I got married to my distant relative who is from the UK. We had a grand wedding in my country and everything was good for the 6 weeks he spent with me. I was working as a teacher and my husband told me I could continue teaching when I came to the UK. We kept in contact and spoke every day when he returned to the UK.
When I joined him we spent a lot of time together, went out and did all the usual things couples do. I recall asking my husband how I should get back into teaching, he seemed to have forgotten that he wanted me to continue with this when we first got married. It took me by surprise when he said he didn’t want me to work and didn’t expect me to leave the house to work as there was enough for me to do in the house. At this point I saw a different side to him, he seemed harsh and quite cold in his manner. I wasn’t happy with what he said, I just kept thinking how unfair it was as his mother worked and didn’t have to stay home. I thought maybe he wants me to settle into a better routine and if I do this maybe he will change his mind. I resigned myself to looking after the house and doing things to please him and his family.
I did the housework, cooking, cleaning and washing for all 6 of us. My day started early – I was up before the rest of them and I was the last one to go to bed. The kitchen was in the cellar with no windows so I spent a lot of my time there. I was responsible for making sure meals were ready before my mother in- law returned from work. I was responsible for cooking meals for the nephews and nieces that would come and visit every day after they finished school too.
I felt overwhelmed most days. My husband spent most of his time at work, and when he would come home he would pick out things that weren’t done around the house. I tried to tell him that I had cleaned up but the kids had made a mess, but he would shout and threaten to hit me if I blamed the kids.
I don’t understand why his behaviour changed, especially towards me. He seemed angry all the time, ignoring me or overreacting to little things. He would check the bathroom to see if I had cleaned it. If he didn’t like the way I cleaned it he would push and kick me back in to clean it again. Then he would march me down into the kitchen and start shouting and pushing me around to clean the floor and wipe down the worktops again. I just couldn’t understand what I was doing wrong.
It wasn’t long before his mother started calling me names, telling me I had “dirty blood” and I “was good for nothing”. She would insult me and my family. She would say that “educated girls are good for nothing, they only know how to read and write but not clean or cook properly”.
I was emotionally exhausted – I never imagined I would be living like this. I felt worthless. I felt like I was only in the UK to live like a slave, not a wife or someone with a good future. I wasn’t allowed to interact with anyone outside of the home. I was prevented from going out, I was told that “women who want freedom don’t make good wives”.
Occasionally my family wanted to video call me but I would make excuses. I didn’t want them to see the bruises on my face. When I talked to them I would say how good it was living in the UK with my husband and his family. I did not have the courage to tell anyone what was happening to me. I didn’t want to upset my parents but, on the inside, I couldn’t face telling them how unhappy I was, or how I wished I was dead and that I had been thinking about killing myself.
It was coming up to 2 years and out of the blue my mother-in-law asked if I knew where my passport was. I was surprised by her question. Seeing this, she quickly told me she needed my passport to arrange for English classes. I was suspicious because she didn’t even want me to leave the house! Before I could reply my husband called me into the cellar and directed me to the bin, he was angry at me because I forgot to take the rubbish out. He got me by the arm and slammed me against the kitchen door. I felt blood trickle down my face, he shoved me up the stairs and threw me out of the house and locked the door.
I knocked continuously on the door, pleading with him to open it and let me back in, my clothes soaked through with the rain. He didn’t answer or say anything. I waited for what seemed like forever but he didn’t come to the door to let me back in.
I knocked on the neighbour’s door, they told me they could hear me knocking and calling out to my husband. They took me inside and gave me a towel. The lady said she could hear shouting but didn’t want to pry. She helped me clean the blood off my face. I couldn’t hide anything at that point and told her everything. She called an ambulance and the police.
The police took my details and I explained to them what had happened, they went next door and obtained some of my belongings. The police officers told me they had contacted social services and Anah Project.
I spoke with a worker at Anah Project, she reassured me I would get help and somewhere safe to stay. I didn’t know about refuges. I thought there was no future for me. Since living at Anah, it has taught me so much. I started to look after myself and attended specialist counselling to overcome the trauma I had experienced. With my keyworker’s help, I accessed legal support for my immigration status. I had regular one-to-one time with my support worker where I talked about what I had gone through since coming to the UK. I was supported to attend in-house sessions covering topics such as confidence building, stress management and wellbeing. Over time I learned to cope and started focusing on what mattered to me, becoming more independent. I also attended classes and completed my GCSEs in Maths and English, which allowed me to gain my Certificate in Teaching.
I gained the skills to apply for my own home and I have now lived independently for 8 months.
Looking back, I still can’t believe how much progress I have made and what I have achieved. I couldn’t have done this without the help from Anah Project.View all case studies