whispers of Hope
Awira was picked up each week from a safe place and brought to our ‘SafeSpace’ session. Extremely distressed, at SafeSpace she met caring volunteers and other women who also had difficult stories. She discovered she was not alone.
Whispers of Hope allocated a befriender, did safety planning with her, made GP appointments and began to explore how she could get leave to remain in her own right.
Her case was heard at MARAC (multi-agency risk assessment conference) and she was allocated an IDVA (Independent Domestic Violence Advisor), but without leave to remain, Awira had no access to benefits, and so was not eligible for a place in a refuge.
Awira was falling through the gaps in the system, without leave to remain, there was no one to support her, except us.
For 3 months we supported her living at home with her abuser whilst we got the Whispers of Hope hosted house ready. Here we provide a place for women at risk to live safely, whilst we support them gaining the right to stay in the UK without depending on a spouse visa.
Giving someone hope can completely change a life. Awira was still in the abusive situation but she knew people were doing all they could to safely take her out of it. It was hard for her to keep this secret when she was at home with her abuser but she managed it!
Everything was ready to move Awira to the safe house. Volunteers were in position and disaster! It rained. This meant that her abuser didn’t go to work as he works outdoors and so her move had to be postponed. Two days later we tried again and this time we were successful. A volunteer picked her up and brought her safely to our house. It was all very tense and Awira was very brave.
Once rescued, Awira was helped to block numbers and remove trackers on her phone, to inform the police and arrange for the Honour Based Violence Unit to take DNA swabs to ensure that, if the family found her, they could not take her out of the country. She was safe but emotionally traumatised and broken. This was where having a host in the house was key. Awira was not alone.
Awira still received threats from her family. She had to be strong.
Whispers of Hope were able to secure affordable legal services and succeeded in achieving the change in her immigration status that she needed.
Awira spent 3 months at the house, living rent-free and with a weekly subsistence allowance. She had English lessons and continued to attend the weekly SafeSpace. She was supported throughout the process of applying for her settled status, being taken to the solicitor, getting her biometrics, attendance at the Job Centre etc. Once she received her Domestic Violence Concession she was able to apply for housing and was eventually accepted into a refuge.
Seven months after Whispers of Hope funded her immigration application, Awira received confirmation that she could stay in this country in her own right.
Fifteen months after first being referred to Whispers of Hope Awira has safely moved to a new city where she will not be found. She is attending college and looking for a job and has even joined a gym.
‘Awira’ is a girl’s name which means ‘refugee’