My baby and I were forced out of our home

After being made homeless by her husband and separated from her children, Mrs A turned to Stonewater’s South Asian Women’s Refuge (SAWR) for support. Here, Mrs A shares her journey so far and explains how her life has been transformed in just a few months.

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My name is Mrs A and I have five sons.

When I was expecting my second child, my husband and I flew out to Pakistan to visit family. Without an explanation, my husband confiscated my passport and returned to the UK with my eldest son. My husband abandoned me there for two years.

It pains me to say that this was not the first time I would be separated from any one of my children. In fact, this year I was forced out of my home with my youngest son – a one-year-old baby.

My husband warned me about talking about our life together or portraying him badly to anyone. He threatened to send me back to Pakistan and given our history, I knew he was serious.

I stayed with my brother during this time, but I spent every day hoping my husband would change his mind and let me come back home. Despite living in fear every day, fear of my abusive husband, I didn’t want to be away from any of my children. All I wanted was to go home.

Months passed, and I heard nothing from him. Frustrated and worried for my children, I grew closer to my brother’s wife and began opening up about the abuse I had suffered over the last decade. She took me to a police station and told me to repeat everything I had told her to them.

Once we’d finished talking about everything I’d endured during my marriage, a police officer gave me the number for the SAWR.

Coming to the refuge was nerve-wracking. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I knew that coming here would give my son and I greater protection. I had no idea what other support I’d be given.

Until recently, I never knew what a national insurance number was or how to register with a GP. I’d only been on a public bus twice in the UK and both times I was accompanied by a member of my husband’s family. I wasn’t even sure what my residential status was in the UK, as only my husband had access to my official documents.

The support workers at SAWR helped me provide all of the information the police needed to run a check on me with the Home Office. After discovering I had indefinite leave to remain, my coach also helped me to get a replacement residence card and put me in touch with a solicitor specialising in family law to begin the process for gaining custody of all my children.

Everyone at the refuge has been incredibly helpful and done all they can to help me settle in. English is not my first language and to settle my concerns about my children, they’ve even helped me to communicate with social services and find out how my kids are getting on – letting me know that they are ok.

In the short time that I’ve been here, I’ve gained a lot of confidence, just from the workers encouraging me to try things I’ve not been able to do before. This includes just going outside by myself and with my son.

I knew how my husband had treated me was wrong, but I never realised how controlling he had actually been and I certainly didn’t have any idea of my rights. Since coming to the SAWR that’s completely changed. Gaining my independence for the sake of my family has never been more important and I’m not sure I could have got this far without the support from SAWR.