My name is Dr Arinola Araba and I am mum to three gifted young adults, Dami, Bobbee and Ayo! Just about 20 years ago I used to be in an abusive marriage. It got so bad that I needed police and legal intervention before I found the strength to leave…Leave I did, with 3 young children.
At that time the oldest child was 6 years old. We made home with my mum, in Barking. She had to take time off work for about 6 months to help me resettle and heal. It was a very traumatic process for the kids and I to find our way back to some sort of normality. After a few confusing years ofrediscovering my purpose and faith in God, I secured a small role in the defunct Harold Wood hospital in Romford.
Following some changes in policy within the NHS, my contracts came to an end and I was faced with the prospect of unemployment. Tired, disappointed but undaunted, I applied for a voluntary role at the Citizens Advice Bureau to support people experiencing financial struggles. Soon I had the idea to set up a social enterprise to help solve money problems in the local community and set up bMoneywize.
After a few years of engaging with community women, it became apparent that a number of them were trapped in domestic abuse. It took some convincing and encouraging but I finally found the strength to share my own story and experiences on the subject.
The opportunity to help a lot more people became another life mission which gave my life some purpose; as all, I had to do was tell my story! The Barking and Dagenham Giving project provided some leverage and support to this mission and I am so thankful for it.
As you will appreciate, domestic abuse is not a subject people will readily talk about so I had to get creative about how this project was delivered. I have been engaging in one-on-one encounters with people affected, participated in the interviews on the political front to discuss what the government can do. I have also been invited to speak to different groups (in English and French) of women on the subject of recovery and have directed participants to a survey and link to download my book, Beautifully Flawed for Free!
I am thankful for the opportunity to train and sign up as a Peer Mentor with the charity, Refuge, with a base in Barking and Dagenham. The latter works to support women and children experiencing violence. This strategy seemed to be one of the easiest ways to reach the target group I wanted to help; as you will appreciate it is a little difficult to admit one is being abused.
The women I interact with will want to keep their information confidential so I will need to strike the balance between tracking progress and reporting on impact. I have also reached out to more people through social media and in turn, had people reach out to request collaboration on specific projects. Others have asked to have my story featured in their magazines.
I believe that sharing my story is one of the most impactful things I can do to encourage other people to learn that there is hope after pain. It has been rewarding to hear other women say, “I am glad somebody understands what I am going through.”
I have also started creating podcasts to reach more people!
The unique season we are in has presented so many opportunities to support others through varying digital tools and communication software.
Here are a few ways, I have been able to share my story in the UK, USA and Africa: • The Worldreader app• My online blog• My podcasts• By emails and surveys• By my social media channels on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram • My books on Amazon, LuLu, Okada Books, • Weekly Online Book writing club on Zoom
I have received so many positive responses from the FREE book which was accompanied by a survey. I created a survey to accompany the book, to challenge presumptions and ideas about domestic violence and whether people should remain in an abusive situation when they were in grave danger. Survey respondents have been received from Nigeria and America.
It’s exciting to see the many initiatives that Barking and Dagenham Giving are supporting. Thanks to this Rapid Response Fund, I have connected with people from Refuge, Voice Out Woman and Moms on A Mission, alongside medical professionals.
So many people in abusive marriages are told to remain because things will get better. “That’s what life allotted to you. You chose them, you just have to bear it;” they are told. But in this community, it’s not acceptable!
As I have heard and experienced some of the confusion victims of abuse face, I can empathise with their situation and help them. I now run a weekly book writing club to encourage people to write about their experiences.
No one should have to take abuse or endure it and I hope my work empowers more people to say NO to domestic violence and take action against it.
That’s why I talk about it. It’s easier to empathise when you’ve actually been through something and not just read about it.
People need to know they have a choice; and #domesticabuse is not a sentence!