"It is hard to flee or make changes due to the controlling dynamics"
Domestic abuse organisations are lending unparalleled support to British Asian women throughout the UK.
However, this type of abuse is still a frowned upon topic within South Asian communities.
Although there is a vast improvement in women reporting abuse, the figures for these cases are rising.
According to a November 2021 report by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), domestic abuse crimes have had a significant increase.
There were 798,607 cases at the end of March 2020 but by March 2021, this figure rose to 845,734.
Not only is this contrast a fearful sign of broken homes, but an alarming insight into how some Desi women are treated.
Covid-19 also has a part to play in this. With national lockdowns across the UK since the pandemic hit, women have been trapped with their abusers.
This is amplified through the ONS’ findings on domestic abuse helplines. They stated that by the end of March 2021, the number of people supported by the national charity, Refuge, was 49,756.
Compared to the 40,859 people in March 2020, this is an unfortunate and startling increase. The ONS even highlighted that these cases rose in line with each lockdown.
So, as figures started to drop after each national lockdown, they were rising again once Desi women had to stay inside.
However, where can South Asian women turn to? If another lockdown were to come, who could they call upon to help escape their terrifying ordeals?
Of course, in some cases family and friends do help. But backwards ideologies are still there. Like izzat (honour) or sharam (shame), which pressures women into staying in their violent relationships.
That is why it is important to showcase these domestic abuse organisations and helplines designed to support South Asian women specifically.
They sympathise with Desi cultures and understand the pressures that come along with them.
Moreover, they are able to provide a protective system to aid women in all aspects of their situation, from a quick chat to escape.
DESIblitz lists 10 inspiring domestic abuse organisations that are helping UK South Asian women.
The Sharan Project
Running since 2008, The Sharan Project offers support to South Asian women who are at risk of being disowned due to abuse or persecution.
They are adamant for women not to feel tied down due to cultural expectations. The charity offers incredible support in areas such as honour-based abuse, dowry violence and forced marriage.
Activist, Polly Harrar founded The Sharan Project in London.
She had left home at an early age due to ‘cultural conflict’. Hence, Polly has first-hand experience in the events she is trying to abolish.
In an exclusive interview in October 2021, Polly told DESIblitz:
“We help clients identify the options and choices available to them so that they can make an informed decision as to what they want to do next.”
Continuing to speak on the power of women, she revealed:
“I want them to know what happened to them was not their fault and does not define who they are or could be.”
The organisation offers an unbiased, tailored and supportive system to cater to domestic abuse victims.
Find out more information about them here.
Asian Women’s Resource Centre
The Asian Women’s Resource Centre (AWRC) has been running for over fourty years in London.
The empowering organisation recognises the immeasurable outcomes of domestic abuse against South Asian women and other communities.
AWRC offer a range of services including legal advice, secure housing and counselling.
They also have well-equipped staff who cater to numerous languages such as Urdu, Punjabi and Gujarati.
This means there is no loss of information and the AWRC are able to help in any way necessary.
Impressively, they have a dedicated helpline for women who are experiencing harmful practices. These consist of but are not limited to faith-based abuse, caste discrimination and acid attacks.
All their services are confidential and they have an open-door policy to treat all women with sensitivity, patience and non-judgement.
See more about AWRC and their work here.
Birmingham-based Ashiana is a growing organisation that helps improve the living conditions of deprived areas.
However, they also heavily invest in helping domestic abuse victims, with Ashiana expressing on their website:
“We specialise in supporting South Asian communities that have been coerced into accepting abusive practices under the guise of ‘cultural practices’ and ‘family honour’.”
Not only do they offer one to one support, but they also work with South Asian women who don’t have access to funds or mainstream provisions.
Ashiana recognise how South Asian women live in fear and isolation, especially when closely monitored by their abusers.
Therefore, they have specialist caseworkers who will guide women to decide on what action to take in their circumstances.
This is especially important for those who have difficulties understanding their legal status, which may stop them from receiving support elsewhere.
Additionally, Ashiana support and assist younger British Asian women from 16-years-old and have more fragile steps in place to tackle these situations.
Find out more about the organisation here.
London-based Kiranss, which stands for Kiran Support Services has helped South Asian women since 1990.
Their philosophy is to “offer empowerment, freedom and light to survivors of domestic abuse.”
Kiranss are well aware of how challenging South Asian communities are, especially when it comes to abuse.
Their mission is not just to help women but also children who have suffered from emotional, sexual and psychological torture.
Kiranss gives incredible support to women. They offer information on planning your exit, emergency protective orders and supported housing.
The organisation has three refuge sites: Kiran, Roshni and Noor.
All of these are temporary accommodations to help South Asian women rebuild themselves and help children get accustomed to a stable environment.
In a highly sensitive surrounding, they encourage women to make their own decisions. Thus, gaining control back of their lives.
Discover more information about Kiranss here.
Aanchal was founded by Su Bhuhi, a domestic abuse survivor. She started Aanchal when a woman needed to safeguard her children from being taken to South Asia against her will.
Aanchal aims to rescue, rebuild and rehabilitate British Asian women, helping them live a positive life.
Their staff are extremely supportive, understanding and adaptable. According to their website, they highlight the key challenges:
“It is hard to flee or make changes due to the controlling dynamics of the household, family and community pressure.”
Realising these circumstances, Aanchal offers its services in languages such as Tamil, Bengali and Hindi.
Whilst helping women escape their horrendous conditions, they also find immediate safe housing for urgent cases.
Furthermore, their workers will recognise cases where children are at risk and prioritise their safety.
You can call and email Aanchal as well as talk to them anonymously online and request for them to call you.
Find out more about the work of Aanchal here.
The Asian Circle
The Asian Circle is a network of women who share the commitment to address issues of disempowered South Asian women.
Founded in 2013 by Santosh Bhanot, the network is highly informative in shining a light on abuse, poverty and inequality.
As part of the group, you are surrounded by fellow South Asian women, sharing vital experiences and mindsets.
This is so that the main aim of The Asian Circle is achieved – to strengthen South Asian women voices.
Differing from other organisations, this network focuses on its members helping each other.
By offering each other advice, speaking with experts and meeting others through activities, women can leave their abusive situations to better themselves.
Although the organisation does not offer direct services like others, it does offer a platform to connect with similar women.
Likewise, The Asian Circle actively works extensively across South Asia and within the UK. It leads activities and projects, which fund the overhaul of domestic abuse concerning Desi women.
Check out more about their campaigns here.
Leeds-based Karma Nirvana is a specialist charity committed to ending honour-based abuse in the UK.
Dr Jasvinder Sanghera founded the organisation. She escaped a forced marriage at the tender age of fifteen but unfortunately lost her sister due to honour-based abuse.
The charity is well aware of how relevant this type of torture is. However, they recognise communities still shun this, stating:
“Its true scale, scope and prevalence are unknown, so it remains a thriving but invisible problem.”
The inspiring nature of the charity shines through its staff, all of whom are survivors. Thus, they take a compassionate approach to helping South Asian victims of domestic abuse.
Helping approximately 2000 women each year, Karma Nirvana is a safe haven for women who need advice, support or just a person to talk to.
Likewise, they offer assistance to all ages through their helpline and are able to provide confidentiality and comfort.
See more information about the charity here.
Roshni is a well-established charity based in Birmingham. They specialise in all forms of domestic and honour-based abuse, helping numerous British Asian women from different backgrounds.
Their outreach efforts aim to provide an empathetic support system for women trying to flee their abusive relationships.
This includes access to solicitors, financial support and counselling for women and children.
Roshni’s testimonials from victims are emotional and detail the kind of environment that the charity provides. One anonymous victim disclosed:
“Roshni rescued me and placed me into a women’s refuge.”
“Here, l had my own warm room, food, clothing and family-friendly environment.”
This emphasises how structured, serious and quick the organisation act to help the women in need. With its 24-hour multilingual helpline, Roshni continues to tackle domestic abuse cases at a very high rate.
Find out more information about Roshni here.
Asha started in the 70s and provides secure and temporary accommodation for British Asian women and children.
They tackle different forms of violence, including sexual, physical and financial. However, they do not lose sight of the bigger picture, which is women’s safety.
Their refuges aid a variety of South Asian victims, including those with kids.
Although every circumstance varies, there are other women within the shelters who have suffered similar experiences.
The organisation is exclusively for South Asian women, which means there is a universal understanding of the cultures and outdated ideologies.
This creates a protective environment where victims can freely get the support they need from others and Asha representatives.
Additionally, Asha is highly thoughtful and understanding. Like other organisations, they provide support in all aspects and even show women how to ‘cover their tracks’ to stay safe from their abusers.
Discover more about the work of Asha here.
Muslim Women’s Network UK
The Muslim Women’s Network UK (MWNUK) is a national specialist faith service that offers in-depth guidance on domestic abuse.
Although their name focuses on Muslim women, their support is boundless, irrespective of faith.
Most victims who contact MWNUK do so for a variety of awful abuses such as sexual abuse, revenge porn and forced marriage.
Due to these frightful reasons, many women who call also suffer from mental health issues.
Those with depression, suicidal thoughts and post-traumatic stress are also cared for by MWNUK with their internal counselling service.
The organisation is very adaptable and will seek local resources for those British Asian women based elsewhere.
They offer an incredible array of aid for domestic abuse victims in the form of phone, text, online chat and email.
See more about the help that MWNUK offers here.
These 10 charitable organisations are making an active contribution to changing domestic abuse in UK South Asian homes.
Their incredible work speaks volumes. However, the mission is far from over.
It is no surprise that reporting or speaking out about abuse can have consequences for South Asian women.
However, these domestic abuse organisations are eradicating this backlash one step at a time.
They recognise the cultural blindness that happens with domestic abuse but these helpful havens are always open for women when they feel ready.
No one should feel pressured to seek help if they feel uncomfortable or scared. However, saying something is the first step to escaping an abuser.
If you or another person are suffering from domestic abuse, do not suffer in silence. Help is always available.