Women’s experiences of Domestic Violence and Abuse

Khalida

Age at interview: 58

Brief outline: Khalida spent 33 years in a marriage characterised by controlling behaviour, physical, emotional and financial abuse from her Pakistani-born husband. They met as teenagers and were married secretly in defiance of Khalida’s parents who had arranged her marriage to a relative in Pakistan. From her third pregnancy onwards, Khalida ‘shared’ her husband with a second wife; a woman that her husband secretly married under Islamic Law (a ‘Nikar’). (Video clips read by a professional.)

Background: Khalida left Pakistan aged six to settle in the UK with her parents. Now aged 58, she is separated from her husband, living in temporary council accommodation with her youngest son, aged 15, and is unable to work owing to vertigo. Three of her adult children live in the same city.

Audio & video

Both Khalida and her husband experienced abuse in childhood. Khalida was sexually molested by a family member. The couple met as teenage neighbours. Because of this ‘unsuitable’ relationship Khalida, despite being a ‘star’ pupil, had to leave school very young and work for the family business. She was eventually persuaded into elopement and marriage after many years of occasional meetings and long periods of separation imposed by her parents. She admired her suitor’s persistence that included breaking into her bedroom to propose.

Khalida’s life was spent providing for her husband’s family and dealing with their constant criticism. Her in-laws were complicit in her husband’s subsequent secret ‘Nikar’ (Islamic marriage). 

Khalida soon discovered that her husband was ‘a womaniser and a control freak’. If she questioned him about his overnight absences or if she left the house without his permission, he became physically abusive, squeezing her neck and threatening to kill her. Following his Nikar, Khalida wanted a divorce but was dissuaded by her father-in-law who did not want shame brought on the family. Khalida remained married for a further 25 years, had three more children and endured constant controlling behaviour, hitting and slapping. Questioning her husband led to violent physical assaults including knife attacks. 

After one serious assault Khalida re-connected with her own family, after 13 years, and her sister took her to the police station where Khalida got an injuction to protect her and her children. However, her mother advised her to ‘be good to him’ by cancelling the injuction, and then to ‘keep silent...whatever he is doing’ and look after the children.

Khalida continued in the marriage with no support from anyone. She confided in her GP who sent her to a therapist who tried to help her to become more assertive. Whilst still wishing for a divorce Khalida became pregnant with her sixth child after a gap of ten years. Her husband stopped hitting her, spent a lot of time away from home on business and pursued other women. 

The final trigger for Khalida to leave the marriage came when her husband was verbally and physically abusive to their youngest son, who became ill with a chronic intestinal disorder, was living in fear of his father and attempted suicide. His father attended every medical appointment but the boy requested to see the doctor alone. This led to Khalida and her son being invited for a joint appointment but her husband would not let her out of the house. Khalida called the police, who helped her escape in a police car.

After seven months in a refuge in a different city, nearer to her adult children, Khalida and her son have been in temporary accommodation for nearly three years, with very limited resources or support. Her son has counselling and therapy but has ongoing medical and psychological problems. Khalida has received IAPT support from an IAPT therapist who diagnosed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder but Khalida considers the seven hours allotted time as insufficient to ‘recover from 30 years!’ She is now having on-going therapy.

Khalida describes the experience of leaving her marriage as ‘climbing a slippery wall’. She is now contemplating her present circumstances and feels that she might return under duress to look after her ailing husband because of persuasion from her adult children. (Video clips read by a professional.)

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