was born in a country on the west of Africa and was introduced to my now ex-husband – the perpetrator – as soon as I left school. His family was happy for us to be married, as his family believed I could provide lots of children. I was 10 years younger than him at the time but felt pressured to marry.
Soon after the wedding, he started to control every aspect of my life. His family also controlled and abused me; I had no privacy or a voice and his family had to know everything about us and our relationship.
I was also being watched.
I had to greet his family by saying “I am on my knees” and would have to wait for them to reply, “you can now rise” before I get up. I was expected to follow his and his family’s instructions and live in a joint family with his mum and sisters.
I constantly had to ask the perpetrator’s family for approval. If they said “No”, there was no turning back from that decision. I tried to please all members of his family which was mentally exhausting and emotionally draining.
The problems in my marriage continued after I, the perpetrator and our children came to the UK. He was aware that I did not want to remain with him – I wanted to move on with my life. One incident saw him and his sister shouting abuse at me, calling me a “characterless woman” and saying that I needed to be punished. The perpetrator threatened to take me back to West Africa and told me I would be subjected to female genital mutilation against my will.
I contacted The Haven, and I was assessed as at high risk of abuse and violence and potentially at risk of so-called Honour based abuse. At the time, I had no recourse to public funds and was financially reliant on my then-husband.
I told my support workers at The Haven about the physical, verbal, mental, emotional, and financial abuse I’d suffered. They explained that I’d also experienced coercive control from the perpetrator and his parents, so there were multiple perpetrators. I was initially reluctant to call and involve the Police as this was not culturally acceptable.
The team at The Haven contacted the Migrant Centre, and an application was made to The Home Office to allow me to access public funds. The Home Office approved it and I was able to make a claim for Universal Credit as a result. The house tenancy was in my husband’s name only and that was soon to expire. He had no intention of taking responsibility to continue to pay the rent. He wanted to see me on the streets, and intended to take our children back to West Africa with him.
He went on to stay with family, and everything went quiet for a while. This concerned me – I knew something would happen and the abuse would continue, but when, I didn’t know.
I was advised by The Haven to call 999 if I ever felt unsafe. I had to do this after one incident, when my now ex-husband told me I wasn’t allowed to take my children on a trip to see family. He became aggressive and threatening, attempting to bribe and manipulate the children. The Police arrived and asked the perpetrator to leave the property peacefully, which he finally did. A protection order is now in place for me and my children.
I now feel liberated and at peace. I’ve undoubtedly become stronger and I believe I can achieve much more for my children and for myself. I no longer feel scared – I feel empowered. When I was with the perpetrator, I felt overwhelmed and had lost myself, but now, I can breathe easily.
Adanna’s name has been changed to protect her identity. Images are for illustration purposes only.