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Case Study: Gurpreet Story – Forced Marriage

Over the course of two weeks, we received a call on our 24-hour helpline, but the person never spoke.
Finally, 27-year-old Gurpreet found strength and asked if she could come to our office to speak with an advisor. 

When she arrived the following day, it was apparent that Gurpreet had several complex needs. She was registered blind and identified as having learning disabilities. 

Opening up 

At first, Gurpreet spent an hour in silence, unsure of her caseworker. Eventually, a dialogue started when the caseworker decided it best to start with something completely irrelevant to Gurpreets abuse. They spoke about East Enders. Talking about her favourite soap proved to be positive, and the rapport between client and caseworker developed.  The more they spoke, the more Gurpreet became comfortable and disclosed that her family was forcing her into a marriage that was to take place in India.

She also disclosed that she was financially abused. Her primary carer, her mother, had full control over her accounts, leaving her with little independence. She felt like a prisoner in her own home. 

Gurpreet was very distressed and made it clear to her caseworker that she did not want to get married; she didn’t want any form of relationship; she felt she was only just able to care for herself.  

Gurpreet’s caseworker spent time with her and went through all of Gurpreet’s options. One was to apply for a Forced Marriage Order. 

Gurpreet also shared that she didn’t feel safe at home. So options were explored on the best-supported houses solutions available. 

Gurpreet left Aanchal to process and think about the advice given. Her caseworker kept in touch every day to ensure she was safe.

A week later, Gurpreet rang our helpline out of hours as her parents had booked tickets for the family to travel to India, wedding plans had been made. Gurpreet was petrified; she had no idea who the man was, knew nothing of his family. She felt she had no other option than to leave; she feared the consequences if she continued to resist.  

Her caseworker began to work immediately to find a safe way for  Gurpreet to leave her family and find appropriate accommodation. Due to Gurpreet’s complex needs, a refuge was not suitable.   

After negotiating with the local authority, they agreed to find Gurpreet a placement in a specialist refuge. There is only 1 such refuge in London.

To provide Gurpreet’s the best possible protection, she was supported with obtaining a FMO through the high court. But before the order could be served on Gurpreets family, her caseworker needed to support her to move into the specialist refuge immediately.  A plan was made where a taxi had been pre-booked to pick Gurpreet once her family was out.

On the day Gurpreet planned to flee, things did not go according to plan. Her mother returned just as the taxi was due to arrive. ‘I still remember that feeling of butterflies in my stomach and my heart beating really fast on the day Gurpreet had planned to leave whilst her family was out. There was no knowing what her family would have done if they had any indication she was trying to leave.’

Her caseworker had to reschedule two other taxis that day; a family member returned home on both occasions. It was getting to the point of police involvement, which was a concern for Gurpreet, there was fear of escalation, and there was an altercation; after all, they were her family.

Eventually, we had a 20 minutes window before her father returned home and managed to get her safely to the refuge.  

Will power and Resilience 

Gurpreet lived in a safe house for a year, and she was supported with all her needs. Gurpreet then moved into her own flat in a supported living building. She became a confident person, and she managed her own money and became more independent. ‘Over time, I have been able to see the Impact Aanchal and witnessed the positive outcome. Gurpreet expressed that if it had not been for Aanchal, she would never have taken the steps she did to protect herself from being forced into a marriage. The thought of being trapped in a marriage with a complete stranger, separated from anyone or anything she knew. 

Gurpreet expressed that we gave her a new life and the willpower to live.

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