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February: Shana

Shana is a domestic abuse campaigner with 25 years of lived experience of domestic abuse, ‘honour’-based violence and forced marriage, who now uses these experiences to help others. Having been born into a home with domestic abuse, Shana realised the danger of normalising this behaviour. She now devotes herself to raising awareness and helping others recognise the signs. She facilitates The Best Me Programme, a trauma-informed empowerment programme for people wanting to transform their lives after trauma and abuse. She also promotes healthy relationship education in her role as a School Governor and runs domestic abuse awareness and bystander awareness classes in the community.

Why is it important to you to work with people experiencing domestic abuse? 

As someone who was born into domestic abuse, and with a lack of awareness which resulted in me putting myself and my children in danger, I know first-hand how dangerous and toxic domestic abuse is. Due to my lived experience, I have the knowledge, credibility and empathy to help others. In order to eliminate domestic abuse, we need to talk about it. Educate bystanders. Provide personalised and quality help for those who experience domestic abuse, make sure there are good services available at the point of need, but also an early intervention where possible.

There is no shame in domestic abuse; my story has helped so many people. It is so important to raise awareness of domestic abuse because you don’t know who is experiencing it. Domestic abuse doesn’t discriminate, however, not everyone is confident about seeking help. Helping people now can help future generations to come. Domestic abuse is everyone’s business as it affects everyone, indirectly or directly. It can be experienced by your parent, your child, your teacher, your work colleague, your neighbour. So, it’s important that we recognise what domestic abuse looks like and we are all confident on how to act. 

What is the main change you see in the people that come through your programme? 

The main changes I see in people who come through the Best Me Programme is their confidence, the change in their mindset, their own belief of hope. They feel empowered to help themselves and others, which creates a chain reaction within their own circle. Creating a culture of resilience and positive change. 

In what different ways do you work to raise awareness of domestic abuse?

I use my personal story to raise awareness of domestic abuse. We don’t really hear from survivors; they are normally hidden away due to safety or personal reasons. I have found the method of helping others via my experience very powerful. I use tools and techniques that have helped me overcome the trauma of DA, using neuroscience to empower others, via workshops and free training in the community. I have raised awareness via schools, churches, social media, local leaders within the community and local businesses. 

What keeps you going on a tough day? 

On a tough day I remember my own journey of hopelessness, the fear, the struggle to my liberation and freedom. No one said it will be easy, I tell those I work with “It will be the fight of your life, so do not expect an easy ride, however, it will be worth your freedom”. My children help keep me going. Other people’s success stories help keep me going. In the end, there is always a choice, you can let the trauma destroy you, or you can use the pain to build something better. 

What are you most proud of so far?

What makes me proud is the people who have helped me on my journey to freedom, the people who have helped me and my mission to prevent domestic abuse. I am proud of my 16-year-old daughter who campaigns on DA with her circle of young people, my young boys who are taught about self-control and healthy relationships at this young age. I am proud of the people who have transformed their lives after undergoing the Best Me Programme. I am proud that the community is benefiting from each other, peoples lived experience is used to bring about positive changes. The fact we have turned pain into power in a synergistic way makes me very proud. Only via courage and collaboration can we truly eliminate domestic abuse in our society. I live by ‘being the change I wish to see’ and I urge others to follow suit if it is safe to do so. 

Do you know someone who has gone above and beyond to change the response to domestic abuse and keep survivors and their families safe? Nominate someone for Star of the Month by emailing communications@safelives.org.uk with ‘Star of the Month’ as the subject line.