Survivor working to help others through university projects

Imane, who lives with her daughter, is an academic who has channelled her energies into helping domestic abuse victims after living through domestic abuse herself.

One project that she is currently working on with two colleagues is to support victims going through the family courts by developing digital tools which offer a step-by-step guide to help people through the process.

Imane told our communications team more about life now and why it was so important for her to use her real name for this interview.

Tell us about your life now? 

I have changed physically, emotionally and mentally. A harsh reality I am facing like most, if not, all victims of domestic abuse.

While I don’t see myself as a survivor, I still have hopes and want to believe that I can and will change following my experience. In many ways domestic abuse has made me be a prouder, stronger and more inspiring mother, woman and professional.

Why did you want to use your real name in this piece?

I have learnt not to hide anymore and I have nothing to be ashamed of. I am scared of my abuser but hiding isn’t the solution. Sharing our stories and building a strong network like we have in our survivors’ network DASG (the Domestic Abuse Survivors Group) is empowering.

I am sharing my personal experience and I would like to use my real name because I want other victims to feel there is nothing wrong with me or with them… abusers should be ashamed and should be accountable for their crimes.

Tell us about the work you are doing to support other domestic abuse victims

I am an academic and my research interests before domestic abuse were more around international business and international Human Resource Management.

I joined DASG (the Domestic Abuse Survivors Group) and I was able to join a group of amazing people driven by what happened to them to raise awareness of domestic abuse, support victims/survivors and be a part of, if not create change.

I am currently involved in a research project with 2 colleagues (Rima Hussein and Clara Crivellaro, being the lead in this project and both DA victims/survivors: Rima is from Northumbria University and Clara is from Newcastle University’s Open Lab).

Our research project is survivor led and is exploring the journey for domestic abuse survivors through the family law court system. We have interviewed survivors that are receiving support from domestic abuse support organisations such as NIDAS, Barnardos and Safelives.

Our aim is to gather survivors in a focus group to share their hope for interventions to the system and to develop resources that can better support survivors entering that system.

Their journeys can better inform and train professionals in the family law court system, as centring their voices and raising awareness about continuing issues provides a mechanism for knowledge exchange, awareness raising and changes to practice.

We have seen changes in legislation with the Domestic Abuse Act, but these changes are not filtering into the practice of professionals or the family law system culture.

So, we see this work as two-fold; centring the survivor experience and building resources to navigate the current system alongside translating those journeys into training so that professionals in the system can be more aware of the potential impact and traumatisation for survivors.

To sum up, the research is participatory and involves the participation of other women with direct experience of family court where domestic abuse was a factor.  The design of a hub with digital tools and resources will be co-created with participants.

We are also looking at designing digital tools that can help DA support services make sense of available data relating to DA and legal journeys, to guide decision making in service delivery, campaigns and advocacy action.

 Can you tell us a bit about why you set this up?

I am involved in this research project because I found my legal journey very tough. It wasn’t and still isn’t easy to access resources. Being abused in a relationship in itself is hard, going through a legal system is even tougher especially if you can’t access information about the law or find out what procedures there are to support victims of DA. 

Not being able to access legal aid didn’t help. I realised later that even those who do have that legal aid privilege still find it difficult to cope with the court process. It is very hard to find appropriate or easy to reach resources or learn what services are available to provide support.

How would domestic abuse victims even know to ask about whether these services exist if they don’t know what to expect or understand how the legal system works.

What’s the biggest thing that you have learned?

Always ask questions; never give up; let nobody silence you for what you believe is right. I was a victim of DA but I will not accept this to happen to my daughter.

What would you say the most common misconception of domestic abuse is?

“Well, see what you are doing that made him treat you this way”

“Domestic abuse = pity arguments between couples”

“This is what relationships are like!”

“Woman, your type should be treated like this!”

“It is not domestic abuse, it is just cultural differences leading to miscommunication”

If you could pass one message to others living with domestic abuse what would it be.

Ask for help – approach your GP, your children’s school, your colleague at work, your friend and/or your family. Let them know what is happening to you even if you think it is all because of you (NO, it is NOT. The abuser made you think this way!).

When you get help, take it and stop finding justifications (most of the time out of fear) to forgive your abuser and give him/her more chances just because they promised to change.

It requires a lot of courage to leave an abusive relationship especially when you have children. Leave… do it for yourself and for your children, just leave and there are very supportive people out there for you.

They will hold your hand and guide you through. You will not be doing it alone, sometimes you will feel that you are in the middle of the ocean drowning, it is okay but remember that many have been there too and felt the same way and made it and reached the shore.

What would your motto be?

Be you – Be safe – Be alive – Be there because you deserve a better life.

What makes you laugh/happy?

Many safe parents are not allowed to be in their children’s lives, and some can only hug or see their children for a short time. Looking at my daughter growing healthy and happy every day and knowing that she is safe and not affected by what happened to me, makes me happy.

I can’t stop myself from worrying about tomorrow, given that my abuser is using the court to control me more, I don’t know what tomorrow brings but I am happy seeing my daughter flourish today. Tomorrow is another day.

If you want to find out more about the Domestic Abuse Survivors Group you can find the website here.