“My dad held me down on the chair while my brother held bleach in my face and demanded that I marry my uncle who was almost three times my age.
I was a life loving, artistic, and a creative teenager who loved music and singing at the tender age of 16. I was heading towards my GCSE’s and had lots of friends at school. My family origins were from South Asia, although I was born and bought up in England.
One day when I came home from school, my family was waiting for me. There were many of them, my dad, my brother, and my cousins as well. My brother always frightened me; I wouldn’t even dare make eye contact with him. He was my eldest brother, 25 and very controlling.
I walked into the living room and my brother demanded that I sit down as he needed to talk to me. I knew that something was wrong, I could tell from the tone of his voice. I was really scared but I sat down because I knew that my brother would get very angry if I disobeyed him because he had a very bad temper. Everyone was staring at me and I found it really intimidating. My palms started to sweat, as I wondered what I had done wrong. Even though I was always careful not to upset anyone, I knew that if they thought that I was doing something wrong, I wouldn’t have time to explain, because they never listened to me, and I knew that I would have to pay for it even if the information they had was wrong.
My brother turned to me and told me that they had fixed my marriage to my Uncle back home and I would be flying out there to get married in the Summer. I started to cry, I didn’t know what to say. I knew that I didn’t want this, and I had to speak up otherwise my life would be ruined. I plucked up the courage to say that I didn’t want to get married just yet because I wanted to carry on with my education and make something of my life.
My brother became very angry and demanded that Dad hold me down on the chair. My brother picked up a bottle of bleach and opened the top. I started screaming, I thought they were going to make me drink it. He held it up to my face, and told me, if I didn’t agree the next time the bottle would be going over my face and then no one will want marry me with a disfigured face. He told me that if I dishonoured the family he would kill me.
I agreed to the marriage just to get away from my brother and I was allowed to up to my bedroom.
I didn’t sleep that night and the next morning I got up as usual and went to school.
I told my best friend what had happened and my friend encouraged me to tell the teacher. I confided in the teacher who reported the incident to social services.
They responded quickly and came to the school and spoke to me. The social worker then called Ashram’s Domestic violence refuge that she knew of through colleagues and found me a place to stay within the refuge.
When I got to the refuge I was so distressed, and afraid. I’d never been away from home, let alone live by myself. Staff spent time with me, supporting me emotionally and asked me what I wanted. They helped me to access welfare benefits, counseling, housing, and education.
As the exams were so close, it was impossible to change the school or the other option was to re-sit them, but I didn’t want to do that. Ashram staff liaised with the school head teacher and it was arranged for a teacher to drive me to and from school, hidden in the back seat, so that I wasn’t seen. I sat my exams and did ok, considering.
I am now living in my own property with my own tenancy, with support from Ashram. I’m at college now and want to go to university, and I want to make a life for myself.”
(Cover photo via Flickr: jabbar_jigariyo)