EASTERN EYE has spoken to a victim of domestic abuse who has faced physical abuse during the current lockdown and feared she was going to be forced to marry. The 22-year-old is called Zaeda to protect her identity, and her location is not being revealed.
What form did your abuse take?
My father physically and mentally abused me from the age of 14 – that’s when I began wanting to be my own person, dress the way I wanted, like the way my friends dressed at school. I didn’t want to wear Asian outfits any more. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t as if I wanted to run around half-naked, I just wanted to wear things like trousers and tops, you know, like pretty dresses.
I would take my clothes to school and get dressed in my ‘English clothes’, but my dad saw me one day walking with my friends. He stopped the car, screaming at me and calling me a slag. I had to go home with him, and he mentally and physically tortured me all night. He punched me, dragged me around by my hair and kept telling me I dressed that way because I wanted to have sex with men. He said I was dirty and I was bringing shame on the family. I couldn’t understand why he was doing this to me. I was only wearing trousers and a top, you couldn’t see my legs or breasts or anything.
How did it affect you?
I started to believe that I was a bad person, you know, like worthless and an embarrassment to my family. I started to lose loads of weight. I went down from eight and-a-half stones to six stones. I looked really ill, everyone said. I got really depressed and then I started secretly drinking and smoking. I couldn’t concentrate at school, I felt like I was suffocating, kind of like drowning in pain. I hated myself, it was horrible. I had no one to turn to, not even my mum because she was scared of my dad too, she was just too weak to stand up to him.
I have really bad nightmares, sometimes I hate going to sleep because I know I’m going to have nightmares about all the things he’s done to me, I can’t remember the last time I had a good night’s sleep. I have anxiety and panic disorder too. I can never relax at home – every time I hear a car pull up outside, I get so scared because I think it’s my dad and that he’s coming to beat me up. I hate living like this.
How long were you abused?
I’m 22 years old now with my own child and my dad is still abusing me, so that’s about eight years, I think. Wow… I can’t believe it’s been that long. He found out last week that I was seeing someone, and he came to my home with my brother and sister and attacked me in front of my child.
How often were you abused?
My dad didn’t hit me every day, but he did mentally abuse me daily. Although I don’t live at home any more, I’m still being abused by him. He rings me and threatens me, he gets my younger brother and sister to call and they abuse me too. I’m used to it now, I just get on with it so that I can be a really good mum to my child.
Were you the only person in your home to be abused in this way or were other family members affected?
My dad didn’t abuse my brothers or my sister, but he did abuse me and my mum. I don’t know why it was just us. I always resented my sister because she was a ‘daddy’s girl’ and she used to snitch on me to my dad knowing that he would beat me. She used to call me a slag too.
My baby brother used to scream and cry when he saw my dad beating me. He was only little, bless him, and he used to grab my dad’s legs to try and stop him from kicking and hitting me. When I was on the floor, my baby brother used to throw himself on top of me to protect me from the punches. I really miss my baby brother.
Can you share a memory which highlights what you went through?
My dad attacked me recently, because he found out I was seeing someone. I was in my living room playing with my son and he came storming through my front door screaming and shouting. I told him to get out and not to shout in front of my son, but he didn’t listen and punched me in my face. I fell and hit my head on the fireplace. All I can remember is hearing my son screaming. I felt like I was going to die, I felt so weak, I kept trying to get up but I had no strength. I just wanted to get my son and run away, but I couldn’t. My other brother, not my baby brother, was shouting at me saying, “Shame on you, you dirty slag, you deserve it.” I felt like I was nothing.
How did you escape?
When I was living at home, I started seeing a boy. I got pregnant and we ran away to get married. I know now I did that to escape. I think if my dad wasn’t the way he was, I would probably be living at home now or I would be at university or something. It’s really sad because I do love my parents, but I don’t understand how any parent could do that to their own child. I feel really angry at my mum sometimes, but then I realise that it isn’t her fault, she was just too weak and scared of him.
Who did you contact?
After the last incident, I called the police and they told me to call Women’s Aid. I called them and they said I could go into a hostel, but they didn’t have a place for me, and I would have to call them every morning to see if a place was available. I did that for a couple of days, but I gave up in the end. I couldn’t tell anyone else because I was too ashamed.
How useful were the police?
I’m so upset with the police. It took all of my courage to go to the police station and make a statement against my dad. They took photos of my injuries. The police said they saw it as honour-based violence. I thought they would arrest my dad or at least warn him to stay away from me. But nothing. My dad is still calling and threatening me.
The police haven’t contacted me since I made my statement. I know that we’ve got this coronavirus thing happening, but I thought the police would at least check on me or call me to update me. What makes me so angry is that the police made a referral to social services, and now a social worker has contacted me saying my son is at risk of harm and it’s my fault. I’m so scared that they will take my son away from me.
If domestic violence charities and support groups were forced to close through lack of funding, what would happen to people like you?
I really don’t know what I would have done without this charity. My friend told me about them, and I rang them. They gave me a support worker and they have been amazing. They have got me a solicitor who is Asian like me, and she really understands because she has helped other women and men who have gone through what I am going through now. She is helping me to get an injunction against my dad and will be supporting me with social services. My support worker speaks to me every day and I don’t know what I would do without her. She has contacted the police and housing to see what they can do to support me. I think if I didn’t have this charity, my mental health would get even worse.
I really believe if there were not organisations like this one, so many would suffer in silence. I even think some people would take their own lives.
I have told my story because maybe it will help someone who is going what I’m going through and encourage them to contact charities or another organisations to get help and support. It’s not fair to take funding away from organisations like this, they’re the ones that really care about people and help them to turn their lives around. They are the ones who hear the voices of the voiceless.