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Date published: 30 August 2019

In this piece, Mrs A shares her story and explains how her life has transformed in just a few months

“My name is Mrs A and I have five sons.

“When I was expecting my second child, my husband and I flew to Pakistan to visit family. Without any explanation, my husband confiscated my passport and returned to the UK with my eldest son. I had been abandoned and was stranded there for two years. 

“It wasn’t the first time I would be separated from any one of my children. in 2019 I was forced out of my home along with my youngest son – a one-year-old baby.

“My husband was abusive and warned me against 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, but I spent every day hoping my husband would change his mind and let me come back home. Despite living in fear every day, I didn’t want to be away from any of my children. I wanted was to go home.

“Months passed, and I heard nothing from him. Frustrated and worried for my children, I grew close to my brother’s wife and opened 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.

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

“I was nervous and wasn’t sure what to expect, but I knew that coming to the refuge would give my son and I protection. I had no idea what other support I’d be given.

“I didn’t know what a national insurance number, and I certainly didn’t know how to register with a GP. I’d only used public transport 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 with the police enquiries and I provided the information the Home Office needed.  I had indefinite leave to remain (meaning I had the right to live work and study in the UK for as long as needed) I applied for a replacement residence card. Support workers also put me in touch with a solicitor specialising in family law, so I could start proceedings to gain 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, but workers at the refuge helped me communicate with social services and check out how my kids are getting on.

“In the short time that I’ve been here, I’ve gained a lot of confidence, thanks to the workers encouraging me to try new things. 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 I had rights. Since coming to the SAWR that’s completely changed. I have gained my independence, which is so important for my family. I’m not sure I could have come this far without the support from SAWR.”