After moving to the UK as a student, Zara’s dreams shattered when she found herself in a controlling and abusive marriage with a public sector employee. It took a long time for Zara to feel able to seek help, but a Vicar’s Relief Fund grant secured a stable home where she and her child could begin to safely heal from their trauma.

Zara was initially very hesitant to seek help with West Mercia Women’s Aid. Having come to the UK from West Africa as a student, she married a local authority professional and settled locally. Her husband was controlling and physically abusive and West Mercia Women’s Aid’s initial risk assessment for her and her child was that they were at high risk of significant harm.

After a number of anonymous calls to their Helpline, Zara trusted the team enough to ask for help to find a place of safety. She initially moved into refuge, where she also sought help with the emotional impact of having been kept as a virtual prisoner in her home for some period of time. Her isolation had been total during most of her marriage, and at times she felt utterly overwhelmed by what had happened to her.

As a migrant, her vulnerability was compounded by her ineligibility to any form of state assistance, and West Mercia Women’s Aid is one of a minority of organisations in the country with a local fund that enables them to accommodate women until their immigration status is resolved and others are also able to help them.   

Through working with West Mercia Women’s Aid, Zara involved herself in a range of support group activities, as well as individual counselling support, and was able to enrol her child in a local nursery. Eventually and difficultly, her immigration status was resolved and she was then able seek tenancy in her own right, in a home where she could continue to be safe and build a life for them both.

But years of coercive abuse left her without the basic finances to take up the tenancy that the organisation hoped to secure for her. The Vicar’s Relief Fund provided the first month’s rent in advance, which made this new home possible.

She is now free of her former partner, and is volunteering at a school and studying child care. When her support from West Mercia Women’s Aid concluded, Zara said: 

“It’s been an utmost experience with all the women’s aid staff right from the day I called in for support to the last day of my signing off. And honestly all the support I have received has elevated me and helped create a more lovely conducive environment for me and my child. I’m glad to have such a great supportive group”

*Names have been changed to protect privacy.

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