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The chance to live a different life

5 December 2021

The chance to live a different life

Cate finds strength to escape forced marriage and follow her dreams

Words Cate, Safe House resident, with support from Claudia Cummins

Cate’s* family had always been very controlling. When she was in her early 20s, they forced her to marry a man she had never met but who they thought would bring honour to their family.

“My family forced me into getting married … I didn’t have any power … I didn’t have a word,” Cate shares. “I couldn’t go to anyone in my family for help, and I didn’t know who to contact. The pressure to get married started to affect my mental health. I felt like I had lost myself. I started to feel like there was no hope and there was no other option but to get married even though I didn’t want to.”

Within a few days of marriage, Cate’s new husband was becoming increasingly hostile towards her. Cate felt desperate and found the strength to share her experience with a doctor. The general practitioner recognised the indicators of forced marriage and connected Cate with The Salvation Army’s Trafficking and Slavery Safe House (see story page 4).

“When I heard there was some hope, that there was a chance I could live a different life, I felt like I had to run towards that light,” says Cate.

Cate accessed accommodation and case management at the Safe House. She worked on safety planning with her case manager. She also worked with a lawyer to annul her marriage and change her name.

“I learned about changing my phone number, turning off my location settings and knowing what to do if I saw someone I was scared of. Over time, I started to feel more confident going out.”

As she began to feel safer, Cate started to work on her health, education, and employment goals and to meet new people. “After I chose to change my life, I started to work on the next steps for my new life and focus on what I could achieve now,” she says.

“I know that when you are being forced into marriage, you feel tired, like there’s no hope, and you don’t want to make trouble for your family. You might feel shameful and sorry for your family. At the end of the day, you must stand for yourself and do what is true to your heart.

“I want other women to know that they’re not alone and they should ask for help. The help is real. They will believe you and listen to you, they will ask your permission to share any information, and even if it seems like there is no option, they will work hard to find an option that is right for you. You will not be on this journey alone; there will always be guidance and support.”

*Name and identifying details have been changed.

Claudia Cummins is the program manager for The Salvation Army Trafficking and Slavery Safe House.

Getting help in Australia

In emergencies, call 000 for immediate response

If you or someone you know is at risk of being forced to travel overseas for marriage, or you want to report your experience to police, call the Australian Federal Police on 131 237.

The Salvation Army Trafficking and Slavery Safe House:

To access support and for confidential advice, call 1300 473 560 or email 

For more information and support services through Anti-Slavery Australia, call 02 9514 8115, send a message 0481 070 844, email or check out

Signs of forced marriage

It can be difficult to identify the signs of forced marriage, and you should seek help and advice as soon as possible. It is important that you always act in the best interests of the person in, or at risk of, forced marriage and that you are always mindful of their safety as well as your own.

Sudden announcement

That the person is engaged and doesn’t seem happy about it.


They suddenly leave school, university, or work.


They spend a long time away from school, university, or work, for no reason.


They have run away from home.


There is evidence of family violence or abuse.


Their older brothers or sisters stopped going to school or were married under the age of 18.


They are never allowed out and usually must have someone else from the family with them.


They show signs of depression, self-harming, drug or alcohol abuse.


They seem scared or nervous about an upcoming family holiday overseas.

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