I was born into a family, where domestic abuse was prevalent on a day to day basis. Coercive control was programmed into us from a young age. Physical violence and emotional abuse were normalised. South Asian communities were/some still are very patriarchal compared to the norm we see in everyday society. We were raised in domestic abuse, but we never knew it was abuse, we were conditioned into submission and knew our place in society as girls, women, females.
Our family’s tolerance to abuse was higher than your average person. Making my family very vulnerable and easy prey to abusers to manipulate, exploit, and control.
I had a challenging upbringing due to all of the adverse childhood experiences I endured witnessing my father beat my mother and nearly taking her life.
I was a very creative, artistic, yet not very academic child due to undiagnosed dyslexia and ADHD traits, this left me with Poor grades in school, truancy was the norm, my escape. I ran away from home twice at the age of 11 and 13 due to the abuse at home, yet was let down by services and who returned me back home into the abuse. I became involved in gangs from east London and after moving up to the north, I became involved in another gang. The Gang culture and the gang mindset was where I received significance and belonging. I explain in hindsight how the feeling of belonging, boundaries, significance respect and purpose were all present in being part of a gang, something my young mind yearned back then. The confusing thing was even though all 6 children and my mother experienced DA not all of my siblings took the same path as me. After being abandoned abroad at 16 and forced into a marriage as a child bride at 17 I returned back to the UK at 18. Now belonging to my in-laws and still being to westernised my father tried to take my like for dishonouring the family, I fled, was coerced home and my father tried to take my life again, and entered the system and was exploited and isolated in 2003.
In my secret shame and trauma I went into hiding in a new town, I had a baby at 19 and remained ostracised and in hiding. I became easy target, My body was sold and eventually a client kicked me into university. I never understood or processed my trauma, just lived for my daughter. I was forced into another marriage in 2012 via community pressure. Two more children came from the abusive relationship. I Fled honour based abuse again in 2018.
In 2018 I rejected the victim narrative which was fed to me by the system, there was either something wrong with me or the system.
Which made me question everything.
My journey of transformation began when I was in a non judgemental environment, which allowed me to question, and learn about domestic abuse, human behaviour, cultures, neuroscience and the ability to connect to my new town, the people in that town allowed me to transform into who I am today.
Today I am Shana Begum, after winning the towns pride awards for our community work, I founded St Helens the Best Me CIC, a by and for grassroots organisation, led and run by volunteers in the community with lived experience of adverse childhood experience and domestic abuse, and we support people with unresolved trauma in holistic ways.
I am also a local government officer, Domestic Abuse Trainer with 25 years of lived experience of Domestic abuse, Honour based abuse, and forced marriages. I use my lived experience in research and policy development to help change systems and supports organisations to become more inclusive and diverse for marginalised communities and neurodiverse people. I am part of various organisations, local, national and international.
With the correct networks and an opportunity to deal with your past traumas, you can turn your life around.
My family and I are safe now, still trapped in post separation abuse yet we are grateful to be alive, that is priceless.