"Now know that I am free and that is the best feeling ever!"

Anjali from BRAVE

Person on the top of the mountain in Julian Alps

At BRAVE, we aim to empower people and change lives. People who use our services are at the heart of everything we do and it is vital that we hear their voice. One of our people would like to share her story with you to reach out to other people who have experienced domestic abuse, so they might seek help too.

This is a story where all personal information has been changed in order to protect identities, however the core message of support remains the same. Here is Anjali’s story:

I want to help other people, especially women from South Asian communities, to know that they are not alone and that there are places they can go to get help.

I grew up in India with my parents, siblings, and extended family. When I was 20 years old, my parents arranged for me to be married to a relative from my father’s side of the family. He was 20 years older than me.

I did not want to get married, I wanted to continue to with my studies, but despite my protests, distress and anger, my parents forced me to go ahead with the wedding. Shortly after getting married, he moved to the UK leaving me in India living with my in-laws while my visa was sorted. My mother-in-law was very abusive towards me, calling me horrible names, belittling me, criticising everything about me, making me feel worthless. I was not allowed to go anywhere or see anyone, or to even speak to my own family.

When my visa was issued, I moved to the UK. I was very nervous about coming here and worried about adjusting to life here. My mother-in-law initially came too and continued to abuse me and encouraged my husband to control me.

Seven months into the marriage, he hit me for the first time. He had just got off a call with his mother and approached me in the garden. He started shouting and punching me repeatedly, accusing me of not liking his parents. I was shocked as he had never hit me before. Unfortunately, this was the first of many violent incidents. During arguments he would also often damage items at home, smashing up everything in the house.

For the next 10 years, the abuse continued. He would lose his temper over trivial matters and become verbally and physically aggressive. I was always walking on eggshells, afraid of upsetting him. He had to be in control at all times and this control extended to me as well. When I tried to be financially independent and start working, he made sure my salary was put into a joint account and I was not allowed to spend any of the money. I eventually gave up working, which isolated me further. I felt completely controlled by him and his family. When I confided to his mother that he was hitting me, I was told “it’s your fault you make him angry, he is a man, you need to listen to him and do what he says,”.

I felt trapped. I struggled with symptoms of depression and anxiety for years but did not know who to turn to for help. Being Asian, you do not know about depression, anxiety, or domestic abuse. You do not know where to get help or what support is available. I wanted to leave him but was afraid that they would take my child away from me and because marriages are seen as being sacred in South Asian communities. There is a lot of shame and stigma around divorce so people convince you to stay together: The bills are being paid, you have a nice house, you are being fed, you should be grateful. I was also worried about how I would survive—I was financially dependent on him for everything.

Following a physical attack, I could take no more. I called the police and told them about the abuse. He was arrested and remanded in custody while I fled with my child to a refuge where we stayed for 6 months.

I was given support through a Domestic Abuse agency and completed the Freedom Programme but still struggled with impact the abuse had on my mental health.

My social worker referred me to BRAVE and I completed the 12-week group therapy programme. I was very anxious about joining a group and in the first few sessions did not say much and had my camera off. But, as the sessions went on, I became more comfortable with the women in my group. The group helped me to find my voice and gave me hope for the future. After being involved with BRAVE, I realised there are good people out there. Without the support from BRAVE, I would never have come this far. I am in control of my life, my child is thriving at school, they are no longer shy and now have friends. I do sometimes feel isolated, but I now know that I am free and that is the best feeling ever. It is my life and I can do it my way, not their way.

Thank you, BRAVE.

Without the support from BRAVE, I would never have come this far.

If you have experienced domestic abuse in the past and you would benefit from some support for how you are feeling, then please ask your support service to refer you. We accept referrals from a wide range of services across Berkshire, including:

  • Hestia
  • Berkshire Women’s Aid (BWA)
  • The Dash (Domestic Abuse Stops Here) Charity
  • Slough Children’s Services Trust
  • The Freedom Programme

Ask your support worker, social worker, or mental health professional to make a referral or contact BRAVE by emailing us at BRAVE@berkshire.nhs.uk to discuss whether the service could be helpful for you. You can also download the referral form on our dedicated BRAVE page and send it to the BRAVE email address.

If you are referring yourself or someone else, please note that they must be registered with a GP in Berkshire, living safely away from the alleged perpetrator, and not currently engaging in other forms of therapy.

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