I was born in Bangladesh, myself and my three elder sisters all came to the UK in 1988 with our parents. My father always wanted a son, so when I was born, the fourth daughter, he had nothing but resentment for me. Furthermore, my father believed that it was not a woman’s place to go out to work; this was a man’s job, and hence his desire to have a son.
He treated all four of his daughters as a burden, a curse! My brothers were born three years after we moved to England. My father wanted all of his daughters to be married as soon as they reached 18 years of age. He did not see the benefit of education, he would often say ‘once you’re married you will be a housewife what use is study?’ My mother always listened to my father; she was quiet and the obedient wife, who never disagreed with her husband. She never stepped out of the house without my father. My mother was also too afraid to stand up to my father, and therefore she is also partly responsible for the consequences that destroyed our lives.
As children myself and my three sisters had a very strict upbringing. Our home was like a prison, we were never allowed to go outside and play like other girls, we went to school and came straight home, and then went straight to mosque. We were never allowed to go shopping or to parties or school trips. We were like prisoners! Even within the home I didn’t feel loved. Sometimes I refused to come straight home from school and wanted to play football in the school field with my friends. I was beaten every time and was told that girls do not and should not play football. I even ‘dared’ to speak to boys at school and mosque. Once my father saw me and I was beaten very badly. I was locked in a room and starved for four days. I was the only wild child in the family. I would answer back to my father, and when he hit me, I would tell him that I did not feel any pain.
All three of my sisters were married as teenagers. All three were taken to Bangladesh and were forced to marry men who my father had chosen for them. My sisters accepted their fate and destiny and they did not protest against marrying a complete stranger from Bangladesh. My sisters accepted that they could not do anything about it and they were too scared to argue with my parents. I knew that eventually it would be my turn to be the victim of a forced marriage; I saw my future. I just prayed that maybe I would end up with a good husband who would love me.
I was 19 when I went to a music concert with my friends. This was strictly forbidden in my family and hence I lied to my parents and told them I was working an evening shift. My father was a suspicious man and decided to come to my workplace and check on me. He saw that I was not there and was furious with me. I got home that day to be beaten almost to death. The very next day I could not walk or get out of bed, I had bruises all over my body. My father booked tickets to Bangladesh immediately and we were off within a week. I knew my fate and I was lost, confused, and too frightened to do anything. I should have run away from home and called the police but I was too scared. After arriving in Bangladesh my marriage was arranged to a complete stranger. I was told I’d be married within a month. Unlike my sisters I protested and begged my parents that I did not want to get married there. I cried and explained that I would never be happy marrying a stranger. Once again I was beaten, I was locked in a room and starved.
My grandmother showed me a photograph of my future husband who was ten years older than me and very unattractive! He was not educated at all and he did not speak English. I started thinking about how my life would be with this man. I attempted to commit suicide by swallowing 100 pills but I vomited most of them out, and my attempt was unsuccessful. I was engaged to this man five days after arriving to Bangladesh. I saw him for the first time at my engagement party and we did not speak a word to each other. Once again after the engagement I begged my parents not to force me into this marriage, but my father said I should do as I’m told or they would kill me. I had no phone or means of escape. I had no choice but to marry him.
After the marriage I stayed in Bangladesh for 6 months with my new husband and his family in their house. I had to learn how to cook, clean, and do all the household chores; I felt like a slave in the house. On top of this my new husband told me on my wedding night that he did not love me and that his parents had forced him to marry me too. I felt sympathy for him and felt that we both had been treated the same way by our families. I therefore tried very hard to make the marriage work. I came back to England and ten months later my husband also got his visa.
It was fine for the first year or so. But eventually he started becoming more and more controlling; he became aggressive and argued with me about everything and anything. Eventually I saw similar traits in him as I did in my father. And then one day he hit me.
I ignored it and blamed myself. Then he hit me once again and again; I thought it was my fault. Eventually the slaps became punches, the punches became kicks, and he was beating me black and blue on a regular basis. I told my parents and they told me that it was all my fault and I deserved it. It was not just physical violence but also psychological and mental torture. He would make me feel worthless, he would disrespect me in front of others and humiliate me, everything I said or did would be a problem. He stopped me from seeing any of my friends and family. He even took my bank cards so I could not withdraw my money. After four years of domestic violence I finally called the police. He was arrested but he begged me to give him another chance. He promised me that he would never hit me again. I did not press charges and asked the police to release him. But I was wrong, the violence continued.
Now we were living in the same house but like strangers in separate rooms and separate beds; we did not have a sexual relationship. But then he raped me, and this resulted in me getting pregnant. I was 25 years old and this was my life. He even beat me when I was pregnant and a few days after giving birth he beat me again for wanting to choose my babies name.
Eventually I realised that I had to get out and I could not continue living like this. It was an unhealthy environment for my children to grow up in. I am 27 now and I have finally left him. I have filed for divorce and I start university soon. I am the happiest I have ever been in my life. To anyone who has been forced into a marriage remember you do not have to stay!
Anyone who is experiencing domestic violence get out now! You can be happy and do not deserve to live in fear.
Names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals