Women’s experiences of Domestic Violence and Abuse

Yasmin

Age at interview: 32

Brief outline: Yasmin left Pakistan on her mothers’ wishes, to join her older sister in the UK. Terminally ill, her mother wished to see Yasmin settled and arranged for her to marry a first cousin living in the UK. Yasmin endure thirteen years of sexual and financial abuse. Her husband’s controlling behaviour led her to feel like their home was a ‘prison’. When Yasmin’s husband threatened her with sharp knives she fled, with the support of the police and Women’s Aid.

Background: Yasmin is a 32 year old British Asian woman living with her three children in a Housing Association house. She left her family in Pakistan when she was seventeen, to live in the UK with her married sister and to enter into an arranged marriage with the brother of her sister’s husband. She has little education, no work experience, and has recently taught herself to speak English.

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Yasmin described her childhood as ‘perfect, ideal, like a story-tale’. With two much older sisters Yasmin was the ‘baby’ of the family, getting lots of loving attention and a close companionship with her father. Her move to the UK was encouraged by her terminally ill mother who wanted to see Yasmin settled and married to a member of the family. Soon after her arrival in the UK, her sister’s first child became gravely ill and died. In a state of shock, Yasmin agreed to a rapid marriage.

Yasmin endured thirteen years of sexual abuse and controlling behaviour from her husband, which began soon after they were married. She was forced to have sex on a daily basis when her husband arrived home from work, drunk and demanding. His behaviour was shocking for a devout Moslem woman like Yasmin. He moved her away from her sisters’ flat that they were sharing, when the other couple started to pick up on his behaviour.

Yasmin described her new home as a ‘prison’ and she became deeply depressed. She never went out, she had no money and her only social contact was an occasional visit from her sister, who encouraged her to stay in the marriage in order to retain family respect. Once she started having children, Yasmin could not buy milk or food as her husband controlled the finances. He forced her to have sex in return for his agreeing to buy basic essentials and take-away meals.

Her husband attended all medical appointments with her so that she would not have a chance to disclose anything about her home life. The only time she spent out of the house was a short walk to take the children to school. Over the years, Yasmin could not confide in anyone. At family gatherings, her husband acted the part of devoted husband and father.

Following an escalation of the sexual abuse and a serious miss-carriage, Yasmin decided the relationship must end. She refused to have sex and sought an Islamic divorce, citing her husband’s drinking and gambling. Her husband reacted with physical violence, threatening her with sharp knives. Yasmin eventually fled with the help of the police and Women’s Aid, after a parent at the school slipped her a card for the local ‘One-Stop-Shop’ DVA centre. She spent nine months in a refuge before moving to a rented house.

Yasmin feels strongly that there should be more education for girls about relationships, and more education for professionals about DVA, with a more pro-active stance in intervening. At one point, she tried to talk honestly to a Health Visitor (HV) about her home life but the HV did not act on the information. Similarly she feels that the school did not follow up on unusual signs, such as Yasmin’s absence from all school activities and meetings.

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