A different childhood
I was born and raised in the UK. My dad came over from Pakistan in the late 70s when he married my mum who was raised here. They both worked hard to provide for us. Growing up, I felt I had a fairly happy childhood. But I knew our lives were different to our friends – there were so many restrictions.
If we ever wanted to do something our parents did not approve of, we were told ‘Muslim girls were not allowed to do things like that’. Our culture, religion, and traditions were often used as a justification for why we couldn’t have certain basic freedoms and choices.
The impact on my life in my teens was difficult as I suffered from depression. When I was 18 I left home as I wanted an independent life. I packed my bags and moved in with a friend without telling my family.
My family didn’t handle this well and within a couple of days they had reported me missing to the police. In tracking me down, they then reported me for stealing gold, cash and even my car. I then received continuous emotional blackmail, death threats and was chased around the country by family members and ‘professionals’ working for my family.
Abused by my family
I lasted three months before the stress took its toll. Pressured to return home, I finally gave up.
The first visitor was to be my uncle who walked up to me and placed his hands around my neck and squeezed tightly.
I’ll happily do 20 years for doing you, for bringing shame to this family so don’t ever pull a stunt like that again.
My parents remained silent. I sank deeper into depression when my parents decided I needed a break and took me on holiday to Pakistan.
Forced into marriage
Immediately I was placed under pressure to get married to my father’s relative. I cannot describe the isolation and fear of feeling that I would never see England again unless I married, so I agreed.
I was raped on my wedding night which was an indication of what torture was to follow over the next four years. I was left silent and fearful of what lengths my family would go to if I escaped again.
When I refused to obey his wishes my ‘so-called’ husband would call my parents to say he didn’t want to keep me anymore. This would lead to my family, my mum, giving me an ultimatum to either apologise to him and beg him to keep me or to get divorced and marry an older man as I am now damaged goods and no-one else will want me.
I started to cut my wrists in a desperate attempt to kill myself and self-harming became a way of life. On one occasion one of my close friends, Steve, called me. I had kept Steve a secret as it was wrong for a married woman to have male friends.
Steve offered to help, and I managed to plan to leave my husband with his support. I was tracked down within a week and followed in my car by my uncles and ex-husband. They tried to run my car off the road which was deeply frightening.
I reported it to the police as I wished to prosecute, and it was being dealt with as an attempted murder.
However, during their investigations my family managed to convince the police that the white guy I was with had kidnapped me. They told the police how I was happily married, and they were just trying to save me. The police believed them not me. No-one could help unless my family made an attempt to harm me.
Eventually this led me to a career in policing to help others and change things. It has taken me years to settle down and it is still a journey, but I am doing my best to make up for lost time!