ZAINAB: MY EXPERIENCE OF A REFUGE
Zainab was very unhappy at home for many years. Although she had good friends to turn to she felt that there was only so much she can do. At 18 she decided to leave home and now she would like to share her story with others.
How did you find about a refuge?
I found out about this refuge place through my tutor at the training scheme that I was on. I did not know there was such thing like that; there are different refuges for different situations e.g. domestic violence, mental problem, and homeless refuge.
What were you going through at home?
I was going through a rough patch at home and this is something i wouldn't wish any girl to through at home, I was going through a lot of domestic violence, getting abused by brothers who think that just because they are older than you they think they can beat sense into you without any reason. There was a point in my life where I had to clean my brother’s bath for him and if I refused it I will get good beating for it and my parents will not say nothing about it. I wish I could say it was just a good beating here and there, but it was also sexual abuse. This is something that I went through for seven years of my life. I was really quiet at home and my family use to think I was thick because I never was an average 5-6 yr old being naughty, but they never knew what use to go on with me and it all went in the same house. I lived with my parents, they never took much notice of me and I was suffering with a lot of illnesses and I had to be in and out of hospital but nobody apart from me knew the real reason.
What made you finally leave, did it take a lot of courage to walk out?
I found it really hard to leave everyone behind and do things on my own - I knew I wouldn’t have other members of my family to support me, but then I thought to myself, I have to do what is right for myself and what will make me happy. I had many sleepless nights over it as I kept thinking about the good side and the bad side of it, it wasn't a very easy thing to decide knowing your family may will disown you for it, I went to training at that time so I had my tutor to support me and give me advice on what I should do. Eventually one day I buckled up the courage and I did what I had to do and left to go to the refuge place. I knew it will help me get away from the madness at home and bring myself back to normal, I had no choice because the violence and abuse was getting really bad. I had to get away.
What kind of help did you get at the refuge?
I use to get counseling sessions on a regular base with my support worker and they used to give me advice on how to deal with my problems. At one point I became seriously depressed and I turned to alcohol and smoking weed because it used to make me feel happy although I know it is haram to do these things. Also, I came to a point where I wouldn't trust anyone and I used to disconnect myself from the outside world.
Can you describe what kind of place the refuge was, e.g. the facilities, key workers,
You get your own room and you will have a bathroom which you will share with other people living with you, as well as a kitchen… you will have your own cupboards and a lock for it for privacy and security. Also there is a front room and that which you will also share with everyone else. Your own space will be your own room and I remember that sometimes I did not come out from my room because I will had days where I just didn’t want to do anything because life felt too hard for me, so having my own space helped me deal with my own problems my own way at times.
How was it being with the other girls? Did you get on?
It was good to have other girls living with me because most of them had the same or similar problems and issues, and to talk to them really helped because we used to do things together and go out and take our minds off things. Knowing I was not the only really helped and kept me sane at times.
Would you recommend the refuge to other girls in your same situation?
I personally think it is a good thing because refuge places really helps you come to terms with things and brings you back to standing in your own feet. By going there you realize that you are on your own and you could get help for it.
Why did you return home, are things better now?
I returned home because I came to a point where I was missing my two baby sisters so much as they were my world to me… I was worried about them knowing that I am doing what’s best for me and knowing my other two sisters where suffering for my actions so I came back for them. My family took me back and they realized that I would not put up with the abuse anymore; unfortunately things are still far from perfect although my brothers are no longer living with us so that is a blessing that I have come to appreciate.
What have you learnt after being in a refuge and what advice would you give to people?
What I learnt afterwards was that you really get help from them and they understand your feelings and where you come from, most of the support workers were in similar situations so you can relate to them. However, you have to understand that most of it is up to you and how you want to take their advice and help. I would definitely advise young girls in the same situations to do go to these refuges if they feel they cannot live at home.
All I can say now is that although it may feel like you are doing a shameful thing by walking out on your family, sometimes living in pain and fear will drive you to leave and people should not be judged for it. At a refuge, you are never on your own and there are some really great people who do genuinely want to help you as best as they can, so all you need to do is to put a bit of trust in those those people. Life is crap at times, but luckily I know now, that I have a good group of friends and they have been there for me as I have come out the other end. I know that I will never have to put up with what I went through because I have somewhere to go if things get bad again.
*The image and name used have been changed to protect the individuals privacy.
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