So many women suffer in silence and continue to blame themselves
I worried about my family back home and I worried about what will happen to my children if I left home. So I kept quiet and suffered in silence. Leaving home is not an easy step for any women, she has to think about 101 things before she can leave home.
Saheli Refuge Service User 2014
Safety – woman come from abusive situations which leave them vulnerable and in fear of their lives and their children’s safety. Leaving the abusive situation is a huge step, and it can take a woman a long time to finally come to that decision. Before a woman leaves, she will worry about where she will go, not knowing fully about the services that are available to her. This can leave women feeling they have no choice but to stay within the abusive situation. The decision can become much harder when she does not speak English or has recently come to UK through marriage and has not got proper immigration status.
Finances – this is a constant worry. Many women worry about not having enough food to feed their children. Not every woman will know her entitlement to benefits. In many relationships the man will take control over the finances and the woman will not even know what the money she is getting. Many women have told us that their partner kept the child benefit and many said that they did not know where it is coming from or how much is allocated. Over the years many women have been surprised to learn that they can claim welfare benefits in their own right.
Housing – Disruption for a woman in leaving her home can be very difficult, settling into a refuge and then having to leave again comes with it many feelings and fears. Where will I get re housed? But I don’t know anyone in that area? These are common questions we hear on a regular basis. For a woman with children, this often means uprooting the children, changing schools, making new friends, and this often doesn’t give stability. The transition period needs a comprehensive support package which caters for all the various and specialist issues and needs. Our outreach team support women with the move into independent living, to ensure women feel supported and that their practical and emotional issues are sensitively dealt with.
Children – Children come to us with various emotions, often feeling guilty, angry, withdrawn and upset. The child’s emotional state will depend on the impact children are faced with. The right support, using a child-centred approach is imperative to ensure they are able to manage and deal with their experiences and emotions in a manner which reduces further detrimental effects on their personal wellbeing. Coming into a refuge can be exciting – a new place, new people – however; making new friends while having to keep the refuge address confidential, can be extremely difficult.
Child contact – This can be very challenging depending on the situation between the mother and her family. It is not the case that every abusive man isn’t a good father. Children who have had a good relationship with their father will still want to see them, however for safety, we support women in securing this contact through the right channels to avoid dangerous situations, or children being abducted. In some situations the perpetrator may even file for contact just to find out where the woman is staying. This needs to be managed through the support of a solicitor.
No recourse to public funds – Women with no recourse to public funds come to Saheli in a state being unaware of their situation. They do not have a right to welfare benefits or housing, and unless they have some financial support secured through ourselves or other support services, they often have to remain in the abusive situation as there is no alternative.
Honour based violence – “He will find me and kill me, I have shamed the family” A common statement many women repeat again and again in a state of fear. We are all aware that women from particular communities are made to feel that they are responsible for upholding the family honour. Should that be the honour of the family name, the honour of her husband, brother, family, son or community – the consequences of an act against the expected code results in women facing extreme violence which in many unfortunate situations leads to death.
Making the decision to leave – Women have to think about many things before they can take a step to leave an abusive situation, it’s not a simple or straight forward decision. Women feel they have a duty to uphold family values and cultural expectations, and therefore this is an added burden for women from BME communities who have been brought up with the concept of maintaining the family honour (Izzat). Therefore a woman will consider the implications of her actions a hundred times over before taking the steps to leave, although her decision to leave will only be to provide safety for herself and her children.
For more information and advice on how we can help, please contact us on 0161 945 or email firstname.lastname@example.org