Home Shouldn’t Hurt: Survivors’ stories

Trigger warning: description of sexual violence which some people may find disturbing

During this holiday season, many people seek the comforts of home, family, and community, but for millions of girls and women around the world, violence makes their homes unsafe. Subject to physical, emotional, and sexual abuse and practices such as child marriage, many women are harmed by those they know and trust.

ActionAid and our local partners work to support and protect vulnerable women and girls by providing safe spaces, education about their rights, resources, and legal support. We are committed to ending gender-based violence and making homes safe for women.

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Millicent

At first, Millicent shared a happy home with her husband in Kampala, Uganda, but eight months into their marriage, he began to abuse her, which resulted in a three-month hospital stay.

“After I came back home, I forgave him,” Millicent said. “But after one month he did the same thing again.”

The next time he abused her, Millicent called the police, but her husband was arrested for only a few days before being released. After months of battling for a court hearing, Millicent felt unsafe knowing that her husband was free. Eventually, she felt forced to move to another area to protect herself and her children.

“I never had the capacity to continue with the process. The truth is that I lost morale,” Millicent explained.

 

When her husband found her near her new home, he threatened Millicent to return home. When she refused he poured acid over her left eye, permanently blinding her. She was found by her son and brought to the hospital, where she was referred to ActionAid’s Safe Shelter for women.

With the support of ActionAid, Millicent and her family finally began to feel safe. “ActionAid took care of me and accommodated me. They showed us love,” Millicent said.

While providing Millicent with a home and other social and trauma services, ActionAid also pursued Millicent’s court case against her husband, ultimately resulting in his conviction and a six-year prison sentence.

Millicent is not alone. In Uganda, nearly half of women who have been married say they are afraid of their current or former partner. Many women feel alone and unsafe in their homes and struggle to get legal justice on their own.

“If I had known about ActionAid during the first case of domestic violence, I don’t think I would have reached the extent of him pouring acid on me, because when you are an individual, it is very hard to pursue these cases in courts of law,” Millicent said. “But when organisations like ActionAid come up, and stand with us, who can’t stand on our own, in most cases, we get our cases resolved and win.”

Sarmin

At 16, Sarmin was committed to making her community safer for girls by advocating against child marriage. Inspired by Youth Feminist Training at ActionAid’s Global Platforms Bangladesh, she ran trainings for young people about gender equality and the consequences of child marriage, an illegal but common practice in her village in rural Bangladesh.

Incensed by her advocacy, older villagers convinced her father to arrange a marriage for Sarmin, effectively halting her work. Sarmin’s father confiscated her cell phone and locked her in their house to prevent her escape before the wedding.

“I told my father I didn’t want to marry now. I want to do something [more],” Sarmin said. “My father told me nothing happens [for women], so it is better to get married.”

 

Though illegal, over half of girls in Bangladesh are married before the age of 18. Child marriages often result in early pregnancies, which have negative health effects for young girls, and can also lead to increased risk of sexual assault and HIV contraction.

Knowing the risks and her legal rights, Sarmin managed to find a phone and contact a school teacher who, along with other young activists, convinced her father to drop the marriage.

Now, Sarmin is enrolled in university, studying to become a lawyer. Since her experience, she and other activists have prevented three child marriages in their village.

“When I became a victim of violence and needed a lawyer to support me, no lawyer helped me,” Sarmin explained. “They all want money. They do not think about justice. So from that day I want to become a lawyer to help disadvantaged women claim for their justice.”

More on our Christmas appeal and how you can donate to help girls like Sarmin.

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