News Client stories Dolphin’s story: escaping an abusive family environment For me, growing up was very difficult. I lived in Malaysia in the most beautiful surroundings, but my family environment was toxic. I don’t know why but my father always hated me. I used to ask my mother why this was and she would assure me that he didn’t hate me, but for as long as I can remember he treated me differently to my siblings. As soon as I was 16 I had to go out and work - I was just seen as a means of making money, not as a part of the family. My father held my ATM card so I couldn’t do anything without his permission, and all the money was spent on gambling. I was sexually abused by the man who loaned my dad money to fund his gambling habit. When I told my father about it, I immediately knew that I was going to get hurt if I mentioned it again. He told me I needed to deal with it by myself and that I owed him. He also abused my mother, but I think she stayed with him because she was scared of losing her children and the financial security. Even my closest friends had no idea what I was going through. I struggle to trust people, preferring to keep my business to myself and only share good moments with the people around me. It was isolating, but my mother was always there for me. She was my rock. Though I was suffering, I felt I could cope because she was there for me. Then, on the 25th July 2019, my mother passed away. Losing her was incredibly hard - as well as losing a loved mother, I also lost the one person I could trust. It was hell for me… I was alone and helpless. A few weeks before she passed away, my mother argued with my dad because he wanted to marry me off to any rich man he could find in order to pay his gambling debts. I was afraid that this fate awaited me. He also blamed me for my mother’s death, saying that I hadn’t provided for her when she needed me. He broke me down emotionally like this so he could control me. For so long, I carried that guilt, believing that I was the reason she died. My dad wanted to control my mum’s money after she was gone. However, a share of the money was going to automatically go to my grandparents, so my dad sent me to ask them to sign away their share. At this point, my father had not even told my grandparents that their daughter had passed away. I felt I had to tell them. The funeral process had been done in a hurry, so by this time they had missed the funeral. They were furious and, in hindsight, going there on my own was a mistake. While I was there, my uncle threatened and physically attacked me. It turned out that he was an unlicensed loan shark and leader in the underworld network across Malaysia. My dad owed him money. I lodged a report with the Malaysian police, who refused to investigate the matter because they deemed that nothing tragic had happened to me. Throughout my life, I was in regular contact with my godparents, who live in the UK. They offered emotional support and encouraged me to go to the police when awful things happened to me. They helped me a lot. After mum had died, they invited me to visit them for a little while to recuperate and recover from the trauma of losing my mum. I had never been on a plane before. I was alone and the process was scary – it is not something I ever want to go through again – but I knew it was do or die. The moment I got off the plane I felt a huge sense of relief. The future was unknown, but I instantly felt happier being here. At the time I was still very scared of people, especially men who I couldn’t look in the eye. Even so, I have never felt so safe. The British people are so warm and friendly. It was not my intention to stay here. My godparents were trying to mediate with my family so that things would be better when I went back, but it became clear that things were only going to get worse. My only option was to claim asylum. I met a solicitor and claimed asylum in November 2019. My godparents did such an amazing thing for me and I am so grateful - they helped me escape the abuse and fear. They had their own lives and family to worry about, however, and I felt it was time to find more independent living. I took the decision to contact Migrant Help to help me find alternative accommodation. I was placed in Derby’s Initial Accomodation, which completely threw me. I felt I could not cope with the move and that it was too far away from my godparents. Anna, from Migrant Help, helped me find alternative accommodation that I felt comfortable with. I am so grateful for this as I feel so safe here! Then Jakub helped me to access mental health support. Thanks to this support, I am starting to overcome the trauma I have faced. I need to keep patient and strong. Back home, I would have been judged for talking about my mental health, as well as what I had been through and my family situation. I was constantly belittled and judged by my family and so I didn’t expect other people to care either. It is refreshing to me that people here recognise and acknowledge that mental health is a real thing, and I am hoping to make my career in mental health support. Things have improved so much with counselling and the opportunities I have had to connect to other people since being here. I am more confident and less scared. While I await my asylum decision, I keep busy by meditating, practicing yoga and volunteering. It was important for me to find volunteering opportunities that allowed me to contribute and help people facing the same challenges as me. I now have two voluntary jobs, one of which supports women who are victims of abuse. It has always been my dream to write a book; I felt it was my chance to have a voice, something I feel I lacked for many years. I am currently collaborating with a writer to write a book loosely based around my experiences and the themes of unconditional love, compassion and kindness. Not only does this give me a voice but it also helps me process things. Every time I share a part of my story I feel lighter. My message for other people who are suffering is this: never settle for less than what you deserve. If you feel the situation you are in is not where you should be, please try to find a way out of it. I should have done it myself a long time ago, but I couldn’t bear to leave my mother. Her passing away taught me a lot of things – I realised that I am strong and my father was wrong to call me weak. I am still facing my fear everyday, and sometimes I think the fear will never fully disappear. I face new challenges each day. I find the best approach to these challenges is to switch your perspective; rather than ask ‘why is this happening to me?’ start asking ‘what does this teach me?’ When you are given a chance you have to take it, that’s what life is about. I would really like to express my gratitude and heartfelt thanks to Migrant Help for the amount of help and support you have given me through my difficult times. It is hard when you feel you are alone, but knowing someone is there to help your through the journey helps so much.