"Family said you live and die with your husband"
A Birmingham woman was forced to marry her first cousin.
During the marriage, she was strangled, hit and verbally abused, sometimes in front of her children.
She said: “He messed up my life. It’s left me feeling vulnerable, I don’t trust.
“Ethnic minorities don’t speak up. I think it’s more difficult in the Asian culture.”
She was forced to marry her cousin in Pakistan when she was just 20.
After he moved to the UK, he ended up controlling everything, from finances to getting her to give up her dream of becoming a pharmacist.
Recalling the forced marriage, she said:
“The whole idea was for him to come here (UK). I said to my mum ‘I don’t want to marry him’.
“But obviously there’s a lot of family pressure, a lot of cultural pressure.
“My mum told me: ‘You’re going to do a good deed; you have to marry him’.
“So we got married, and he turned around and told me he was only marrying me for the passport. I was his ticket.
“He became nasty, asking who is going to want to marry you, have you seen the state of yourself?”
Her life quickly changed.
“I was working at the time, but I got pregnant. He managed to get me to leave my job, even now I still don’t understand how he did it.
“He was promising the world, promising that I was supported. He would say: ‘You don’t need to work, I’m the husband, it’s my responsibility, people are looking, people are talking’.”
While she had career ambitions, she felt pressure from both her husband and family to give up work. Instead, she became a full-time mother to their three children.
The woman revealed: “You don’t divorce. Family said you live and die with your husband, doesn’t matter what they’re like.
“They told me, ‘you can’t leave him’.”
During their marriage, he was violent.
She told Birmingham Mail: “One time he was strangling me and he was finding it funny, in front of my children.
“I couldn’t breathe and my daughter started to panic and tried to get him off me.
“He just laughed and said to me ‘I let you go, next time I’m not going to let you go’.”
One of their children required palliative care at home and it made her feel even more trapped.
“I was stuck, he cut off my family one by one. He installed cameras in the house to keep an eye on me.”
“I found out later that he hacked into my phone. He called me a whore, a prostitute, he’s called me all sorts.”
But the mother had been saving up money and eventually fled the family home with her three children in 2020.
“In that year, I was saving money quite secretly and my plan was to get my three kids and escape just to leave him. We were all messed up.
“I learnt how to use an ATM card two years ago. I had no idea how to manage money, how to do the bills.
“Even now I still struggle. I had no one to turn to. I was planning to go wherever, far away from him.”
But before fleeing, she stood up to her husband during one final confrontation but was attacked.
“I opened the door and I started effing and blinding.
“It took a few seconds for him to realise then he just turned on me, he hit me really hard. He tried to strangle me.
“He’s a narcissist and his mask fell off and he couldn’t handle that I stood up to him.
“I managed to get him out of the house, police came and arrested him. He refused to cooperate and they had to call another police car.”
He was arrested, but a police liaison officer advised that her daughter would have to be the main witness to proceed with the charges.
“The police liaison officer said to me it would be too much for her and, as a mother, I dropped the charges just to protect my daughter.”
The woman has since divorced her husband and managed to sell their home to buy another property for her and her children.
However, she struggled to get help from support services.
“I need help with every aspect, counselling for the trauma, how to manage my finances, how to move on, how to have respite for my little ones so I’d have time to work on myself, you would think after having three nervous breakdowns they would take you seriously.
“I feel drained. I don’t know who I am anymore, I don’t know my identity.
“I tried to go back to University. But he belittled me so much that I just gave up on everything.”
She added: “All I want is some respite, I need help to get my life back on track, I need help with the trauma.
“I need to know who I am and have time for me.”