Tyne Stories: Reema’s Story

This year Tyne is proud to be supporting #WhiteRibbonDay, a global movement that works to end men’s violence against women. At Tyne, we exist to support our region’s most vulnerable people. We work closely with those leaving the criminal justice system to sustain a life free from crime and we invest in our communities to help create safe spaces for people at risk of harm.

Our specialist partnership with the Angelou Centre bridges the gap between domestic violence refuges and mainstream housing. The service provides much-needed move on accommodation to black and minoritised women and children who have been subject to domestic and sexual violence, face multiple forms of discrimination and often have associative complex needs.

Below you can read the brave story of Reema*, and hear about how her strength and resilience, along with a positive support system, led to her regaining her confidence and living independently for the first time.

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of residents.

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Reema is Nigerian and 30 years old. She was referred to the Angelou Centre via a community-based organisation, who did not feel equipped to support a high-risk service user. Within an hour of receipt, a culturally competent advocate made contact with Reema to complete an initial assessment. During this assessment Reema disclosed that she had married her husband against the wishes of her family. Reema’s family believed she had behaved dishonourably and brought shame to their family, as a result of this, she was disowned.

Once Reema moved in with her husband, she began to be subject to high levels of violence and abuse. He would regularly physically assault her when he would become angry and would rape Reema multiple times a day. When Reema attempted to leave, her husband threatened to kill her. Reema was completely reliant on her husband and in-laws for shelter, food and all essential items due to high levels of financial violence.

Reema sought refuge in her Aunties and Uncles house close to where her husband lives. However, Reema was once again subject to high levels of violence. She was treated as a domestic slave and forced to do all of the cooking, cleaning and childcare duties- her freedom to leave the house was restricted and if she did leave the house, she was chaperoned by her uncle and/or male cousins. Reema’s Auntie would regularly tell her she was a dishonourable and shameful woman, and therefore deserved this treatment. The case was immediately referred to MARAC* and Reema was supported to move into the Angelou Centre’s emergency refuge accommodation.

Within two weeks of residing in the Angelou Centre refuge, Reema received support to open a bank account and apply for benefits; Reema for the first time is financially independent. Reema has also been supported to access family law advice to discuss divorce proceedings and protective orders; she has been granted a non-molestation order and has filed for divorce. After six months of residing in the Angelou Centres emergency accommodation, she felt ready to begin considering independent living but felt she needed additional support around her wellbeing. Reema was supported to move into one of the centre’s move on accommodation (ran in partnership with Tyne Housing), where she is accessing recovery services at the Angelou Centre, including specialist one-to-one therapy and group training/recovery programmes to combat the high levels of trauma she has experienced.

Reema is living independently but with continued access to holistic recovery support, and is being supported in areas such as budgeting, money management and practical skills such as first aid and fire safety. When Reema feels ready to move into her own property, she will be fully supported to do so with confidence gained through this transition period.

‘Sometimes I feel alone but then I think of the help and support from the Angelou Centre and that you’re here for me. I finally feel safe here. The emotional support you offer me allows me to sleep at night. Not being straight out has helped me gain confidence around independent living.’ – Reema

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*A MARAC is a meeting where information is shared on the highest risk domestic abuse cases between representatives of local police, health, child protection, housing practitioners, Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVAs), probation and other specialists from the statutory and voluntary sectors.