Domestic abuse survivor Shabana Mirza has opened up about the lack of help available for women of ethnic minority groups in Salford.
Shabana suffered with domestic abuse for 12 years before she had the courage to speak up and get herself out of that situation.
“I think I made the mistake a lot of women do, I did not know that I could report it, because what I had gone through wasn’t physical abuse, rather it was cohesive behaviour, psychological
manipulation, controlling behaviour and emotional abuse.”
“I thought it was something I had to deal with and live with for the rest of my life.”
Shabana had considered leaving her now ex-husband many times, but she was held back by the fear of living by herself, raising two children, and the stigma attached to divorce which she still faces to this day. But what made her realise that she can walk out of the situation is when she noticed that it had started to affect her children.
“I saw the look on my children’s faces, seeing them crying and seeing what it was doing to them, I couldn’t stay.”
Shabana was living in one bedroom with her two children at her parents’ house.
“I was desperate for help and support in dealing with what I had gone through, I needed support on housing and how to deal with my finances, but I didn’t know where to get help from.
“Part of my recovery was going to my GP and saying to him that I need help.
“I felt that being an Asian, I wanted to seek help from someone who was sensitive to my cultural needs, and even my GP wasn’t aware of any organisations that are particularly tailored for women of ethnic minority.”
Shabana was referred to counselling, but it was not tailored to her needs. She then did her own search online and found an organisation that would offer support to women like herself, but she discovered that it was difficult to access that.
“It’s unfortunate because at that time I needed support and I needed help, but I didn’t get it.”
She feels that more help should be available for women of ethnic minority groups, and information to access the services should be available at places like hospitals, GP surgeries and advice bureau.
Shabana is soon to launch her blog where she will be sharing her experience to encourage more women to speak about domestic abuse and get the help they need.
Jane Gregory, project manager at Salford Survivor Project, said that organisations in Salford do not have services specifically tailored to ethnic minority women as they treat everyone the same. However, she agrees that there should be organisations that specifically deal with domestic abuse within the ethnic minority groups.
“The issue that we have is that people relate to people and you need somebody that you get a connection with.”
She added that it’s hard to trust someone that doesn’t understand your culture, and more volunteers are needed from ethnic minorities so that the Salford Survival Project can cater for their needs.
Ms Gregory’s organisation has only helped five women belonging to ethnic minority groups. These women had tried to get help from many other organisations and Salford Survivor Project was their last resort.