As part of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence UN campaign, a Blackburn human rights organisation is trying to highlight signs of domestic abuse.

Saima Afzal, of SAS RIGHTS has shared the experiences of a Blackburn woman who has been “coerced and controlled” by her ex-husband and has been working to help clear the domestic abuse victim’s debts, after her estranged husband disappeared and left her in “extreme financial difficulties”.

The woman, who has asked to remain anonymous, has two daughters who she has to support for but only receives around £1,300 a month.

On top of this, the woman has reported that she was unaware of the level of debts had accumulated, she was never allowed to open mail, and she had no control over the household finances.

The mum has limited communication skills as she can’t read or write English, so wasn’t able to fully understand or come to terms with the abuse she faced before reaching out for help.

Saima said: “If she hadn’t reached out to us for support then I don’t know where she’d be.

"There are so many cases of abuse where victims, for whatever reason, don’t feel comfortable going to the police to report it.

“In this woman’s case, she had been coerced and controlled by her estranged husband and felt like she had no one to turn to.

“We’ve been in touch with the council to try and write off the debts she’s been left with and apply for additional support to help towards rent to her private landlord.

This week, the landlord increased her rent from £500 to £750 per calendar month. Saima stated that the increase "seems to be so exploitative" particularily since the estranged husband has left.

She added: "The landlord demanding a 50 per cent increase in rent is shocking.

“She can’t pay these huge amounts of money. She only has around £1,300 a month which has to cover rent, bills, the debts, food, and taking care of her daughters.

“This is just once example. There are so many victims of domestic abuse who are experiencing similar financial difficulties and feelings of isolation, stress and anxiety.

"Abuse does not miraculously stop once the perpetrator or survivor of abuse leaves, too often it continue,  and systemic and structural failures also enable the continuation of abuse."

Government data revealed in the year ending in March 2022, the number of women earning between £10,400 and £20,800 who were victims of domestic abuse was disproportionately higher than the other five income brackets.

Saima is eager to highlight the issue of coercive control which is a pattern of acts of threats, humiliation and intimidation that abusers use to silence victims and stop them from seeking help.

ONS data shows of the 33,954 coercive control offences reported in England and Wales in the year ending March 2021, only one per cent (373) led to convictions.

Saima said: "Surely that tells you the system favours the alleged abusers rather than the ones who are reporting and experiencing abuse. 

“Her abuser told her that without him she is nothing and cannot survive, but I keep telling her she can, and she will.”

Saima's work as a National Crime Agency Expert Adviser involves forensic examination of cases involving abuse, forced marriage, rape, female genital mutilation, coercive behaviours and more, which allows her to offer support to local victims. 

SAS RIGHTS aims to support victims with consent and anonymity maintained, and urges victims of domestic abuse who need support to get in touch.