Overcoming torture doesn’t happen overnight. And starting again in an unknown country like the UK isn’t easy.
But, over time, men, women and children who have survived appalling violence and cruelty can begin to put their lives back together. People like Kayitesi, who was forced to flee her home and leave her family after being tortured. Kayitesi can’t share her real name or country of origin with you. It doesn’t feel safe. But she can help you to understand what her life is like.
"I thought London was country"
When I arrived in the UK, I didn’t speak a word of English. I fled from my country for my life, with no idea where I was going. I came from a small village. I was cheated, trafficked to the UK, and locked up for months in a house where men spoke around me – I guess in English - but I didn't understand a word.
I was cheated, trafficked to the UK, and locked up for months in a house.
When I finally escaped, I found myself on a street; a stranger stopped me and I said the one word I knew, ‘London’. I thought it was a country. He gestured that I was in London, and gave me two pounds!
I was alone, in a place I knew nothing about, without a word of the language.
"I learnt my Ps and Qs"
I was lucky to meet a kind woman who befriended me. She and her kids taught me English.
Sometimes I’d say to the kids ‘Give me this’, and they’d say, ‘Say please!’ They liked being able to correct me. I’d ask them, ‘What’s that?’ ‘Cup of tea!’ - or they’d take me round the house saying, ‘This is a chair! These are stairs!’ I began to feel at home here
"Alone, in my room, again"
Thanks to learning English, I’ve been able to make friends. But that doesn’t always help with the loneliness; their children remind me of my own, their laughter makes me recall my own children.
When you’re seeking asylum, spending years waiting, you learn how frightening loneliness can be, and how difficult it is to escape it...One of the ways I break out of my loneliness is through writing. I am a member of Write to Life, the writing group at Freedom from Torture.
When you’re seeking asylum, spending years waiting, you learn how frightening loneliness can be, and how difficult it is to escape it. You lie in bed waiting for your parents, or children, to come and say good morning. Then you sit up and realise you’re alone, in your room, again. Alone with the chatter of anxiety, terror, worthlessness and depression all banging about in your head.
"The lives of people like us"
One of the ways I break out of my loneliness is through writing. I am a member of Write to Life, the writing group at Freedom from Torture. Meeting different people and hearing their views, I find I’m not alone.
Writing keeps me away from flashbacks, because when you’re writing, you’re talking with the pen to the paper. You concentrate and it interrupts the bad stuff in your head.
I am fairly new to writing - I really don't know anything about poetry, for instance. But I think if I write what is in my mind and about what I've been through, people might feel touched by my story.
Through Write to Life, we also share our writing with the public, like this piece I’m sharing with you now: I hope that this helps others to understand what we feel, and think about the lives of people like us.
At Freedom from Torture we provide holistic support to torture survivors in the UK, from therapy and creative groups to practical and legal support.
Most of our work is funded by people just like you. If you can, please donate today – even a small amount will help men, women and children who have escaped torture to begin find freedom and hope.