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In this blog Amala* talks about the abuse that she suffered from her parents-in-law soon after her arranged marriage to her husband. The abuse from her parents-in-law was replicated by other members of the family, her husband and subsequently their children.  To protect anonymity, this blog was written using the words from a recorded interview between Amala*, her Idva and a SafeLives Advisor. For an audio version of this blog, scroll down to the bottom of the page or visit our Soundcloud profile.

I’m sharing my story to give a voice for other women who have experienced this, so they might seek help too. My mum and dad gave me a really good upbringing. They taught me right from wrong and to always side with what is right, and to think about what is supposed to be equal.

I’m a mother with 5 children, and my husband no longer lives in the country.  I met my husband through an arranged marriage in another country. At the time my parents met my husband’s family they put themselves across as a nice, loving family. When we got married I found out what the family was really like, what the expectation was. It all started from the day we got married. My husband and I lived with my mother and father-in-law and their other adult children. There were 8 people living in the house. I wasn’t allowed to go out anywhere. While my husband’s family went to work and school I was expected to make the lunch, the evening meal, to clean and dust the house, making sure that everything was prepared by the time that they got back. With 8 people living in the house, that’s all it was day in and day out, picking up and taking away. My husband’s family had all of the control, whatever I did was on their terms.

When my mother-in-law would wake up it was my duty to have the breakfast ready by the time she came out of the bathroom, to have her tea at a certain temperature. If the evening meal wasn’t ready for my father-in-law by 5pm when he came back from work, he’d go around picking up dishes, suggesting that if I hadn’t made new chapattis, I’ll just have the ones from yesterday. Just trying to have a dig at me “It’s fine, give me the ones from yesterday’’.

I could see that my husband loved and cared for me, but it wasn’t how it should be because he was scared of his parents. He never fully showed his love and care towards me. For my first birthday after we got married my husband got me a bouquet of flowers. My mother-in-law shouted at him ‘’why did you buy that? It’s a waste of money!’’ Things began to change with my husband too. After doing all of the work in the house, I’d go to bed late and this would upset him.  I was not only having to take care of my in laws, but also having to take on what he was saying as well and that really upset me. When I tried to tell him what was happening with his parents, he’d say his mum was right because he was frightened of them. He used to work all day and he didn’t want to get involved in all of this. He’d be tired, he wanted a peaceful life.  

As our family got bigger and we had more children my husband and I decided to get a house of our own. When we got our own house life seemed better, it seemed more peaceful. My husband realised…my husband felt guilty, he realised he hadn’t given time to his wife and children. We went out as a family. But even after we moved out of the house, his family’s expectation was that I’d drop the children off at school, come back to do the housework and my duties. They put pressure and control on my house, they got a spare key to come and check when we were home and what we were doing. I wasn’t allowed to go to parent’s evenings, children’s parties, they’d send my brothers-in-law instead.

When I stood up and said, I’m not going to go to your house and do all of the work, that’s when they turned against me. They manipulated my husband and my children. I began to see the change in my husband. There was soon no financial support and the first time there was physical abuse, it came from my husband. My father-in-law knew and didn’t do anything, he didn’t support me. My husband started the physical abuse, and the other family members soon followed. His family began to give the children expensive gifts and my children began to turn against me. My husband ignored it and it was not spoken about again. I got complaints from the school as well about the children getting involved in fights. My children now have no respect for me, they don’t listen to me, they swear at me. I’m not a statue, how I’ve been treated is wrong, that anyone can do what they want. I’m human too, I can’ t be treated like this. What is my life, what can I do, what am I allowed to do? From day one, my mother-in-law, father-in-law, sisters and brothers in law, and then my husband and now children too. What was I going to do?  I felt so upset and sad, like my life had ended. My in-laws threatened that if I told anyone they’d call the police, throw me out of the house and take my children from me.

The important thing to me is my children. I want to put them first. I could see what was happening to them, what was going on. I’ve got this hope, that now with the support from my Idva and the children’s social worker, the police, and I can see little changes and there are boundaries with my in laws and their influence on our lives.  All I want is for the children to go back to how they were before all of this, I want my husband to realise that he has a responsibility as well. For him to be supportive towards me.  I want to live independently with my children. I want them to have respect for women, to not hit women, to not swear at women. I don’t want my children to have that kind of attitude - looking down on everyone, thinking they are above everyone else. Most of all, I want my husband to take responsibility, to be supportive, to encourage their good behaviour. But for now, there is his ego, he can’t see right from wrong, only that I am wrong and to blame for everything.

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