My name is Raj Holness, from fearful victim to fearless victor!
You never think it will happen to you. That’s the thing about abuse. It’s the thing that happens to other people, but never to you…well, so I thought!
My abuse started when I was very young, at five-years-old. I was the daughter my family wished they’d never had. I was ugly, a disgrace, worthless and unlovable. I was broken.
For over 20 years, I suffered at the hands of my family. It started with emotional and physical abuse. At the age of seven, when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, my cousin and other family members started sexually abusing me. Financial abuse was the last to take place. There were multiple suicide attempts throughout my life. I suffered silently for years.
It was all so normalised and acceptable behaviour from my family. Between the ages of 18 and 20-years-old I had two attempted forced marriages.
One night I barely escaped with my life. Attempted murder and hours of horrific acts of abuse, all at the hands of my family. I finally got away from them…in the back of an ambulance. Broken, battered, and lifeless but I was free!
Twenty-years-old and all alone, I finally escaped my family.
Sitting in the police station, scared, ashamed, not even thinking straight. Too many thoughts and emotions were racing to try and make sense of what the officer was asking me. My head and body were aching, and all I wanted to do was sleep.
“Would you like to press charges?” the officer asked.
Fear gripped me; the love I felt for them was real, I mean I had been groomed for years, why would my answer have been any different? I couldn’t see them locked up. “No, I don’t,” I replied. Not realising that if asked at a later date I may have said yes.
I spent two years in and out of women’s refuges scared for my life, that my family would find me and finish their mission to end me for good and get back their honour. I remember there was very little support for my emotional, physical and mental wellbeing. I felt so alone and needed so much help but couldn’t find anyone to turn to. I was so alone and had no one to belong to. What was my identity now?
My perpetual unhappiness and brokenness forced me into the arms of a man. A man who was handsome and offered me safety and love, a man that would finally change my life. But after just escaping one prison, I was about to be forced into another, and the abuse started quickly. Coercive control, rape, humiliation, isolation and abuse were the main ingredients of our relationship.
With nowhere to run and no one to help, I retreated to silently suffering in my prison and wishing for death to take me. Threat after threat made that if I ever tried to leave, it would be my last breath. But where would I go?
One day, that was it. One rape too many, one attempted murder too many, and I screamed. I screamed for God to help me, I screamed for a way out of my prison, I screamed for strength and finally, I was out. Unrecognisable, broken, wounded, ashamed and lonely. However, I was finally FREE!
Even though my abusers vowed to find me and kill me – I was no longer held captive in fear. I finally found my voice, my strength, hope and the courage to break free.
With a new found love and faith, I converted to Christianity, which became my lifeline, joy and strength. All of my shame, guilt, trauma, pain and brokenness transformed into strength and hope and finally I saw a purpose to my life, a purpose for my being: to help others to be free and also break their silence. I started to put pen to paper and seven years later, my autobiography, ‘The Only Arranged Marriage’ was published and my public speaking was launched.
Finally, I stand proud to have taken back the voice that was so viciously stolen from me. I broke my silence, reborn with one mission: an end to domestic abuse for good. I stand for all women who have ever suffered so no more have to suffer the same. The tragic truth is that so many women never got the chance to break free.
I will continue to devote my life to being an inspiration of hope for the hopeless. To be a beacon of independence to the perpetually trapped and to be a friend to the isolated, inspiring them to break their silence.
I am happily married to a wonderful man and my soul-mate Andre Holness and together we have a beautiful daughter, Abigail.
With many public appearances including The House of Commons and 10 Downing Street, a multi-award winner and over 1000 women, men and young people helped so far, I am incredibly proud and honoured to be doing what I do.
I am the Founder and CEO of my registered charity ‘Breaking the Silence’ which was formed to help others experiencing domestic abuse, forced marriage or human trafficking.
Our Five Aims
•Support and empower victims and their dependants from all walks of life to take back control of their lives and break the silence of their trauma, achieved through our ‘Building From Broken Pieces’ programme.
•Educate communities and businesses on how to recognise and respond to signs of abuse, achieved through our ‘Behind Closed Doors’ programme.
•Honour the former and current victims of domestic abuse, achieved through ‘An Evening of Honour’, our theatre productions and fundraising events.
•Protect women and children who need to escape their domestic situation, to be achieved through Grace House, which will be our women’s retreat. I have vowed to create a safe and peaceful place for women to escape to and work on rebuilding their lives either independently or with their children.
•Partner with corporate friends, so together, we can help more women break their silence.
You now have a chance to make a very profound difference…
Our important work would not be possible without the generosity and dedication of our partners and supporters.
Everything matters, whether it’s volunteering, small or large donations, or partnership in support of our work. Also to help us to accomplish Grace House Retreat, which will be thoroughly appreciated by myself and all the team who give their time to support our cause.
We would love to see you join us at our first fundraising & celebration black tie event as a registered charity. ‘An Evening of Honour’ — A Great Gatsby theme held on the 7th March 2020 at Chateau Impney Hotel, Droitwich, West Midlands. The prestigious event is to celebrate and acknowledge those who managed to escape the clutches of abuse and to encourage others to do the same.
Throughout the evening we will have testimonials, motivational stories of those who found the inner courage to break free and break the silence as well as celebrations and some wonderful treats. We will have women who are currently in a refuge attend (through sponsorship). This is so they will have hope and be encouraged to move on in their life and not be tempted to go back to the perpetrator.
You can visit our website for more information www.btsuk.org