Domestic abuse comes in many different forms. Some of those could be financial, coercive, physical or mental. Often it stops victims from living their lives to their fullest. This was the case for Comfort, a survivor of domestic abuse who is now thriving.
As part of our support for the 16 Days of Activism, we wanted to show others that you are not alone. Comfort reached out to PARAGON and as a consequence is living her life to the fullest. This is her story.
Comfort came over from Ghana with her husband in 2016 to live with her mother-in-law in London. The plan was to come over and settle, for a better life. She’d be leaving her brother, who she confided in, and mother, far away. But there was hope for her future in the UK.
But the situation turned bad when she found that she no longer had control. Applying for a visa was something Comfort’s husband did, so when he started to abuse her, she had nowhere else to go. She was trapped in a new country with a new-born son and no one to turn to.
Comfort’s family was back in Ghana, and the only person she could communicate with had recently passed away. She ended up living in a house with her son, estranged from her husband who lived with his mother. Cultural practices in some countries can often lead to imbalances in power. Comfort explained it as:
The background he comes from, the culture, the tribe, the mother is in control. His mother didn’t like me because she wanted him to be with a woman from the same tribe. And I am from a different tribe.
People in my culture, they think it’s a crime to report a man who is abusive to you. This meant I had no options. I had his baby. And he wouldn’t do anything, no financial aid, not even a pound. He just left me; I think they wanted me to die. You know, to finish me.
The thing about control is abusers don’t want to lose it. Although living in separate houses, Comfort’s ex refused to get a divorce. ‘If I had divorced him, he would have had to agree to that, and he wouldn’t’.
Comfort was only just getting by on an allowance for her British-born son. As she didn’t have a visa or ‘indefinite leave to stay’, she couldn’t apply for Universal Credit or even schooling. Her ex didn’t want to get a divorce because it meant Comfort could apply to get her own visa, which meant no form of control.
Comfort was stuck with appeals after appeals that her ex often didn’t go to. If he didn’t pitch, it meant moving the appeal to a different date. And as a single mother living outside of London, transport and its cost were difficult.
When I first applied for the live to remain, I was introduced to a solicitor. That solicitor knew what was going on because every time it was time for us to renew, there was always a drama. He wouldn’t come to court and because of that we’d get refused a visa. Then, we’d appeal again. He kept on doing this.
Escaping abuse via the court
While this process went on, he’d continually call Comfort, at all hours of the day, under the pretence he was trying to sort out papers. This created a great deal of anxiety and kept Comfort in the house.
He would call me and if I was sleeping or bathing. Often when I’m not with my phone. He knew I needed him for the papers. So, he’d get abusive if I didn’t pick the phone up immediately. He’d demand to know where I was, and what I’d been doing. He was just messing my head up, messing my life up, he just wanted to mess everything for me.
He’d also make irregular appearances at her home, even though he was now living with his mother in London. He’d come to visit his son and expect more from the person who he was abusing.
He sexually took advantage of me because he knew I couldn’t resist or say no; he was my husband.
Comfort finally reached out to one of our support workers, Alison. And although Comfort was very scared about sharing her story with a stranger, she finally did.
She said to me ‘Look, listen, don’t worry I am here for you, I am here to help you, so tell me. I know it is very difficult so she got me out of my shell. She made me feel so welcomed, protected and secured. Let me know so I can help you. It felt like the mother I never had. Because I was so open then, I built that confidence to speak to her. I was always looking forward to seeing her because at that time she was the only one I could speak to and I could open up to.
Comfort’s son was attending a nursery school, but as she had no income she couldn’t pay. Both Comfort and Alison went and spoke with the school manager. The result was Comfort’s son could attend on Fridays as it was deemed healthier than not at all. Alison also managed to get a lot of Comfort’s debts consolidated and written off.
A support worker can do a great deal because they know the system, and they really do care. Alison encouraged Comfort to petition her MP, and, it worked. With her local MP’s assistance, and petition to Home Affairs, Comfort received her VISA in February 2022! Since then, Comfort has joined the local Church, got her driving licence, and is now looking for work.
Speaking of the work that PARAGON does, Comfort ended our meeting with:
It has been a very relieving and helpful journey with your organisation, you came into my life and you saved me. You saved at a point where I was lost.
When asked what advice Comfort wishes she had received at the beginning, she answerd:
What I would say to anybody going through what I went through is come out, speak out. There is a solution out there. There is so much help you can get form charities. Speak to somebody. Or even go on the internet. I never knew there was help out there and would have never thought of it. When you are in that state you think ‘I am alone’, but you are not alone.
They will help you to come out to be yourself. To have peace and joy, to come out of the abuse.
A special thanks to Comfort for sharing her story with everyone. If you need help, please reach out. It can change your life.