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True Accounts of an ICNA Relief Women’s Transitional Home Resident

Statistics show that 1 in 4 women, and 1 in 7 men, will experience relationship violence in their lives. A generation ago, abuse victims were often petrified of stepping forward, worried that they would appear weak or be held responsible for their abuse. Thanks to thanks to a growing body of research and advocacy, we now know how common domestic violence is and how to combat the issues by coming to the aid of these individuals seeking to get back on their feet in pursuit of a better life. Here is a personal account of one of ICNA Relief’s Transitional Housing residents who explains her journey of escaping such abuse by the hands of her husband.

“He would beat me in front of his parents and they watched. If I ever confronted his mother, she said ‘you have made him angry on something’,” said Ayesha (name changed to protect privacy). “I was told by my mother-in-law a lot of times, in my one month of marriage, that her son was interested in men and (they chose me) because it was better to get him married off to an (immigrant) woman.

It was middle of the night when my husband came all drunk in the room and asked for dinner. I used to be very scared of him so I ran to the kitchen to prepare food for him. After we sat on the table, he started mumbling something, to which I asked if he wanted something. He stood from his place and ran towards me to choke my neck. I could hardly breathe. This had become a ritual and was happening almost daily. I tried to free myself and remind myself of the head injury he gave me due to which I had stitches on my head. The doctor had reminded me to dial 911 if it was an emergency. I was, at that time, very, very scared and, every time this happened, I stayed quiet and never spoke to anyone about it, not even to my family back home and not even to that doctor who guessed what might have happened to me. That very night, I decided to finally call the cops as I was choked very bad. The first thing I realized was I was now homeless and I had no clue where to go.

(Usually) He never left me alone with anyone, so I couldn’t talk to my parents about the abuse. There were numerous times I reminded myself to stay calm and bear all the pain but (that) one night I had to take this step and leave at last.”

Sr. Saima Azfar, Director of ICNA Relief Chicago, is no stranger to these types of situations, “Currently, we have six children under the age of 13, living in our transitional home with their mothers. We also have sister Ayesha, a single woman of 24. A recent immigrant, she holds a bachelor’s degree and was formerly married to a US citizen, working in a prestigious industry. What you have just read is her story, in her own words.” she stated.

“These are not isolated stories. For the many broken women I meet each month, it takes all of us as a community to make things better. Your support helps these sisters find confidence again. Their persistence alone is just not enough.” she continued.

Abuse victims are often asked why they just don’t leave. But think about this: How would you feel about leaving your spouse? As challenging as it may be to confess, relationships with abuse still offer their victims something, such as financial safety or a relationship with a person they love. Our transitional housing program offers a safe space for these victims to heal while affording them the opportunity to develop themselves within a nurturing environment. Women are provided with one-on-one support while they transition to permanent stable housing.

Many of the women who come to ICNA Relief for supportive housing have experienced emotional abuse and/or neglect and are underemployed or unable to obtain affordable housing. ICNA Relief offers them the opportunity to heal while they work towards obtaining the ultimate goal of self-sufficiency.

Trained case managers work with residents in identifying areas of growth and link them to appropriate community resources such as public benefits, legal and immigration support, mental health services and healthcare. While residing at ICNA Relief, women are encouraged to take part in educational classes including; English language skills, job training and/or higher education.

We can all do our part by embracing a culture of safety, and supporting the victims we hear about.  If you would like to support our Women’s Transitional Housing Program, please visit www.icnarelief.org/solaceforoursisters.  Become a Keeper of Hope, Kindness, and Love by helping us maintain the Women’s Transitional Housing network across the United States. Your support will make a difference for the many women like Ayesha who may find themselves with no place to go and no one to help.