Saving Lives Changing Lives

Hiya’s Story

During the year, access to many statutory services was further reduced and it was vital that we continued to support all survivors through the pandemic despite the challenges of social distancing and lockdowns. It became even more critical that we continued to prioritise working in a coordinated community response, to remove barriers to access and improve outcomes. Hiya’s story highlights how the pandemic affected vital services.

When I got married, my family were happy I would be going to London, given the poverty in my country. I was excited but the life I imagined did not turn out that way. My husband treated me as a second-class citizen. I was not allowed my own bank account, despite holding down an office job. I could not spend time with friends unless granted by my husband. He would and tell them they were not needed.

I hardly ever went to see my GP as my husband wanted to keep all medical things private, but this year I finally went and she immediately referred me to the domestic abuse charity Advance. I had attempted suicide three times in the last two years because I could not cope with the abuse.

Advance helped me to find the courage and means to leave my husband just before the first lockdown. They gave me emotional support and guidance with budgeting and food and applying for benefits and a place to live.  When lockdown began, I had only just started living independently. My daughters moved from their boarding school to be with me at the new accommodation I got through the local authority as a homeless woman escaping domestic abuse.

Lockdown presented new challenges because the adult learning classes I had been taking were halted and counselling services closed. I also got into rent arrears because of the time it took to process my application for benefit assistance and my mental health became worse because of financial worries. I had no savings and so live off universal credit. I had to use a foodbank for the first time in my life. I ate once a day to ensure my daughters had all the food they needed. My children also struggled with their school work because I cannot afford broadband. My husband does not know where we live now and I only ever see him when he picks up the children. I am still full of guilt but I feel safe and glad that I finally left him.

*Her name and personal details have been changed to protect her

Read more about our Domestic Abuse services