‘Why I stayed with my abusive husband’ Redbridge woman speaks out
“If you leave me that would be the end - I would chop your nose off, and your ears” was the repeated threat Amira’s husband gave her during two decades of abuse.
During her marriage Amira – not her real name – was beaten in front of her children, locked in cupboards and not allowed to leave the house alone.
When she approached her husband’s family for help she was told by her mother-in-law “it happens, men do hit women.”
White Ribbon Day being held on Sunday (25) aims to raise awareness of domestic violence which, according to the Home Office, kills two women every week. Of all the women murdered in the UK, one in three is the result of domestic violence and a phone call is made every minute to the police about domestic abuse.
Amira was introduced to her future husband when she was 12-years-old, three years later she married him and it was not long after that the abuse started.
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Amira said: “The way I was brought up was if you get married you have to stay with your husband no matter what. I thought it would get better if we had more children. It just got worse and worse and worse instead of getting better.”
Her husband was so controlling that he stopped her from going to her mother’s funeral. When she finally left and made it to a women’s refuge she was shocked to discover that 50 pence pieces had changed in size as she had not seen money for two years.
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Domestic abuse worker Nighat Darr was the case worker for Amira after she approached the Kiran Project which is based in Leyton but covers Redbridge.
Nighat said: “She wanted to work and be independent, he would lock her up in the house. He would hide behind doors and threaten her and lock her in cupboards, he would give her lots of water and not let her go to the toilet. It was absolutely horrendous.”
She says that abusers want total control over another person and achieve this by slowly isolating them from their family and friends.
“Your whole life will revolve around them,” she said. “Everything you do begins and ends with them and no one else is important. The man’s telling you what you want to hear and you’re not left with anyone else so the women become obsessed and think they are in love.”
Abusers are normally very manipulative people, Nigat says, and will change a situation so the woman does not feel as if she is not being controlled.
“If you’re vulnerable and they put their arms around you, you believe what they are saying. She’ll think he’s telling me because he does love me. It’s all control,” she added.
Abuse often follows a cycle with a relationship going from being calm, to arguing and then either verbal of physical abuse.
Nigat said: “They will abuse them and then will come back and say that ‘you made me do it’.”
This is followed by another calm period and the cycle starts again.
Amira said: “Things would be normal and then we would start arguing and he would say if you leave me that would be the end, I would chop your nose off and your ears. I was too scared he would track me down if I left. It’s very weird I know.”
According to the British Crime Survey, 60 per cent of domestic violence is not reported to the police, something which does not surprise Nigat.
She said: “It’s common, it’s not until you get into this world that you realise how common it is. We had one girl who had very controlling parents and she fled from them thinking this guy’s going to protect me but he took it to another level. He prostituted her.”
The 19-year-old did not leave the house for five months during which time she had was repeatedly raped by the man’s friends for money.
Nighat said: “She had no clothes, she was a young beautiful girl. Her sides were all grazed as she had been repeatedly bitten. He was not feeding the girl. It was horrendous.”
When Amira approached the Kiran Project they housed her, together with her children, in a refuge and helped her apply for state housing and get her children into school.
She said: “I never had the courage to do something and leave him, I thought I could not go anywhere and you don’t want to be a burden on someone else.”
Since she left she has set up her own business and is now fully independent.
Amira said: “Nigat made me feel really strong. If it was not the Kiran Project I wouldn’t be here today.”