Age at interview: 58
Brief Outline: Khalida spent 33 years in a marriage characterised by controlling behaviour, physical, emotional and financial abuse from her Pakistani-born husband. They met as teenagers and were married secretly in defiance of Khalida’s parents who had arranged her marriage to a relative in Pakistan. From her third pregnancy onwards, Khalida ‘shared’ her husband with a second wife; a woman that her husband secretly married under Islamic Law (a ‘Nikar’). (Video clips read by a professional.)
Background: Khalida left Pakistan aged six to settle in the UK with her parents. Now aged 58, she is separated from her husband, living in temporary council accommodation with her youngest son, aged 15, and is unable to work owing to vertigo. Three of her adult children live in the same city.

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Both Khalida and her husband experienced abuse in childhood. Khalida was sexually molested by a family member. The couple met as teenage neighbours. Because of this ‘unsuitable’ relationship Khalida, despite being a ‘star’ pupil, had to leave school very young and work for the family business. She was eventually persuaded into elopement and marriage after many years of occasional meetings and long periods of separation imposed by her parents. She admired her suitor’s persistence that included breaking into her bedroom to propose.

Khalida’s life was spent providing for her husband’s family and dealing with their constant criticism. Her in-laws were complicit in her husband’s subsequent secret ‘Nikar’ (Islamic marriage). 

Khalida soon discovered that her husband was ‘a womaniser and a control freak’. If she questioned him about his overnight absences or if she left the house without his permission, he became physically abusive, squeezing her neck and threatening to kill her. Following his Nikar, Khalida wanted a divorce but was dissuaded by her father-in-law who did not want shame brought on the family. Khalida remained married for a further 25 years, had three more children and endured constant controlling behaviour, hitting and slapping. Questioning her husband led to violent physical assaults including knife attacks. 

After one serious assault Khalida re-connected with her own family, after 13 years, and her sister took her to the police station where Khalida got an injuction to protect her and her children. However, her mother advised her to ‘be good to him’ by cancelling the injuction, and then to ‘keep silent...whatever he is doing’ and look after the children.

Khalida continued in the marriage with no support from anyone. She confided in her GP who sent her to a therapist who tried to help her to become more assertive. Whilst still wishing for a divorce Khalida became pregnant with her sixth child after a gap of ten years. Her husband stopped hitting her, spent a lot of time away from home on business and pursued other women. 

The final trigger for Khalida to leave the marriage came when her husband was verbally and physically abusive to their youngest son, who became ill with a chronic intestinal disorder, was living in fear of his father and attempted suicide. His father attended every medical appointment but the boy requested to see the doctor alone. This led to Khalida and her son being invited for a joint appointment but her husband would not let her out of the house. Khalida called the police, who helped her escape in a police car.

After seven months in a refuge in a different city, nearer to her adult children, Khalida and her son have been in temporary accommodation for nearly three years, with very limited resources or support. Her son has counselling and therapy but has ongoing medical and psychological problems. Khalida has received IAPT support from an IAPT therapist who diagnosed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder but Khalida considers the seven hours allotted time as insufficient to ‘recover from 30 years!’ She is now having on-going therapy.

Khalida describes the experience of leaving her marriage as ‘climbing a slippery wall’. She is now contemplating her present circumstances and feels that she might return under duress to look after her ailing husband because of persuasion from her adult children. (Video clips read by a professional.)

Khalida’s husband strangled her into submission when she ‘dared’ to ask him where he was all night (read by a professional).

Anyway, where we got married, just up the road from there he bought a house near his parents’ house. And so I was, so I was all alone. But he, she (mother-in-law) was coming and going, she was coming and going a bit too much. All my in-laws were there in my house all the time just to, just to keep an eye on me. Now he, now he decided that he wants me to be kept an eye on. But this is after, after I questioned him. At four o’clock in the morning I questioned him and he said he suddenly got, became angry and grabbed my neck and started squeezing my neck and said, “If you ever ask me again where I’ve been, where I’m going, where I’m coming, when I coming, where I’m coming from, I will kill you.” I said, “Oh my God, what is going on here?” I quickly made him let go of my neck. And then he said, “If you have no right to ask me where I’m coming, where I’m coming from, but I have every right to ask you where you’re going, where you’re going with our children, whatever. You cannot go anywhere without my permission. That’s, those are the rules. Don’t ever ask me again where I’ve come from or where I’m going.”

And what did you think about that when he?

I was scared to death. I was scared to death that he was going to kill me or something. I was nearly choking when he was trying to strangle me.

Yes, yeah.

Then shortly afterwards I just got, oh slowly he just started looking at me in a stern way all the time. He was being very stern with me all the time and nasty, nasty, nasty, nasty all the time. 

Khalida’s husband helped his daughters out financially and through them he tried to access his son (read by a professional).

And what contact, if any, do you have with your husband?

I don’t have much contact with him, any contact with him. But he has contact with my daughters. And my daughters have now contact with my son, they are meeting my little, my boy for the past six months now. But they are persuading him to have contact with the brother, with the father. So now he’s trying to get to, get to the boy.

Why are they trying to do that?

Because the dad wants to see his son.

Yeah, so do the

Well they’re kind of trying but my boy doesn’t want to really go back and forth and

No. What’s your relationship like with your daughters?

Well they are taking the father’s side really.


They’re not taking – they’re not thinking about me. And I think, I’m thinking that they’re quite selfish in that way, while I’ve been lumbered with dad. What they’re doing is, why have we been lumbered with dad, he’s phoning us day and night, he’s alone and phoning us day and night, except when his mother is there. His mother comes and goes, you know.

What about your older sons?

My older sons he was in, well my eldest son was in Vienna, working in Vienna for two or three years, but then he’s come back now and he’s looking for a job. And hopefully next week he’s got interviews and things planned. He’s looking for a job to go back to, back abroad. 


But then my other eldest son, he’s just, I don’t know what, he’s just editing and he’s just freelance editing and stuff, and he just pays his bills. They don’t really, can’t really help me.


And my daughters, they’re, the younger one is doing her MBC, so she needs her father to pay for it.

Oh right.

My middle one, she’s doing the other step, the third step to the, the last step to becoming a solicitor, training or something, so she can’t help me. She, she’s got, you know, her own problems and her own stress with her own accommodation to pay for, which is also being paid for by, through my husband and what have you.


And then my eldest daughter, because she’s found a job, but she’s also quite like my son, the youngest son, so she, she can’t be stressed. And she, and also she’s taking her father’s side. She is saying that, “No, mum, you have to go back home with [participant’s youngest son], because dad is better now. Dad is a lot better. Dad is a lot this and dad is a lot that. And dad is sicker because he’s got really bad diabetes. And he’s worried that his cancer might come back.” I said, “Oh he’s just trying to attract attention, is what he’s trying to do.” 

Khalida reveals how her son took the initiative to disclose abuse and she talks about the repercussions she would have faced if she had tried to visit the doctor alone (read by a professional).

He was shouting at the boy all the time, and he was upset all the time. So I said, “I can’t cope with this. It’s happening, it’s like all the time now. There’s no respite.”


It was stress, stress, stress, stress, stress. So the poor boy is suffering.


And then I realised. Then in the morning, one morning – oh sorry, then I took him to the doctor’s. He said, “I’m not going to let you take, take him to the doctor’s. You’re going to come with me. I’m going to go to the doctor. I’m going to talk to the doctor about this disgusting devil of a child, this and that. He’s not bleeding, he’s not anything. He’s lying, he’s this, he’s not, he’s not going to kill himself, he’s not.” So anyway, we went to the doctor. And the doc – and my son 

The three of you together?

Three of us together. Obviously we couldn’t, we couldn’t say anything in front of him. But my son, being, became brave and said to the doctor, “Can I speak to you without my parents?” He said it with me included, in case my father thought, his father thought that, you know, I’m included in it or something, in what he’s going to say. So after he the doctor asked us, “OK, would you mind if you went outside for ten minutes?”

So the boy had asked in front of both of you?

Yeah hmm.


Yeah, so he was very brave.


So I said I said, “Of course, yes, of course.” Because I knew that he was – whatever he wanted to tell the doctor. So anyway my husband was fuming when we came home. “What did he tell the doctor? You bastard this, you bastard that.” I said, “Well I don’t know, whatever was upsetting him, I guess,” I said, “he’s probably talked to the doctor about whatever was upsetting him.” And when we came in to came in to see the doctor afterwards he said, “Well I understand what’s happening with your son. And Monday I will arrange for a therapist, a therapy for him. I will arrange for someone to do counselling for him. And I will see, you know, see what I can do on Monday. Because now it’s Friday evening and I can’t do anything right now.” So anyway, Monday morning came and at eight o’clock in the morning I phoned the doctor’s, because I wanted to see the doctor, because my son wouldn’t go to school. He didn’t want to go to school and he was bleeding again. And I said, “They need to give him some medication. The colonoscopy was inconclusive. They need to give him some medication.” So the medication so he didn’t, because he didn’t have it, I said, “I need to take him to the doctor’s to get medication, see why he is bleeding, to stop the bleeding.” But my son had already told me that the doctors, “One doctor wants to see me and you together, he doesn’t want to see dad with us.” So I decided that, yes, we are going to go on Monday. I wanted it done urgently as possible. My husband wouldn’t let me go. He said, “You’re not going to the doctor. You’re not going to see to the doctor again. You’re never going again to the doctor with him. I don’t know what you’re telling the doctor. I don’t know what’s going on.” I said, “Yes I am. My son is bleeding, my son is suicidal, I am going to take him to the doctor’s and I am going to see what the doctor is going to do about it.” He wouldn’t, he wouldn’t, he wouldn’t let me go. I had my keys in my hand and my coat on, everything, got him ready. He wouldn’t let me go. And then I phoned my eldest daughter up. I said, “Listen, dad is not letting me take [participant’s youngest son] to the doctor’s. I need to take him to the doctor’s to stop the bleeding, it won’t stop.”

What would have happened if you’d just physically gone?

He’d got the keys on him, outside keys. Because that’s what he did. Whenever he didn’t want me to leave, he would keep the keys on him. Obviously, if I tried to snatch the keys he would beat me to death or something or whatever. You know, I would be too afraid to snatch the keys from him.


Khalida’s counselling led to a reduction in flashbacks and nightmares and she recognised the value of talking to someone from Women’s Aid, with specialist knowledge (read by a professional).

Have you had any therapy that’s about domestic abuse specifically or is it just general?

This one is, it is, this one they sent me. This one is Women’s Aid. They have sent me to because the other, the other one is just APT, IAPT.

IAPT yeah.

For seven weeks I had with…

And that was helpful, was it?

It was helpful. She made me realise a lot of things. But, because I’m very forgetful, I forget everything, I’d forget my head if it wasn’t stuck on, it’s one of those things. And talking to her, it helped me.


It helped me realise the things that, you know, things that hurt me, things that are going in my head, all the flashbacks and the, and the nightmares I have. They subsided when I started talking to her. Because I think it’s just talking about it helps.

Khalida called her family for help after 13 years of no contact, after she was attacked at knife-point by her husband, but later returned to him following family pressure (read by a professional).

My sons weren’t home that day. I went there and I took my daughters from him. His mother was there and he was there. And I took my brothers and I just said, “Come, I’ve got a court order, I want my daughters right now. And I will get my sons later then if they’re not here.” The sons had coincidentally gone to visit the aunt, his sister.


Not because of me coming or anything, but he’d just left them there to play in the house. They’d never been before, but never mind. But I couldn’t get my sons. So the court order, then I went to court and then they got an injunction, I got an injunction against him not to even go near, I got the house, the, my, that he lived in, to tell him to get out of the house, he got the letter to get out of the house.


He knew I was serious.

And also, because the children were in my custody, all of them, they had to be in my custody, the boys had to come. Because I didn’t go back to get my boys. It was a week later when I saw them again when I was supposed to get custody of the house.


But that’s, I saw them, I didn’t get custody. But before that my husband started phoning my parents. My parents in their naivety of not wanting me to get divorced and not wanting me to, you know, have this big thing about – they had a big thing about divorce, you shouldn’t get divorced, “You’ve got five children. How can you get divorced?”


They said, “Well, when they grow up then you can get divorced.” I said, “What do you mean, when they grow up you will get divorced, when they grow up a bit more?” Because my daughter was now, I think, eldest was 12/13 and my boys were 9/10 and the girls, the last girl was 5 years old, and the other girl was 6 years old. And I said, “This is not, this is not right. I can’t go back to him. He just, he just threw me out at knife point.” “Well he didn’t knife you. He didn’t actually do anything, did he?” Then my husband did the sweet talking, “I’ve never known you, my in-laws, you know, you sound like really nice people. I think I’ve missed out on the 13 years of not knowing you. I think you’re nice people. I think you’re wonderful people. I didn’t mean to do that to her. I was really angry. I was really this, I was really that. I don’t do anything like that. I’m not a violent person, I’m not this.” He was trying to brainwash them and trying to, you know, con them.

Khalida received support from another Pakistani Muslim woman in the refuge, and felt that professional support was lacking (read by a professional).

But when I came to the refuge I didn’t have a clue of what was happening. I didn’t know where to shop, I didn’t know what food was I supposed to give my son, what was I supposed to do? I needed advice. I needed somebody to actually help me, you know. That now you’re going to have to cook for yourself, you know, and you have to, you have to fend for yourself, you have to shop for yourself. Because I never shopped in my – all these years. He did all the shopping.


And he made all the decisions of what food was supposed to be cooked in the house, everything, him and his mother. And I didn’t even know how to get the stuff. I was a very – I’m a very good cook, but I don’t know how to – I didn’t know how to go and buy the onions and the garlic and the ginger, you know, the things to, to do. So somebody should have helped, helped in that way. But then, luckily, another woman came into the refuge, another Muslim lady, and she fared better than me because she has been living in [city] and she was born and bred in [city]. So she always knew. She had a different kind of problem. Her children were, children and husband, she was forced into marriage 25 years ago and she had two, three, four children from him, to an older man, and now he is in his seventies. And she’s 41 or 42 or something.

How many children?

She had four children from the old man. And so she, she never really loved him or cared about him. She was forced into marriage when she was young, by her father. And she, she was engaged to somebody else. Her mother engaged her to somebody who she loved or she cared about in her teenage. But he refused after the mother died, and he just totally refused and married her to this old man.

Yeah, so she was at the refuge with you.

So she was at the refuge. But she said, well one thing is she left her husband, she divorced him and she got married again to her, the love.

From before?

Yeah, so that’s a good, that’s a good ending. 


I’m trying to say that that was a good ending there, you see. She’s really happy now.

That’s amazing.


So you stayed there and then eventually you got?

So she helped me. What I’m saying is she was a Pakistani Muslim lady, but she helped me go shopping and do everything. And I mean we, we even kind of like we cooked together and we kind of, you know, did half, paid half, half/half and we cooked together.

What were you doing for money at this time?

Money was the - what was it now? What do you call it?

It was a benefit?

Yeah, it was a benefit, JSA. First they put you on JSA and then they want you to look for jobs. And I think it’s atrocious that they want you to look for a job while you’re in that condition, where you don’t even know where to shop for food. And how are you going to shop for – how are you going to look for a job? I think that’s something to be, you know, concerned about.
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