Lena's* Story

When I agreed to marry the perpetrator, I was only 17 years old. I’d never even see a photo of him. When I look back, I see that this was a forced marriage.

We married in September 2008. I felt awful and wanted to get away, but I knew I had no choice. I moved to his parents’ house, in India, soon after the wedding.

The perpetrator moved to the UK and I stayed in India with his mother for a month after. She treated me badly and I wasn’t allowed to speak with my family, even when I became sick with Typhoid. I came to the UK at the end of 2008. I was scared as I’d never been anywhere on a plane before.

Things were OK. It was only when his mother called or visited that he would change. April 2009 was the first time he hit me. He came in the garden and started punching me and holding my arm behind my back, saying that I didn’t like his parents. I was worried the neighbours would hear him so I managed to get back into the house. He continued hitting me.

This became normal.

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He would throw things, break things. I told his mother that he was hitting me. She said, “He is a man, do what he says, it’s your fault you make him angry.”

I lost all my confidence. I was always scared and nervous.

I started to work as a bookkeeper. My salary was paid into a joint account but I wasn’t allowed any of the money, so I stopped working. I became even more isolated.

For years this situation continued. I had to clean and do everything in the house. If he wasn’t happy, he would hit me. I was completely controlled by him and his family.

In 2013 I became pregnant. I thought things might get better. Unfortunately, it got worse. I remember him hitting me and swearing at me when I was 7 months pregnant. I was shocked that he had no feelings about me or our child.

My wonderful daughter was born in 2014. Neither the perpetrator nor his family helped me. They watched me struggle. By 2016, it became apparent that he was having an affair. We were struggling with money but he was spending a lot on jewellery and women’s underwear.

Once, when he was beating me, my daughter was screaming: “Don’t hit my mummy”, holding his feet to try to make him stop. He didn’t. He beat me until my nose bled.

He continued to hit me, smash the house and leave us without money, even stealing from my daughter’s piggy bank. In December 2017, I told him I was leaving. He beat me, worse than ever before. I didn’t tell anyone. I thought I totally depended on him.

The final incident took place in early 2018. He came home in the middle of the night, shouting and demanding money. I started to scream and he put his hands over my mouth. I couldn’t breathe. He put his hands around my neck so tightly that I felt myself dying. All I could think about was my daughter.

When he realised I wasn’t breathing, he ran away. I called 999 and the police arrived – it was then that I realised that I had to do something. I told the police about the past 10 years of hell.

He was arrested and remanded in custody and I was told to find a refuge. After six months in a safe house, I was relocated to another city in August 2018. Then, the first good thing in many years happened. I was given the telephone number for Hestia.

I was referred to a Hestia Outreach worker, Sharon. She called me and we talked about the help Hestia could offer me. I felt so relieved and reassured that there was help for me and my daughter. Everything happened quite quickly; Sharon called the local school and my daughter was offered a place. Sharon even gave us some lovely gifts after realising my daughter had no toys - she has enabled me to be a survivor, not a victim.

I realised that there are good people out there.

Without Hestia’s support and referring me to other professionals, I would never have come this far.

Right now, I still have Sharon’s support and have started looking to go back to work. I am in control of my life and my daughter is thriving at school. I do sometimes feels isolated but I now know that I am free and that is the best feeling ever. It is my life and I can do it my way.

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