Grace* was sold into marriage by her parents in Nigeria; she had no choice in the matter, and no choice in most aspects of her life once married, either. Her every action controlled, Grace was constantly covered in bruises and locked in a cupboard when her husband left the house. She became aware of her husband’s other wives but was told she had no right to ask questions. She became pregnant 6 times; on 4 occasions she was forced by her husband to have abortions, and on the other 2 he beat her until she miscarried when he discovered that she was expecting. She couldn’t go back home because her parents felt she belonged to her husband, and besides, she was told that both her and her family owed him a lot of money so she could not escape him. Grace was on the brink; she couldn’t stop crying and was feeling suicidal.

To her surprise, one day her husband told Grace that they were going on holiday to London. Her husband got their Visas and even bought Grace a bag and other gifts for the trip. Amazed, but happy, Grace hoped the change of scenery would do them good. At the last moment, however, Grace was told she would have to go to London on her own.  Having never even left her village before, the prospect terrified her, and she begged her husband not to make her go but she only incited his rage.

The day came when she was set to travel. Her husband then told her that his friend would be waiting for her at the airport in London, and although Grace was scared and wanted to know more, she did not dare ask any more questions

As promised, her husband’s friend was waiting for her when she got off the plane. He took her straight by car back to a house, where several other people were, but offered no explanation as to why she was there or what was going to happen. Soon, however, it became clear. She was ordered to clean the house, cook meals and look after the children. She was only allowed to eat any leftovers, had to sleep on the floor in the kitchen and was not allowed to leave the house except to go to church, at which point she would be under the strict supervision of members of the family. She was not allowed to talk to anyone.

One day at church, she saw a woman who she recognised from her church in Nigeria. Surprised that Grace was in the UK, and quickly realising that Grace was in danger, the woman advised her to escape the house when she could, get into the street and then call with the street name so she could come and find her. The house was kept locked, so Grace hid her documents in her sock and asked if she could go out into the garden. Once outside Grace took her opportunity to put the plan into action.

Fortunately, the escape attempt was successful. Grace’s friend gave her food and clothes, and Grace shared her story. Her friend asked if she wanted help to return to Nigeria, but Grace knew she couldn’t return to her family and did not wish to return to her husband.

Grace discovered a scratch on her leg which she thought may be syphilis, so she sought medical attention, only to find she had HIV. For Grace, the motivation for her husband’s insistence that she should not have a baby was beginning to become clear.

Grace’s friends knew they needed to seek additional support for Grace. She was given the number to call The Salvation Army, who referred her in to the National Referral Mechanism. She was then referred to Migrant Help on Outreach and, with our support, has started to rebuild her life.

*Alterations have been made to the personal information of the subject to protect their identity