Burngreave Messenger.
Issue 39 March 2004

Butterfly.Coming Out Strong

interview by Mark Lankshear

I was privileged recently to meet a woman brave enough to speak about her experiences of being abused, how she was repeatedly hospitalised and suffered a miscarriage from the physical, sexual and emotional abuse her husband put her through. She told me how, for the six years of her marriage, she felt isolated and not believed, even by family and friends. When his violence spilt over, affecting her child and wider family, she managed to leave and rebuild her life. Now, she says, she’s come out strong and positive with a message for other women, ‘You’re not alone.’

Looking back now she can still hardly believe it happened to her. Growing up in Sheffield she had everything going for her, a good education, friends, and a loving family. She was lively and headstrong at school, but most of her childhood was spent within her Muslim family and community, helping her mother take care of the house and attending classes.

In her late teens she willingly entered an arranged marriage during a trip to Pakistan, but when she returned to England her new husband’s outward charm gave way to jealousy and anger.

“The culture clash was obvious, he couldn’t cope with the life I wanted to live and tried to stop me going out or seeing friends. He lied to my family about what I was doing and soon I began to be beaten black and blue, but never where it would show.”

“He lied to my family about what I was doing and soon
I began to be beaten
black and blue, but never
where it would show.”

When she turned for help people didn’t believe it could be happening to her, but most hurtful, many in her family and community seemed to be saying it was acceptable, that he was allowed to hit her. They told her she should put up with it because of the shame and disgrace leaving would cause her family. She found herself caught in a cycle of being beaten, then apologising. Years later she still has the scars from the injuries he inflicted and from the many times she cut herself. “I didn’t give a shit then, I just thought ‘so what’. They don’t bother me now though, it’s over and done.”

She had tried to leave many times, but always returned under pressure from the community and wider family, who would visit from all round the country. In the end, after he’d hurt their child, it was the fear of the police being called that made him leave. His threats to her parents brought her family round to her support and eventually they divorced. Even then she was stalked and pressurised and the effects lasted for years. “It repeats on ya, I jumped back into another relationship and was abused again. It sounds daft but I think I provoked it that time, I wanted him to hit me, that’s what I knew. I wanted the attention and the buzz.” The effects of abuse last well beyond the end of a relationship.

Now though, the woman in front of me, who has told me this terrible, but everyday, tale of violence and abuse, is cheerful and inspiring. “This can happen to anyone, it’s everywhere,” she said, “but I’ve come out strong. What happened to me is not acceptable and my generation know it’s wrong. Bless my sisters for the support they gave me, and my brothers who know to put women first, they’d never lay a hand on their wives. There is support out there, it’s difficult but you’re not on your own. At the end of the day there’s always a way out. I know it’s not easy, but that’s all I can say, get out!”

Contact List for Advice & Support on Domestic Abuse in Sheffield

Domestic Abuse Project Launch

The Burngreave Domestic Abuse Project is holding its launch this month and will start to offer practical and emotional support and outreach to families in the Burngreave area...

Personal Safety and
Self Defence for Women

Learn basic self defence techniques to help keep you safe at home, at work and on the street.

On Friday 23rd March, 10–12 noon
at Verdon Recreation Centre
All women welcome
Crèche facilities: ring Annie
on 233 6874 beforehand.

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Index for Issue 39 March 2004.