A terrified mum has detailed her abusive forced marriage, with her family warning her: “You don’t divorce, you live and die with your husband; it doesn’t matter what they’re like.”
Afraid of her aggressive husband, as well as the stigma of becoming a divorcee within an Asian community, she endured 23 years of horrifying abuse at the hands of the first cousin she was made to marry.
Throughout her marriage, the Birmingham mum was strangled, hit, controlled and verbally abused – including in front of her children, Birmingham Live reports.
She said: “I messed up my life. It’s left me feeling vulnerable, I don’t trust”, speaking out to raise awareness of the impact of domestic violence among ethnic minority groups.
“Ethnic minorities don’t speak up. I think it’s more difficult in the Asian culture.”
The mum told how her new husband ‘took over her life’ after she was forced to marry him aged just 20 in Pakistan. After he moved to the UK he eventually went on to control everything, she said, from finances to getting her to giving up her dream of becoming a pharmacist.
The mum, now aged 46, left her abusive partner two years ago after fleeing the family home following one violent row. Since then she has had to learn simple tasks like using a bank card and paying bills for the first time.
Recalling how the forced marriage came about, she said: “The whole idea was for him to come here (UK). I said to my mum ‘I don’t want to marry him’.
“But obviously there’s a lot of family pressure, a lot of culture pressure. My mum told me: ‘You’re going to do a good deed; you have to marry him’.
“So we got married, and he turned around and told me he was only marrying me for the passport. I was his ticket.
“He became nasty, asking who is going to want to marry you, have you seen the state of yourself?” After flying over from Pakistan to Birmingham, he then took control over her life from her, she said.
Her life with a new husband changed quickly and drastically. She said: “I was working at the time, but I got pregnant. I managed to get me to leave my job, even now I still don’t understand how he did it.
“He was promising the world, promising that I was supported. He would say: ‘You don’t need to work, I’m the husband, it’s my responsibility, people are looking, people are talking.'”
Though the mum had ambitions to carry on working at a chemist and progress with her pharmacist career, she felt the pressure from both her abuser and family to give up work. Instead, she became a full time mum to her three children.
“You don’t divorce. Family said you live and die with your husband, doesn’t matter what they’re like,” she recalled. “They told me, ‘you can’t leave him'”.
Violence was never far from the surface in the troubled marriage. “One time he was strangling me and he was finding it funny, in front of my children. I couldn’t breathe and my daughter started to panic and tried to get him off me,” she added.
“He just laughed and said to me ‘I let you go, next time I’m not going to let you go.'” But with one of their children needing palliative care at home, she felt even more trapped.
“I was stuck, I cut off my family one by one. I installed cameras in the house to keep an eye on me.
“I found out later that he hacked into my phone. He called me a whore, a prostitute, he’s called me all sorts.”
But the brave mum began squirreling away money to flee with her three kids in 2020.
“In that year, I was saving money quite secretly and my plan was to get my three kids and escape just to leave him. We were all messed up,” she said.
“I learned how to use an ATM card two years ago. I had no idea how to manage money, how to do the bills. Even now I still struggle. I had no one to turn to. I was planning to go wherever, far away from him.”
But before she fled there was one final confrontation when she decided to ‘stand up’ to her husband. As she did, she was attacked.
She said: “I opened the door and I started effing and blinding. It took a few seconds for him to realize then he just turned on me, he hit me really hard. He tried to strangle me.
“He’s a narcissist and his mask fell off and he couldn’t handle that I stood up to him.
“I managed to get him out of the house, police came and arrested him. He refused to cooperate and they had to call another police car.”
He was arrested, but a police liaison officer advised that her daughter would have to be the main witness to proceed with the charges. “The police liaison officer said to me it would be too much for her and, as a mother, I dropped the charges just to protect my daughter from her.”
But the marriage is now finally over after a ‘nightmare’ fight through the divorce courts.. After leaving her husband, she managed to sell their Birmingham house and use the money to get a mortgage on another property for her and the children.
Yet she says she struggled to access help from support services following the domestic abuse order. “I need help with every aspect,” she explained, “counselling for the trauma, how to manage my finances, how to move on, how to have respite for my little ones so I’d have time to work on myself, you would think after having three nervous breakdowns they would take you seriously.
“I feel drained. I don’t know who I am anymore, I don’t know my identity.
“I tried to go back to University. But he belittled me so much that I just gave up on everything.”
Among the services she said she has struggled to access is childcare support via Birmingham city council. She hoped by highlighting her story of her, the authority could offer some much-needed respite care.
“All I want is some respite, I need help to get my life back on track, I need help with the trauma. I need to know who I am and have time for me.”
Birmingham City Council operates a Domestic Abuse Hub in partnership with Birmingham and Solihull Women’s Aid to provide “advice, information and support” for women experiencing, or at risk of, abuse from a partner.
A spokesperson for the authority said: “Domestic abuse is not just physical – it can involve emotional, financial, sexual or psychological abuse through controlling, bullying, threatening or violent behavior – and this is reflected in the wide range of partners we work with to ensure the outcomes for anyone experiencing abuse.
“In an emergency and a person is in danger, call the police on 999. For non-emergency advice from police, call 101. Full details of services available can be found on the council’s website, here.”
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