story began when she was brought to America soon after her marriage to
her husband Ilyas. She was excited about starting a new life and had
hopes and dreams of sharing a marital bliss with her husband. She
dreamed of someday getting a degree in Early Education and becoming a
teacher for the young. These hopes and dreams were shattered the very
first week of her arriving in the United States. She was humiliated,
insulted, abused and belittled constantly by her husband and
parents-in-laws. She was not allowed to make friends, socialize, make
even the smallest of decisions, talk to her parents, etc. She was
completely isolated and had to follow orders from her husband who
constantly talked to her in a very demeaning manner and also had to
obey her in-laws. She lived in constant fear and had lost all
confidence. At one time during the cold winter days, she was
reprimanded by being made to stay in the basement of the house for
three days and three nights and was made to sleep on a thin mattress on
the floor. This punishment was imposed upon her because she had tried
to contact her family in Pakistan via email and her husband who was a
computer engineer found out as he was keeping tab of the usage of the
computer. After two years of marriage, her husband Ilyas, in
consultation with his parents, decided that it was now time for him to
start a family and hence impregnated Safia. All through the pregnancy
Safia’s abuse, physically as well as emotionally, continued and in fact
got worse, thus landing her in the hospital a few days before her
Suddenly Shama’s two year old toddler tugged at her mother’s sleeve, smiling broadly. Shama suddenly forgot her alcoholic husband, his physical, mental and emotional tortures; the fear on her children’s faces. She picked up her toddler and hugged her. She had immigrated to the USA three years earlier. She had been married over 10 years and had resided in India with her three older children while her husband lived in the States.
Finally, he had agreed to bring her and the children to the US. He had always been abusive but since he had been fired from his job, he started to drink more heavily then ever and the abuse only escalated. There was no money or food in the house. Her husband did not give her any money and whatever money he had, he spent it on smoke and alcohol
…and yet Shama stayed. She stayed because she was afraid to be alone, she stayed because she had been taught to be a dutiful wife, she stayed because she had nowhere to go…
She feared calling the police, even when the beatings would not stop, as she had been raised to keep the family’s problems in the family and not to bring shame by going public. She had been told by her husband that no one would believe her anyway; and that if she ever called the police they would take away her children because she was a bad mother. Despite the entreaties of the DHF, Shama refused to take any action and the cycle of violence persisted.
The violence continued until one day her husband was beating her so badly that she started to bleed; her oldest son (11 years) grabbed a stick and tried to free his mother by hitting and pushing his father. The father was so enraged that he threw the son across the room violently. Shama was suddenly afraid for her son’s life. Up till now she was the one who took most of the beatings but she could not watch her son being beaten so mercilessly. For the first time, she had the courage to call the police herself and this time she pressed charges. Her husband was jailed for 6 months.
Shama was given support, counseling, even assistance with her grocery, shopping, and laundry from DHF. Still, she was afraid. How would she pay for rent and bills? She decided to take up vocational training, and then started looking for jobs locally where she could walk to work and be close enough to home to take care of her children. She eventually started work full time and could pay for most of her rent and bills.
Shama’s husband was released after 6 months, but he was not allowed to come near her due to a restraining order. Of course he ignored the order and came to the house and begged for forgiveness and Shama forgave him, allowing him to return to the house. After all, he promised that he was a changed man and that he would never drink or hit her. Within one week he went back to his old ways. However, this time Shama was stronger. She knew who to call. Her husband was arrested and this time, he received another year of jail time. While in jail, his green card expired and he was eventually deported.
Today Shama is a strong woman, working full time, paying her rent and bills. She has learned English. She focused on getting her life back on track. She still has fears but when she looks at her children who were once extremely shy and withdrawn now happy and healthy, she regains her strength.
All women have a right to live a life of dignity that is safe and free from violence.
Aaina got married she had experienced verbal abuse by her husband. She
was accused of being unfaithful, often being called a “slut” and
questioned for her contacts with her colleagues. She is a physician and
had to spend late hours at work at the hospital. The verbal abuse
worsened into severe physical abuse after she became pregnant. Even
though she tolerated her own abuse she eventually had to leave home
when her husband began to abuse Aaina’s three year old daughter (from
her first marriage). It was during such an episode that Aaina had to
leave home to protect herself and her daughter in such a hurry
that she could not pick up her infant from the crib. The baby
taken out of the country by her husband thereafter. Aaina had
seen the baby for almost a year
Every woman has the right to live a life of dignity that is safe and free from violence.
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