Emmanuel, originally from the Ivory Coast, moved to the UK in 2015 to join his partner who he had met on holidays overseas. At first their relationship was like any other and although Emmanuel looks back on some early signs of possessive behaviour he thought this was because they were not living together yet.

Once Emmanuel moved to the UK things began to change. His partner did not want him to spend time with anyone else, including her own family; she always had reasons why he couldn’t join a local club to play his beloved football, or to go for a run. When Emmanuel got a job she insisted on driving him and picking him up, even though he wanted to catch the bus or could get a lift from a work mate. When Emmanuel got his own car and driving license she sometimes followed him to work to keep watch on him. She insisted that on his work breaks he call her and not talk to anyone else, she insisted on buying all his clothes.

Whenever Emmanuel tried to discuss these things, ask why and suggest it wasn’t ok, she would get angry and tell him to leave and not get married. Over time she started to threaten that she would contact immigration and have him deported. Once she left him locked outside the house in retaliation for not wanting to go with her somewhere. Emmanuel had never been allowed a key. He had nowhere to go. “I felt like a slave. I did not know what to do or where to go for help”, Emmanuel said.

Emmanuel described feeling scared, stressed, depressed, and even suicidal at times. When he would get home from work he would sometimes sit in his car, worried about how things would be when he walked in the door.

Emmanuel found a room to stay and left briefly. They kept talking and his partner apologised and promised to change. They moved back in together but things quickly went back to how they were before. One night the police came as his partner started pushing him, telling him to leave and threatening to have him deported. Soon after Emmanuel contacted a men’s helpline and they gave him the number for SAFE.

“That’s when everything changed”, he said. “Without SAFE, I don’t know what would have happened to me.”

One of our Finding Your Voice volunteers helped Emmanuel find an immigration lawyer, accompanied him to appointments and helped with issues with the landlord. SAFE volunteers and staff were always there to help he said. Emmanuel has also started counselling at SAFE.

“I now realise it was abuse. I am feeling a strong man again and have my dignity back. I would not be where I am right now if it wasn’t for SAFE.”