Blackburn-based charity Humraaz provides a safe place for minority ethnic women experiencing domestic abuse, forced marriage or violence in the name of ‘honour’.
Saima, a 36-year-old mother of two left an abusive relationship after being subjected to two years of physical and mental torment at the hands of her aggressive husband.
“My husband has a very bad temper. He took all his anger out on me. Whether he was angry with his family, or about a work issue, whatever it was I would bear the brunt of his anger.
“He once took a scalding spoon and burnt my cheek with it.
“He used to bite my hand. He would always pull my hair when he was angry. He would pull it so hard that there would be clumps of my hair in his hands.”
After being repeatedly abused, Saima told her husband that she would leave him if his behaviour continued. However, her husband knew full well that Saima had no access to finances and that she wasn’t aware of her legal rights.
He used this to control her even further and exert even more violence towards his wife.
“He knew I was making empty threats. He knew I had nowhere to go. On one occasion after I threatened to leave, he hit me so hard that I started throwing up. His mum and sisters blamed me for him losing his temper. He didn’t even take me to the doctor after that episode.”
Saima was subjected to cruel taunts and emotional and physical abuse by her sister-in-laws too.
“I wasn’t allowed to talk to my parents. They took my phone away from me.
“My sister-in-laws would hit me too. Once they hit me with a brush. After that I rang my sister who lived in London with her husband. She told me that I should call the police if I felt I was in danger.
“She then rang my husband to ask him what was going on. He was so angry that I had spoken to my sister that he beat me horrifically.
“That was too much for me. I had to call the police.”
The police arrived promptly and warned Saima’s husband of the legal consequences of his behaviour. His behaviour, however continued, despite visits from the social service. Saima’s bruises were a patent sign to the social services that she was still being physically abused.
“The social services told me that if I stayed with my husband I was allowing him to beat me, and that this sort of environment was damaging to my children. They said that they may have to take my children away from me. That is when I panicked. I left with my kids.
“The police had told me about Humraaz. They said I would be safe there with my children. Going to Humraaz was the best decision of my life.
“The atmosphere at Humraaz was so welcoming. I was safe there, safer than I ever felt in my own home.
“Humraaz helped me to find accommodation. They assisted me in applying for benefits. I didn’t for once think I was entitled to help from the government.”
Saima admits that she did not feel she was able to press charges against her husband, due to cultural obligations. Furthermore, she does not feel the need to pursue a divorce.
“My kids and I haven’t heard from him in 2 years. He never even attempted to contact his kids. He has never paid any maintenance.
“I’m not bothered about getting a divorce. I’m hardly going to get married again.
“The people at Humraaz are my family now. Humraaz showed me so much love and support. Before I got to them, I didn’t know my rights. I was completely helpless, at the mercy of my cruel husband and his family.
“Even when my son, who was under a year old at the time, needed to have an operation, Humraaz told me exactly what to do and where to go. Thanks to them my son was able to have surgery. I have left the refuge, but Humraaz are still helping me when I need assistance.
“Every Friday I go to Humraaz to attend a class. We learn many different skills there.
“Humraaz has given me a new lease of life.”
Firoza Mohmed ,Service Manager at Humraaz said,“At Humraaz we support victims who have suffered varying types of abuse, as in this case it is not unusual to have multiple perpetrators.
“We will continue to keep the women safe, support them to come to terms with the abuse and prepare them for independent living with appropriate life skills. “The women have access to a number of in-house and community courses.
“This serves to empower the women to make life decisions with the right information, advice and guidance. Our service users receive long term support whilst settling in the area.
“You can contact us by calling 01254 674312.”