Fleeing a forced marriage or honour-based violence can be harrowing enough without having to worry about where you are going to stay.Basic necessities like accommodation are urgently required yet sometimes there are no places available at homeless units or women’s refuges, and sometimes the emergency accommodation is not suitable for a young vulnerable girl. The importance of a safe house then becomes glaringly obvious.
Halo Project Charity opened their first safe house in 2015 and has helped many victims. With only two bedrooms the safe house is restricted to the number of families and women it can help out at any given time.
Today it is home to a woman in her late 40’s and her two young children as well as a young woman, in her mid 20s, from Iran. Both these women said the safe house was ‘good’ they both felt ‘safe’ and described it as a ‘home from home.’
Nusrat (not her real name) arrived in the UK, almost 25 years ago, as a young 17-year-old bride, from Pakistan. Throughout that time she experienced domestic violence and was unaware of the help out there to support her in leaving her abusive marriage. It was only when social services arrived at the house to deal with an incident not related to Nusrat that she asked for help in leaving her husband. Initially she was placed in a women’s refuge which was not an unpleasant experience for Nusrat, who can speak pretty good English and in her own words ‘Even though I wear a hijab, nobody at the women’s refuge made me feel unwelcome. We all have the same problems with our men, no matter what the colour of our skin or religion.’
Nusrat was happier when she moved into the safe house and has been there for the past 6 weeks and is moving into her new home in the next few days. Although she will miss the safe house, she said she is looking forward to getting her two young children settled in before school begins in September.
Sabah is a quietly spoken 26 year old from Iran. She was married at 19 and moved to the UK to be with her British born Iranian husband. Initially they had a happy marriage and after the birth of her two children, her husband decided he wanted to go back to Iran. Arriving in Iran he divorced her, destroyed all her documents, like passport etc, and left her there while he returned to the UK, with their children. She said there was nothing else to do but work hard and save her money, her parents meanwhile wanted to get her married again. Sabah managed to save enough money and made her way to Turkey where she was able to apply for another passport and made her way back to the UK. Arriving in London, with two suitcases she was told she would be receiving no financial help whatsoever for at least three months. Luckily for Sabah she had a Facebook friend who she contacted and was allowed to sleep on her friend’s sofa for a few weeks until the friend got in touch with the Halo Project and Sabah was able to move into the safe house and has been there since March.