I was thrashed but not beaten: Never be afraid of divorce

My kids tried with their tiny palms to protect me, but my husband wouldn't stop. He beat me till I was black and...

Amenah Khan March 19, 2013
I got married at a very young age. I was 17- years-old and had not even finished high school yet. I was married to a man who was 31 years old at the time, an MBA graduate from a university in the US. He belonged to an elite and very well to do family from Karachi and was also the only son.

Marriage to me was all about jewellery, fun, laugh and play, but it didn’t take long for me to realise that although it was a new relationship it was definitely a very strange one.

In the third month of my marriage, I became the victim of physical abuse by my husband.

The incident took place over a very petty issue - he didn’t appreciate the fact that I took too long to decide whether I wanted to go with him to meet friends or if we should stay home and watch a movie instead.

That was not the last time he was going to hit me; the physical abuse went on and didn’t stop.

It was a ritual that carried on till the marriage lasted, which was about 15 years. Trivial things like, food not tasting good was my fault; our kids not sleeping on time was because I didn’t train them well enough.

To him I was the ugliest person alive - I could never do anything right in life.

I heard only abuses and nasty rhetoric from him each day of those 15 years I spent with him.

An incident I can never come to forget - a turning point in my life, one that still gives me goose bumps and makes me relive the excruciating pain all over again - was on the day when nothing seemed right in life. My children looked at me; confusion and utter helplessness gripped my entire body; I, myself, was not sure if they should console their mother or keep their father busy enough to divert his attention away from their mother for a while. That was the day I mustered up all my courage and calmly told him that I wanted a separation.

That flabbergasted, crazed look in his piercing eyes was enough to tell me I had crossed bounds yet again.  I was told to be quiet and if I disobeyed I would be shot (the standard threat).  That day he beat me till I was literally black and blue - like this was the last chance he would ever have. He hit me without any fear at all; at every angle that his hands and feet would take him.

The sight, that even today, 15 years later, brings tears to my eyes was the look of helplessness, horror and fear on the innocent faces of my four little angels; my children. They tried desperately to pull their mother's attacker away, but that horrendous creature was too strong and determined for them. I could feel their hands approaching me, trying with their tiny palms to protect me.

That night I was locked in the washroom from where I tried to escape and finally succeeded.

One of his family members took pictures of the bruises that not only stayed on my body for the longest time but left deeper marks on my heart, soul and my personality. Those marks cut deep into us, they scarred us for life and they changed the naive innocent girl that my parents gave birth to.

All I wanted in life was to be with a man who would respect me and my feelings; with whom I could share my world, raise our children and make them good human beings.

But then, dreams don’t always come true and I started becoming a person I never even imagined I would become.

It didn’t take me long to realise that I was more like a unpaid maid to him who would fulfill wifely duties, produce offspring (the only way of showing his ‘mardangy’ (manhood) cook for him, clean his house and entertain when required.

It was after four children and 15 excruciating years that I realised that no angel was going to come to rescue me and my kids - I was the only one who could help us and I had to take a stand. So, without any financial support or any backing from family, I took charge of my own life. Despite my father’s reluctance, I registered myself for a khula and it was the wisest decision that I have ever made in my life; my life and the lives of my children have been at peace ever since I left him.

I received many different reactions to my divorce; my friends started keeping their distance from me in fear of me somehow taking their husbands away from them. On the other side, their husbands eagerly offered their help, a very “come we will help you” attitude, unfortunately, their eyes spoke more than their words did and not one looked less than a hungry animal to me.

Strangely, my family and my in- laws had nothing to do with my relationship with my husband. There was never a sense of responsibility or even empathy from either of them. The fact that I decided to go ahead with the divorce and manage my own life was something they made sure I stood up to. I think the fact that I was a divorcee didn’t worry them as much as the fear of having additional mouths to feed and support in case I was unable to earn a living. So they made sure I learnt how to fend for myself - they conveniently separated themselves from our lives.

At this point, I realised that I had started a new chapter in my life. I may not have had the qualifications to acquire a job that would pay me well enough to support myself and my children, but what I did have was the drive, strength and determination to give my children the best life and education I could possibly provide.

Life was evolutionary for me, it taught me many things. Yes, I had nothing when I left my husband but this experience showed me is that there are so many good people out there who coexist with the bad.

Don't ever be afraid to stand up for yourself and leave, no matter how hard it seems. If you are being beaten, he doesn't deserve you. Take the stand and walk out.

I came across some very kind-hearted, generous people and the impact that they have made upon our lives - I will never forget. Angels who took the form of teachers who readily agreed to enroll my kids in their school with nominal charges; acquaintances who helped me find jobs and friends, neighbours and strangers who shared their home furniture and utensils with me so I could make a home for myself and my four beautiful kids.

Although my life has pretty much been on a roller-coaster ride since my divorce, the best part about it is that I don’t face any humiliation anymore; there is no one to physically or emotionally abuse me anymore. Despite the hardship, my life is full of love, happiness and hope for a better future for my kids.

I don't live in fear anymore.

The challenges I face every day at work as a full time HR professional are faced with open arms. Hard work gives me peace and serenity, and the anathema of being a divorcee is no longer attached to me.

Today my children have all graduated from reputable universities and I run my household happily and independently with my own hard-earned money. I take a lot of my courage and determination from my kids, their immense love and respect for me has made me what I am today.

It’s been 12 years since I got my freedom and today perceptions have changed completely. Women in our society want to be financially secure before they tie the knot and they are not scared of voicing their reluctance in case they think they will not be respected or given their due rights.

This makes me happy; every woman who can stand up and think for herself is one woman less abused.

Today, I don't sit and lick my wounds - I celebrate them because they have made me a stronger woman.

Never be afraid to take control of your own life for God has made our gender very strong.

If I can do it with four children, no job and no family support, you can do it too.

Don't take another beating.

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Amenah Khan An H.R. professional who enjoys the little things in life and believes that a man is not stronger than a woman.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


a university going girl who escaped it | 11 years ago | Reply during my school life i fell in what i thought was love with a boy my age. my best friend for 2 years.we got admission in the same university. one of the best in pakistan,one that only really intelligent students can make it to. he had sisters, he had a mother he was protective about n belonged to the MOST EDUCATED bit of pak's population. so was i. but our relationship was similar to this. physical abuse for reasons i did not even understand. it continued for 2.5 years of our togetherness. those who saw the wounds tried to pull me away from him, but i was too afraid of him. too afraid of the world because of the association that had been formed. in his defense , he would cry everytime after hitting me and convince me that he acts so coz he loves me. being the teenage girl, uninformed of my worth, i would bear that. i informed his mom once, and all she said was 'beta aap logon k aapas ka mamla hai'. i had no courage to tell my family, but my brother saw the wounds n ended up crying and called the guy and said 'larki walay hain isliye tamiz se kahenge duur raho'. it was a book, and a few articles like these that pulled me out of this torture. i told him i am leaving him. 'i would rather die than bear this',the decision was made. i respect this woman more than i can express coz i have at a very young age seen the 'mardangi' men try to show by fightin someone not even their own size. and i know how not even family backgrounds n education helps such weak souls as these men trying to prove a point to themselves. i PITY such men. (not stereotyping men here. later on, i found an angel in another man who proves it to me till today that not all men are the same,exception in terms of good n bad both exist).
Femme | 11 years ago | Reply Forgive me for my English, it's not my first language It's really refreshing to see a Pakistani woman encouraging the possibility of divorce. I have seen far too many Pakistani families stigmatizing divorce, making marriage a non-negotiable contract. Many a time have I heard Pakistani ladies telling their daughters to just stay strong and manage their homes. Whether it is the husband's abuse, abuse from in-laws etc, culturally, Pakistani women are told to bear it and make it work. I am not saying that I am from a different culture or anything, in fact this cultural hold is personally present in my life. My sister has a lot of problems in her marriage, but my mother's response is always that now she has a different home and family and that she needs to make it work. Culturally, the burden is on the woman to make the marriage work. If a divorce happens, the man will get remarried, no problem, but the woman has a hard time getting by. I know a few families who would not let their daughters come back home after a divorce because of their disapproval of the situation. Personally, my opinion is that if Pakistan was founded on Islamic principles, they should be applied in this situation as well. Divorce is not liked, but still allowed in Islam. It is recognized that there ARE situations in which there is no other option. It's time for Pakistan to move past these cultural roadblocks. Your article was well written and poignant. A job well done on an amazing topic.
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