Melat, 29, is a mother of three young children. She was tortured and raped whilst being detained in Ethiopia.

When referred to us, Melat was unable to speak about her detention. She had been brutally tortured, including multiple rapes. She was socially isolated, profoundly depressed and suffering from acute post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Her relationship with her husband was breaking down and her children were disturbed by her behaviour: staying up all night, screaming in her sleep, spending days without getting dressed, and refusing to leave the house.

Over time and with gentle encouragement, Melat has begun to speak of her feelings towards herself, towards other people, and towards men. After a year of attending Helen Bamber Foundation she has joined an arts programme group.

At first she attended the group hesitantly, sitting close to the facilitator and not interacting with other members. But gradually, she began to approach other women. This came as an enormous surprise for the previously silent Melat, who has now become an active participant, keen to discuss human rights issues for women and children in Ethiopia and forging friendships with other group members.

Melat’s relationship with her husband is becoming closer and her daily living is no longer overtly affected by her trauma. She realises that the after-effects of what happened may never be completely overcome, and she and her family remain in a highly precarious immigration situation. But now she speaks of being alive, whereas a year ago she spoke only of feeling dead, and wishing that her life had been taken from her the day she was imprisoned.

Through our support and a great deal of work on her own, Melat has fostered a renewed sense of personal and social integration. In the last group she described herself as: “Now having mostly light, before all I had was darkness.”

The family’s asylum claim was refused and we helped Melat seek legal advice. She has a new solicitor, new representations have been made, and we have provided an expert report to support her testimony.