People may come to us as victims of violence, feeling broken, hurt, ashamed or carrying a burden too heavy to bear alone, but at Ewaa, we see them as survivors. These are their stories.
Note: Please be aware some of these stories maybe uncomfortable to read due to descriptions of abuse and violence.
Through counseling, the Abu Dhabi Center for Shelter and Humanitarian Care – Ewaa worked closely with the victim helping her overcome feelings of helplessness and fear. She took some time to get over her bitter experience and learn to trust again. But in the end, she got there.
Here is her story of hope.
She was living her worst nightmare, stranded in a foreign country without any money, facing the possibility of her dignity and body being violated.
When she boarded the flight to her new destination, she thought she was going on a holiday. Instead, she found herself trapped in a prostitution ring, betrayed by the same friends who had invited her to visit.
The terrifying ‘holiday’
She and her mother sold garments for a living. She fell in love and got married. But differences with her in-laws took a toll on her relationship.
It was then two of her friends, who were married to the same man and lived abroad, invited her and her husband to visit. “I sent our documents for the visa but a week later my friend called saying only my visa had been approved,” said the mother of two. Despite her husband’s protests, she travelled alone.
When she landed in the UAE, her friends’ husband was waiting at the airport with another man. They took her to an apartment – no sign of her friends. “I panicked,” she recalled. A woman there demanded she pay AED 11,000 or work as a prostitute. “She threatened, saying she would tell the police I had stolen the money,” she said. “I cried a lot. I stayed awake all night thinking of my family.”
The next day the woman allowed her to call her mother. “I secretly told my mother how I was being abused and exploited,” she said.
She continued to resist the woman’s attempts to force her into prostitution. Shortly, one of the other girls gave her an idea. “I convinced the woman to take me to a beauty salon assuring her I wouldn’t escape.” There, she sneaked out and told a stranger her story. He gave her some money. She went to the police station and narrated her ordeal. The police arrested the traffickers and sent her to an Ewaa shelter.
After a period of rehabilitation, Ewaa arranged for her safe return. “Ewaa helped me heal and start a new life,” she said.
This victim arrived at one of the shelters under the Abu Dhabi Center for Shelter and Humanitarian Care – Ewaa with bruises from regular beatings and sexual abuse.
Our medical team treated her injuries, and our counsellors helped her emotional scars heal through intensive therapies. Today, she is in her home country, safe and strong.
This is how her story unfolded.
“He hit me and said either I work as a prostitute or die of hunger.”
For her, it was a choice she never thought she would have to make. All her life she had worked hard to help her single mother support her five siblings. With no money for school, she washed dishes in restaurants and cafes in the day and worked at a hairdresser in the evening. Marriage did not treat her well either with her husband wanting to live off her earnings.
One evening, a client at the hairdresser asked her why she seemed sad. “I told her my mother was ill and needed surgery, but I couldn’t afford it,” she said, adding, “The woman offered to get me a job in a salon in the UAE and asked me to arrange some papers. I did not even think twice.”
Walking into the trap
Within two weeks, her visa and air ticket had arrived, and she was on her way to the UAE. A man picked her up at the airport and dropped her at an apartment, telling her to get some rest. There were other girls in the apartment who did not talk to her but looked at her with suspicion.
The following night, the same man arrived and asked her to get dressed for work. “I asked him why we were working so late. He replied saying I would have to work as a prostitute,” she recalled. “I was shocked. When I screamed and refused, he hit me.”
She spent two days locked in a room, abused, and starved. “I had to agree to work until I had a chance to escape, which was a nightmare, but I had no choice because I did not have any money or even my passport,” she said.
She had endured two torturous months of exploitation and sexual abuse when the police raided the apartment and rescued her. She was severely bruised. “I was sent to an Ewaa shelter in Abu Dhabi where survivors of human trafficking like myself got psychological and physical care,” she said.
She was then able to send money home for her mother’s surgery and start afresh, safely returning to her home.
In this case, the person arrived new destination to work as domestic help and found herself being held against her will. She managed to alert the police about a human trafficking ring, indirectly helping rescue other women like herself. The Abu Dhabi Center for Shelter and Humanitarian Care – Ewaa provided her with rehabilitation and legal support to return to her home country.
This is her story of grit.
Back home, she didn’t have much. She was the sole provider for her family, working as a salesgirl for basic wages. She met a woman who told her about life and opportunities in the UAE. “She told me I could get a similar job there or work as domestic help at her sister’s place,” she said.
Excited, she used her meagre earnings to travel to the country. The woman’s sister met her at the airport and took her home. A man lived there but she didn’t know who he was. The woman told her she would be doing all the domestic chores for a salary.
Fight to the finish
She started to work but soon noticed several girls walking in and out of the house. One day, she asked one of the girls what she did. “The girl laughed and asked me what I was doing there. I said I was their help. She laughed and said that’s what all the girls are first told when they arrive,” she said.
She was shocked when she realized that these girls, like her, were victims of human trafficking and were being brought to be exploited and abused. Afraid, she decided to escape. One day, when she had her passport, she left the house and asked a taxi driver to take her to the nearest police station. There she told the police about the human trafficking racket she had witnessed. The police busted the network and arrested all those involved.
“But I was still afraid that the woman would come for me and get her revenge,” she said. The police moved her to an Ewaa shelter. “I spent two months there undergoing psychological rehabilitation and getting legal assistance to return home,” she said. “I am grateful to Ewaa for helping me start a new life.”
The victim chose to return to her homeland after completing her rehabilitation at the Abu Dhabi Center for Shelter and Humanitarian Care – Ewaa. We coordinated with government representatives of her country and organized a safe passage home for her.
This is an inspiring story of how she got her life back.
“You were the light that scattered the darkness inside me. I thank you.”
The words came straight from her heart as she expressed gratitude to Ewaa for having helped her reclaim her life.
Like many women from disadvantaged circumstances, she travelled to the UAE in search of work. However, she became an easy target for a human trafficking ring.
She was held captive and sexually abused – her freedom and dignity violated. “I became a commodity and victim of exploitation,” she said. “I had been deceived while seeking a decent living to help my family.” Luck favored her one winter when she managed to escape from her captors and approach the police. They arrested the traffickers and sent her to an Ewaa shelter.
She was broken, her determination crushed by circumstances. “But Ewaa wiped my tears and gave me hope for a better life and new beginning.”
Finding herself again
She spent weeks at the shelter undergoing counselling and treatment. With each passing day, she was able to regain her confidence. A year after Ewaa helped her return home, she joined a charitable organization that worked for child rights. She also got a job as a weaving supervisor at a textile factory. She is living, what she called, a normal and ordinary life far away from the dark days she has seen.
“It is because of Ewaa, I am now earning a living in a dignified way,” she said. “I wake up every morning and know I walk free.”
The victim landed a job as domestic help, where she was starved, beaten, and sexually abused. When she managed to get in touch with the police, she was referred to the Abu Dhabi Center for Shelter and Humanitarian Care – Ewaa where she underwent extensive rehabilitation and received assistance to return to her country.
This is the story of her journey of coming into the light.
She left her three-year-old child behind and travelled abroad hoping to get a job that would help support her family of eight back home.
Instead, she found herself caught in a cycle of physical and sexual abuse, and exploitation.
Poverty forced her to drop out of school and work. She was forced into marriage at an early age but that too ended in divorce. She was 20 when she landed abroad, with the promise of a job as a domestic help. A man from her village had taken a sum of money to help her get there.
A stranger took her from the airport to her prospective employers. She found herself in a large villa that she had to clean. Her employers treated her well, but she could not cope with the workload. Three months later, she expressed her desire to return home. “They refused to give me my passport or salary,” she narrated. “They said I can’t leave before my two-year contract ends.”
One day, she escaped and flagged a taxi not knowing where to go. “I told the taxi driver my story,” she said.
The cycle continues
Her innocence landed her in more trouble.
The taxi driver took her to an apartment where a woman paid him a sum of money. “I saw three other girls there. Before I could realize what was happening, I was told I would be meeting my first ‘customer’,” she said.
When she refused, she was beaten and starved for days until she caved. For months, every day she was sexually abused by five to six men and got paid pittance. “One day, a man came and told me my captor had been arrested and offered to help me escape before the police arrived,” she said. Hope made her fall for such false promises, and she accompanied that man to a villa in another place, where she was sexually abused again.
A year later, one of the girls escaped and went to the police, who arrested everyone involved. The police sent her to an Ewaa shelter where she underwent extensive therapy and received support. “My family was relieved to hear from me,” she said. “Today, I am back with my child. I finally feel safe.”