HARDSHIP AND COST-OF-LIVING (2023)
Sultana, her husband and 3 daughters were struggling to make ends meet. Sultana is a stay and home mum and her husband works part time. The family have been getting by and trying to prioritise essentials but with the rise in energy and food prices it has become increasingly difficult to live off the money they have. Sultana’s husband goes to the local food bank regularly to top up on food, however the local food bank does not provide halal food, fresh food or vegetables. Ramadan was approaching and Sultana wanted to make sure there was fresh food and maybe some chicken for her family to eat when they break their fast. Sultana was referred to MWN Helpline who were able to provide a Ramadan pack for the whole family, which including fresh chicken, vegetables, fruit, daal, flour, rice and seviyaan as well as small Eid gifts for the children to enjoy. Sultana was emotional when she received the package, her daughters were excited to receive their gift-wrapped Eid presents. Sultana thanked helpline for helping her plan for Ramadan and putting a smile on her daughters faces.
DIVORCE AND SHARIAH COUNCIL (2022)
Sommya called for advice regarding a visa application and problems with her local Shariah Council. Despite providing ample evidence of the abuse, she suffered during her marriage and pregnancy, 18 months after paying the full Islamic divorce fee the Council had yet to issue her a divorce. The Council’s Shaikh doubted the veracity of her claims and did not take her concerns seriously. Despite moving into a property of her own, the ongoing situation exacerbated pre-existing symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Firstly, the Helpline provided a safe space for Sommya to talk through her problems. Secondly, it sought all of her divorce related Shariah Council documents in order to intervene and try again. The Council issued the divorce prior to MWN’s intervention. Thirdly, Helpline provided references to contact specialist in visas and immigration who could help.
UNWANTED PREGNANCY (2022)
Jamila connected MWN Helpline as she found out she was pregnant and was unsure if she wanted to keep the baby. Jamila wanted faith specific advice as well as space to explore her options. MWN helpline provided on-going emotional support & safe space for client to talk through options; provided faith-based advice and Islamic perspective on abortion & information about medical procedures; and fast-tracked access to counselling. Jamila was also connected to midwife to discuss concerns. MWN Helpline providing safe and non-judgemental space which allowed her to identify feelings and suicidal ideation. The counselling support allowed Jamila to talk through feelings, and decide in a timely manner whether to terminate pregnancy or carry to full-term. Allowing Jamila to build rapport with specific Helpline worker so she felt safe providing information for referral and counselling.
LGBTQ+ AND SAFEGUARDING (2022)
Uzma called MWN Helpline and disclosed she was suicidal. The helpline quickly established that she had a plan and intent to take her own life. Uzma shared she was in a relationship with another woman, recently she came across content online which said she will go to hell and will never be forgiven by Allah because of her sexuality. Uzma was distraught and felt there was no way out; she had reported complex mental health needs and active planning for suicide.
The Helpline provided a safe space for Uzma to talk and de-escalated her plans to die by suicide. They reassured her that her previous acts were not unforgiveable and that help was at hand. She was advised to contact her community mental health team and psychiatrist. At the end of the call, Uzma wanted to reconnect with her own mental health team. MWN Helpline followed up with the team regarding updates on Uzma as she had disengaged from MWN. They confirmed that a care coordinator was with Uzma at her home providing support. The mental health team said “Because of the effective team work (that you were able to facilitate) we were able to support Uzma and potentially saved her life.”
DOMESTIC ABUSE AND FAITH (2021)
Laiba was married to her husband for over 20 years. She had grown up children and university. Laiba wanted faith and culturally sensitive guidance on how to leave her husband due to life long domestic abuse she suffered, from sexual assaults to physical abuse. Laiba was a professional and understood safeguarding. Laiba required reassurance and encouragement from someone who understands the culturally and faith aspects of her life. MWN Helpline support Laiba to eventually call the police and report her husband historic sexual and physical assault, her husband was arrested and charged. Laiba felt she could not have done this without the understanding, non-judgemental support received from MWN Helpline.
MENTAL HEALTH AND COVID (2021)
Aqsa’s 23-year-old daughter has obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and has previously had Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to manage her symptoms. During Covid 19 her daughter’s OCD was difficult to manage. Aqsa felt alone and unable to look after her daughter. She did not know who to turn to until she called MWN Helpline who was able to listen to Aqsa’s concerns and providing reassurance and regular welfare checks to Aqsa so she felt less overwhelmed.
DOMESTIC ABUSE (2021)
Raani spoke Bangla, having someone who she could speak to in her native language allowed her to feel heard. Raani had insecure immigration status and was worried about the repercussion of leaving her abusive husband and being taken back to Bangladesh. Raani was referred to a specialist sexual violence agency and a refuge where she was finally free from horric abuse she suffered in her 2 year marriage. Raani said “I felt so very alone and my caseworker spoke Bangla with me, she helped with my confidence, supported me with calling professionals, explaining my needs to them as I couldn’t due to language barriers. Their help showed me all the good I have in my life, what I have achieved and all that I can have again. I am still in a refuge, but I have hope.”
REVENGE PORN (2020)
Huma, a Bengali speaking woman had discovered intimate images of her posted on social media. She believed these images had been taken by a faith healer whilst she was drugged and without her consent. Although she had contacted the Police, she was not taken seriously. She felt this was also linked to her her limited fluency in English. The police also did not understand the need for urgent action because they has not grasped the serious consequences the images could have for Huma within Muslim/Asian communities. A Bengali speaking worker was assigned and Huma who contacted the Revenge Porn Helpline and the Police to advocate on her behalf.
DOMESTIC ABUSE (2020)
Naila had a long history of domestic abuse and after her husband tried to strangle her, she reported him to the police. As she did not want to give a statement, he was released without charge. Her friend suggested she call the Helpline for advice. A Bengali speaking case worker supported her in pursuing a police report, gave safety advice, contacted NCDV to get an injunction and found her safe accommodation.
SHARIAH DIVORCE (2020)
Wajiha had started Islamic divorce process 8 months ago and was not seeking a reconciliation. She felt she was not being taken seriously by the Shariah Council. She was supported by the Helpline to understand what the shariah divorce process should be and was helped to apply for a divorce with a different Shariah Council and was able to divorce and move on with her life.
RISK OF SUICIDE (2019)
Ibtisamm is a young woman who called contacted MWN helpline as she wasfeeling suicidal and stated, 'there is no point in living.' Ibtisamm grew up in care, following abuse from her parents and married at 17. She became pregnant but her husband who was 22 years older than her was not supportive about her pregnancy, telling her to that she should get an abortion. Although Ibtisamm had booked herself into the clinic she was not sure whether she would proceed. Ibtisamm disclosed her previous suicide attempts on the helpline and how fragile she was feeling. MWN Helpline followed safeguarding procedures and provided ongoing emotional support.
HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS (2019)
Kiran was living in private rented accommodation and had fallen into arrears with her rent by a month.She had come home from work one day and found all her belongings were outside in black bin bags. Kiran contacted the police how ever they were unable to intervene as this was a civil matter and told Kiran to seek legal advice. Kiran had been 'sofa surfing' for the last week and needed to find accommodation as she cannot stay at her friend's house. Kiran does not have a good relationship with her family. MWN referred Kiran to a local supported housing accommodation and was offered a place to stay which enabled her to move within a week of contacting the Helpline.
RAPE / DOMESTIC ABUSE / MENTAL HEALTH (2019)
Rifat contacted MWN helpline to talk about the trauma she had suffered in her marriage. Over the 16 years of her marriage she has suffered constant sexual, physical and verbalabusefrom her husband, often escalating from verbal abuse to violent rape which leaves her with bruising and bleeding. Although Rifat had received NHS counselling, she felt it did not help her and wanted cultural sensitive counselling. A referral was made to MWN's Counselling Service to help Rifat.
Raheema, was in her 20s and wanted to talk about her feelings in relation to having an abortion. She was struggling with the decision because of her faith. She was also getting pressure from family who were trying to influence her decision. Helpline staff talked through her options and gave her more clarity what her faith says / does not say on the issue providing information on the different interpretations so she could make an informed decision by herself given her personal circumstances. The team helped Raheema to recognise that it was important that she made the decision herself and not to be emotionally blackmail by others into a decision that would affect her forever.
DOMESTIC ABUSE - COERCIVE CONTROL (2018)
Nisbah was in her 30s and had been married for three years and shared how her experiences in her marriage were making her very unhappy and depressed. Over a series of telephone conversations, she revealed how her finances and contact with family and friends was restricted by her husband. She also shared how he would regularly belittle her and verbally abuse and threaten her unless she complied with his numerous demands. The helpline worker helped her to recognise that her treatment amounted to coercive control and that it was domestic abuse. She was provided with information about support available including what action she could take.
HONOUR BASED VIOLENCE (2018)
Kejal is a 17 year old Kurdish girl. She made contact because she was worried that about being subjected to violence and being sent to Iraq. She had been sent abroad to live in Iraq with extended family members for a few years previously as a punishment for behaviour considered inappropriate by her parents. At the time social services had been involved but had failed to safeguard her and therefore did not trust social services to support her now things were escalating again.
Kejal had been brought back to the UK about a year ago and had enrolled on a college course. However, recently her parents had become suspicious that she was in a relationship. Kejal was worried about the consequences of this and was worried about being sent back to Iraq and her mother had also made threats about killing her. One day the situation escalated, and it was not safe for Kejal to return home after college. However, Kejal had no money, no safe place to go to and all her belongings were at her parent's house.
The helpline staff found a refuge and arranged travel to it as well as arranging essential essentials items such as toiletries and clothes to be bought using the Hardship Fund. The helpline involved the college safeguarding / pastoral care, police and the social services. Due to the high-risk nature of the case, Kejal was supported to change college and referred to the Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) where appropriate safeguarding measures were put into place.
Kejal was contacted after 3 months. She had not returned to her family home and is living her life without restrictions and feels much happier. However, because Kejal had to move away from her siblings, friends and college, she had started to feel isolated. The helpline team re-opened her case so she could be provided with further support to address her isolation.
Hanif, a 14-year-old boy contacted the Helpline via text asking if we only helped women. The team responded that help was provided to anyone who makes contact regardless of gender or religious belief or no belief. He responded by text requesting someone to call him. He explained that he had been subjected to racist and Islamophobic bullying at school. His parents had reported the matter to the police and the headteacher who took no action.
Helpline Staff referred him to Tell Mama, an independent, non-governmental organisation which systematically records all reports of anti-Muslim hate incidents and crimes. Two weeks later his mother called the helpline to thank us for the referral to Tell Mama and explained that they were now being supported to challenge the failings of the school. Hanif had been moved to another school and was feeling more confident and safer.
Imran is a Muslim man in his 30s and he contacted the helpline because he felt that he had nowhere to turn to. He said that he had always felt like a woman and felt he was trapped inside a man's body. He explained he was in a professional job and although he lived near his family, he was living on his own which allowed him to dress up as a woman. However, Imran's family was religiously conservative, and he could never express his true identity to them. Imran's family had started to pressure him into getting married. Imran felt torn because on one hand he felt that he was committing a sin and on the other felt he could no longer carry on living a lie. Imran felt lonely and depressed and he had no one to talk to.
The helpline staff reassured him that he was not alone in feeling this way and gave options about moving to a different city, so it would be easier for him to express his identity. They also informed him about specialist faith and culturally sensitive LGBT organisations who would be able to support him and where he could also meet other people who were in the same situation as him so he would feel less isolated. Imran felt more confident to gain knowledge that there were people that could help and support him and that there were other Muslim men in a similar situation to him.
Anaya had an arranged marriage. When her spouse came to the UK he was abusive, which included marital rape. He also refused to financially support her. He would instead send his wages to his family abroad. When Anaya contacted a Shariah council for divorce, she felt uncomfortable at having to provide intimate details to three men. She contacted the helpline to intervene on her behalf as the panel was only willing to provide her with an Islamic divorce if she gave her husband a huge financial compensation amounting to over Â£10,000.
The helpline had Anaya's marriage certificate translated into English and challenged the Shariah council's assessment. However, when they did not cooperate, her case was referred to another trusted service with all of the paperwork summarising the case. Anaya was supported through the process and the Islamic divorce was issued without any financial compensation being required.
SEXUAL EXPLOITATION / MENTAL HEALTH (2017)
A Muslim female teenager was groomed online and raped in different locations. She wanted to be referred to a faith and culturally sensitive counselling service to help her to cope with her trauma. She was referred to the internal MWN Counselling service and also provided support and advice on dealing with the criminal justice system.
DOMESTIC ABUSE / EXTREMISM (2017)
Anna contacted the helpline because she was very frightened of her husband. He was extremely violent and would try and justify his actions by quoting verses from the Qu'ran she did not understand. He had put a tracker on her phone and would sometimes strip her and lock her outside. She said she was too frightened to call the police because her husband had told her she would not be believed.
When the helpline explored the husband's past with Anna, she revealed that he had three previous marriages and that he had also been very violent towards previous partners. She also revealed that he had also been convicted of extremism / terror related offences abroad. The helpline contacted the police (including counter terrorism) and Anna was placed in safe accommodation. The helpline also referred the case to MARAC (Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference) and made a referral for hardship fund support.
CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE / SELF HARM (2017)
Noreen, a teenager contacted the helpline because she was self-harming and had regular suicidal thoughts. She said she contacted the helpline to distract herself. She had felt neglected by her parents growing up and her neighbour had sexually abused her until she was a teenager. She feels lonely and struggles to make friends at school. She also feels depressed all the time. Although she had eventually disclosed the abuse to her family and police were called and she has support from her school and social worker, she feels she can't talk to them openly.
Noreen contacted the helpline over several weeks and just wanted someone to listen to her until she felt a bit more confident to cope with her feelings. The helpline was unable to make contact with her social worker or school as Noreen would not provide any details including identifying details. However, she was provided information about a local specialist free counselling service for youth.
HOUSING / HOMELESSNESS (2017)
Maliha has three children and had lost her job and had fallen behind on her rent. She has also separated from her partner due to domestic violence. She had been served with an eviction notice to leave the property she was renting. She was worried about being made homeless with three young children. A referral was made to another organisation and social services. She was supported to apply for benefits and placed in emergency accommodation.
COMPLAINT ABOUT A PUBLIC SERVICE (2016)
19 year old Sadia contacted the helpline because she was upset that she had to repay repatriation costs to the Foreign Office for rescuing her from a forced marriage two years previously. Sadia's family had taken her to Pakistan and forced her into marriage. When she had contacted the British Embassy, she was made to sign a loan agreement before being put on a flight back to the UK. She was 17 years old at the time.
As Sadia was on benefits she was struggling to repay the costs. The management team wrote to the Foreign Office challenging the policy including questioning that a minor was made to sign a loan agreement. The case was also anonymised and featured in the Guardian and the Independent in December 2016. The Foreign Office responded and are currently reviewing their policy. The media attention also resulted in donors coming forward to clear Sadia's debt.
RESTRICTING FREEDOM / EMOTIONAL ABUSE USING RELIGION (2016)
Maha was only allowed to study away at university provided she returned to the family home after completing her degree. When her course came to an end, Maha's family were pressuring her to live at home. She did not want to and wanted to pursue a career. However, Maha's parents emotionally blackmailed her and used religious arguments, including that she cannot live alone without a male guardian, to pressure her into moving back to the family home.
Maha felt guilty and believed that she was committing a sin by not listening to her parents. She was also worried her family may take her home by force. Maha contacted the helpline for faith-based support. Helpline staff informed Maha of her rights (both legal and Islamic) and provided her with counter arguments to her parent's religious rhetoric. Maha is now more confident in making her own choices and challenging family pressure.
FORCED MARRIAGE AND DISABILITY (2016)
A woman called the helpline because she was worried about her teenage daughter. The daughter has learning difficulties. Relatives abroad were pressuring her husband to take the daughter to Pakistan for marriage to facilitate British citizenship. She was worried that her husband would cave into family pressure and force their daughter into marriage. The helpline explained the law and provided detailed advice on what steps she could take to protect her daughter including the use of Forced Marriage Protection Orders.
DOMESTIC ABUSE / SPIRITUAL ABUSE (2016)
Aziza, a woman in her 30s of Afghani background, contacted the helpline because she was very frightened. Her husband was very controlling and abusive, which included placing monitoring devices in the house. He didn't want her to go out anywhere and was even forcing her to get pregnant to try and restrict her from going outside. A few days earlier, he had called an Imam to the house. They locked her in a room, held down and forced her to drink some water while praying over her. With permission from Aziza, the helpline contacted the police and the husband was removed from the marital home. Aziza was also supported in accessing legal advice so she could make an informed choice of the next steps to take.
MENTAL HEALTH (2016)
Aalia contacted the helpline because she was very depressed and had been feeling like this for a while. She had reached a point where she had started to feel suicidal and started cutting herself. She had been brought up in a very religiously strict household. She was constantly monitored by her parents and older brothers, which sometimes included verbal and physical abuse.
Aalia was provided with advice and options for support, including being moved to safe accommodation. However, Aalia did not want to leave her family or get the police involved and wanted to at first try and stand up to her family. Local mental health support was contacted and Aalia was referred. However, she wanted faith-based counselling. She was therefore also referred to the helpline's internal counselling service, which allowed Aalia to receive telephone counselling.
RAPE AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE (2015)
A Yemeni woman in her 20s was raped by someone she knew in her community. She did not want to report the crime to the police because she was frightened that if her brothers found out she would be subjected to honour based violence. She felt that she would be blamed and accused of bringing shame to the family. She was depressed and kept having flashbacks about the incident and was worried about being pregnant. MWN Helpline contacted the nearest Sexual Assault Referral Centre and arranged an appointment for her. She was reluctant to attend so a Helpline Worker supported her through the process so she that she could receive specialist help.
FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION (2015)
A Somali woman in her early 20s was still traumatised about the 'cutting' she experienced as a child. Her family had gone back to Somalia when she was seven. While her mother was out, her grandmother had taken her (and her sister) to have FGM. She recalled how she remembers bleeding all day and still feels upset thinking about it. She also explained how she suffers from recurring infections and problems with her periods.
She said she had been feeling very depressed lately because she found out that she may need to have a hysterectomy. She was worried about marriage and also said her faith was fluctuating between being religious and doing things that she should not be doing. She said she really wanted to talk to someone. MWN Helpline provided her that space and time to talk and she was provided with details of a specialist FGM counselling service in London.
MALE VICTIM DOMESTIC VIOLENCE (2015)
A man in his 30s who was from Pakistan was being subjected to physical, emotional and financial domestic abuse following his marriage to a British woman. The perpetrators were both his wife and his in-laws. The abuse included threats to kill him. He was extremely depressed and fearful and was having suicidal thoughts. He was encouraged to report the threats and abuse to the police and he was referred to MWNUK's internal counselling service. With this assistance he was able to leave his abusive situation.
Eliza emigrated from Czech Republic with her three children, having met a man online who helped her to come to the UK. He took her to the job centre, obtained her National Insurance number but did not let her leave the house, unless she was supervised. Her children were not allowed to attend school. She shared one room with her children and was emotionally and physically abused. She could not speak any English but during the supervised visits to a local park she made friends with a local Muslim woman who called the helpline for help. The helpline contacted Hope for Justice. A plan was agreed with the friend and eventually they were able to rescue the family who are now in a place of safety.
SEXUALITY AND FORCED MARRIAGE (2015)
A Pakistani woman in her 20s was worried that her parents had become suspicious about her sexuality; they had started questioning her about the relationship with a female friend. They had started talking about getting her married. She did not want to get married and wanted to move in with her girlfriend. She said she was worried but also confused because she did not want to continue lying to her parents and was considering coming out to them so they would no longer pressure her to get married.
She wanted to speak to someone that would understand her situation and advise her. She was provided with safety advice (for herself and her partner) and encouraged not to say anything to her parents until she was safe i.e. had moved out. She was advised to contact the police immediately if she was in danger. She was informed about her rights including that forced marriage is against the law. She was also put in touch with someone who works on Muslim LGBT issues to talk about her sexuality in more detail. This would help her to consider the consequences of disclosing and of not disclosing to her parents, before making her decision.