Saima fled the family home with three of her children, aged 20, 13 and five, after they became victims of domestic abuse. This is her story…
“My family fled Sheffield to escape domestic abuse from my husband, who is the father of my children; and my eldest two sons aged 19 and 17 years old.
What began as emotional abuse and control escalated to physical abuse. My husband became very manipulative and would bribe my two older sons with expensive gifts to follow me and report back to him on what I was doing. Both sons dominated the whole family, bullying their 13 year old brother. My husband would not allow our daughter, who was 20 at the time, to further her education; he would also control what she had to wear each day. I was suffering from depression and was worried about leaving as our 5 year old daughter is very close to her father and big brother. I was worried that moving would affect her drastically.
We initially left the family home a year ago but eventually returned because my husband said he would change. My youngest daughter’s school noticed a visible change in her when we fled, and my 13 year old son’s behaviour was raised as an issue by his school.
My husband’s behaviour did not change and we were left with no choice but to leave again.
We moved into the refuge on 5 July 2016. Me and my two youngest children moved in as a family and my 20 year old daughter moved in as an individual.
The support started straight away. They ensured a Safety Plan was in place, referring to MARAC and addressing any safeguarding issues.
Since being at the refuge, we are free from the environment we were in; we have been able to think freely and feel safe. I have control of my own finances and am able to go out without being followed and questioned on my return. My eldest daughter is able to wear the clothes she likes and have access to benefits in her own name, making her more independent.
To start with, I struggled with my youngest daughter as she was very upset, due to missing her father and big brother who she is very close too.
We have welcomed the support provided, and we have been referred to agencies externally for support around my sons’ behaviour and my own wellbeing. Breaking Free sessions began around the effects of Domestic Abuse for me and my daughter. Both younger children have been attending children’s activities such as arts and crafts sessions.
Along with individual support for me and my eldest daughter, the whole family have also engaged in activities such as gardening, meditation sessions, cooking, housing advice, residents’ meetings, jewellery making, sports activities in the park, arts and crafts, celebrations for birthdays and trips to the cinema.
Since coming here, my family have been able to address and achieve our goals. I am receiving support around my mental health and I feel free and independent, my daughter has now found a part time job and is able to pursue her dream of being a makeup artist. My son is receiving support around his behaviour and is being referred to local gyms and football clubs. I have also seen a drastic change in my youngest daughter’s behaviour, as she is more settled, chatty and no longer ‘clingy’.
If supported housing wasn’t available, we would have returned to the family home once again and at the time of our referral this was the only refuge with space to accommodate a family of four.”
Each member of the family explains what supported housing has meant to them:
Mum: “Supported housing has given me the independence and freedom I wasn’t allowed before, I feel calm, relaxed and safe.”
Eldest daughter (20): “It has given me freedom and independence, I can think for myself and I feel more confident to fulfil my dreams.”
Son (13): “I feel relaxed and safe and free.”
Saima’s youngest daughter (five), has answered this question with two drawings, copies of which are included on this page.