Holding On (Survivor Story): Part 1 | Part 2
Your recent article on the effect of domestic violence on children touched a raw nerve. I want to break my silence and loyalty to my family and anonymously share with you and others the effects of physical and mental abuse it had on me & some of my siblings.
My parents are from Bangladesh. My grandfather came to UK to work in the 1960s. My father followed soon after. My grandfather arranged my father’s marriage to his niece, my mother in Bangladesh. She was a beautiful, intelligent & talented women but my father had wanted to marry another cousin. My grandfather had threatened to refuse to call him his son, so he ended up marrying my mother and that’s when the domestic abuse started.
His sisters, who despite living with their husbands in their own households, would come over to make mischief, interfere and provoke my father into taking out his anger on my mother. My mother went on to have me and when she was pregnant with me, my aunts created such situations that encouraged and provoked my father to beat my mother so much that she nearly miscarried me. My mother’s grandmother was a very strong woman, she came to take my mum away from my father, but my father threatened to divorce my mother and the fear of humiliation of being a divorcee stopped her leaving my father. My aunts convinced my father to ban my grandparents from seeing my mother or us. After my sister was born my aunts would throw fits, they started to say that my mother, like my grandmother, will keep on having girls and would give no son to my father.
Only Allah knows why, but some sense come to my father which my mother said was the love for his daughters, as he came to realise that his sisters’ interference will escalate the violence and so he applied to take my mother and us to UK in secret from Bangladesh. In UK, my mum said my father was occasionally abusive but he was a lot happier. Bills were paid, food was on the table, and we went places. We missed school a lot as we moved to different counties in UK. But our problems started again when I was 13, by this time there were more of us brothers and sisters. We had moved to a populated Bengali area in which my father went from his carefree ways to violent ways. Suddenly what others said about us or something we did such as not wearing a scarf, talking to classmates, or replying to him caused him to lose his temper. He would hit us and beat our mother in front of us if she defended us. My father would call me fat, stupid, blind good for nothing. We lived in fear of him, hiding in our rooms, he would belt us and we would go to school with marks. But in the 80s everyone turned a blind eye to it even the police, it would always be his word against the noisy non Asian neighbours who would hear our cries of help. The Asian families didn’t see my father as a violent man. They perceived him as good father and a good husband trying to keep his family together.
Many times I wanted to commit suicide, or run way but the tears of my mother and the fear that my father will kill my mother kept me trapped between the two worlds of living life and wanting death. My father many times told us he will slit our throat like the true story of the Bengali girl in Birmingham who was killed by her father for going to see a church. For a child, the thought alone gave me nightmares, for years I would have nightmares of my father clawing my heart out of my chest while conscious.
When I turned 17 and my sister turned 15 my aunts started emotionally pressuring my father to arrange both our marriages to their incompatible, uneducated, ugly, non religious sons. My future mother in law pretended her heart was failing her & convinced my father that before anyone come forward for our hand in marriage he should his help his sisters because blood is thicker than water crap. Our marriages were told would help strengthen family relations and will give their sons the opportunities to come to the UK and support their parents financially which would mean my father will no longer have to support them financially. My mother reminder my father that they had cursed her because she give birth to daughters so why would they want the same daughters but my father paid no heed to her comment and told her if she does not want to live the humiliation of being as a divorced women she better accept it.
When we arrived in Bangladesh I took immediate dislike to the country and family members. My cousins and his family literally moved into our home. My potential husband looked like he had come out of a grave, and behaved like a pervert. I attempted suicide but could not go through with it. My father trapped us and took away our passports.
My father left me and my sister in hell for over a year in Bangladesh. I became depressed and ill but never confided in anyone that I had to force myself mentally to accept my cousin’s (now husband) advances and had to put up with his dramas, such as he loved me so much he claimed he would commit suicide if I left him. He would hold my hand and cry if didn’t respond to his dramas. My aunt, now my mother in law, always went on about how my mother’s side was bad and she loved her brother and how she accepted me even though my parents did not give anything in dowry. I abided my time till I and my sister was able to return. Both my aunts and their sons were disappointed that neither I nor my sister was pregnant as this would have helped with the spouse visas.
Returning to UK didn’t exactly change things. My father, on our behalf, applied for our cousins visas. He gathered supporting documents, put money in our accounts and even got a friend to show his house as ours as we did not have enough accommodation for our husbands. Violence did not stop because we were part of another family; we still got beaten by my father if we didn’t do as he wanted.
Our husbands came over. We moved from one violent home to another. My sister left her husband and escaped to a women’s refuge because my father had beaten her on her husband’s word that she wasn’t sleeping with him. Our husbands controlled us through our father, the fear of dishonour kept me trapped for years. My husband didn’t financially support me. His money went abroad for his family, cigarettes, cars, gambling and prostitutes. I worked full-time to make ends meet. He put me down all the time. I had a lack of self –esteem and the confidence to change my situation. When I had suffered miscarriages he cursed me, forced me to have intimate relations even though I was suffering from depression and he knew I hated his touch. I had no standard of living.
When I had my second daughter he left in me the delivery room because she was a girl. My mother cared for me and my children when I returned to work. My second child had a disability so life was harder but I managed without help. He had begun an affair and let me for a couple of years; it was like being freed from captive. My father blamed me for my husband’s affair and said I didn’t support my husband. He wouldn’t allow us to divorce. My husband returned and he asked for forgiveness, promised a new life. My family and my in laws who had came to UK on a visitor’s visa to sort out our marriage problems put pressure on me but all they really did was go on to make my life hell.
Suddenly even shopping for basic needs or going to hospital appointments was a crime. Life became unbearable.
One night my husband came in the middle of the night with some pervasive sexual fantasy which I refused, he tried to force himself on me. I was heavily pregnant but I fought him off. He awoke his parents who were staying with us and caused a drama. They took his side and called my father over.
Come back next Monday for Part 2