It was a very cold, wintry night before Eid with very few days left for her delivery date when Safia was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance being followed by the local police. Safia had been physically assaulted by her husband and emotionally traumatized by her in-laws who lived with her. Once evaluated at the hospital, she was taken to a Domestic Violence shelter where she lived in total shock and fear for the next couple of days. On the third day, she was once again rushed to the hospital to deliver her baby. She delivered a beautiful baby Daanish, via c-section.
Safia’s story began when she was brought to America soon after her marriage to her husband Ilyas. She was excited about starting a new life and had hopes and dreams of sharing a marital bliss with her husband. She dreamed of someday getting a degree in Early Education and becoming a teacher for the young. These hopes and dreams were shattered the very first week of her arriving in the United States. She was humiliated, insulted, abused and belittled constantly by her husband and parents-in-laws. She was not allowed to make friends, socialize, make even the smallest of decisions, talk to her parents, etc. She was completely isolated and had to follow orders from her husband who constantly talked to her in a very demeaning manner and also had to obey her in-laws. She lived in constant fear and had lost all confidence. At one time during the cold winter days, she was reprimanded by being made to stay in the basement of the house for three days and three nights and was made to sleep on a thin mattress on the floor. This punishment was imposed upon her because she had tried to contact her family in Pakistan via email and her husband who was a computer engineer found out as he was keeping tab of the usage of the computer. After two years of marriage, her husband Ilyas, in consultation with his parents, decided that it was now time for him to start a family and hence impregnated Safia. All through the pregnancy Safia’s abuse, physically as well as emotionally, continued and in fact got worse, thus landing her in the hospital a few days before her delivery date.
It was at this time that Safia’s case was referred to the Domestic Harmony Foundation.
She had already delivered the baby and now needed to be placed in a shelter with her new born baby. The DHF picked Safia from the hospital and took her to a Domestic Violence shelter where she lived for three months, with the emotional and monetary support that the Foundation provided to her and her baby Daanish. A lawyer from the Foundation helped her with all her legal matters. She obtained an order of protection and filed for divorce. It was a very difficult time for her as she was with no money, no papers, no family, no legal documents and most of all, was afraid and terrified about the future. However, with the Foundation’s help she attained these and moved into a rented apartment with her baby. The husband continued to harass and threaten her. He even threatened to kidnap the baby and send him away to Pakistan. He fought her for the custody of the child and said that if she fought him back he would have her family members killed in Pakistan. With the help of her lawyer who fought her case relentlessly and spent many days and hours for Safia’s rights, DHF has given Safia and Daanish hope and a home free of abuse and violence.
After 2 long years, Safia finally ended the complex divorce and custody battle. She retained custody of her child. Safia states that finally she can sleep at nights without having to worry about when a kick, slap or shove may come to her face. Daanish is growing into a very strong and healthy toddler. Safia is an amazing mother and a true strength to her child as well as to other women who are living a life of violence and abuse. She is planning to go back to school and pursue her dream of becoming a teacher and be a mentor to other women and young girls who suffer from the pain of a life of violence.
All women have a right to live a life of dignity that is safe and free from violence.
Shama sat and cried as she waited for the DHF to arrive at her house. What would they think when they would see her small rented part of a house in shambles? Would they notice the numerous holes in the walls, the broken door…
Suddenly Shama’s two year old toddler tugged at her mother’s sleeve, smiling broadly. Shama suddenly forgot her alcoholic husband, his physical, mental and emotional tortures; the fear on her children’s faces. She picked up her toddler and hugged her. She had immigrated to the USA three years earlier. She had been married over 10 years and had resided in India with her three older children while her husband lived in the States.
Finally, he had agreed to bring her and the children to the US. He had always been abusive but since he had been fired from his job, he started to drink more heavily then ever and the abuse only escalated. There was no money or food in the house. Her husband did not give her any money and whatever money he had, he spent it on smoke and alcohol
…and yet Shama stayed. She stayed because she was afraid to be alone, she stayed because she had been taught to be a dutiful wife, she stayed because she had nowhere to go…
She feared calling the police, even when the beatings would not stop, as she had been raised to keep the family’s problems in the family and not to bring shame by going public. She had been told by her husband that no one would believe her anyway; and that if she ever called the police they would take away her children because she was a bad mother. Despite the entreaties of the DHF, Shama refused to take any action and the cycle of violence persisted.
The violence continued until one day her husband was beating her so badly that she started to bleed; her oldest son (11 years) grabbed a stick and tried to free his mother by hitting and pushing his father. The father was so enraged that he threw the son across the room violently. Shama was suddenly afraid for her son’s life. Up till now she was the one who took most of the beatings but she could not watch her son being beaten so mercilessly. For the first time, she had the courage to call the police herself and this time she pressed charges. Her husband was jailed for 6 months.
Shama was given support, counseling, even assistance with her grocery, shopping, and laundry from DHF. Still, she was afraid. How would she pay for rent and bills? She decided to take up vocational training, and then started looking for jobs locally where she could walk to work and be close enough to home to take care of her children. She eventually started work full time and could pay for most of her rent and bills.
Shama’s husband was released after 6 months, but he was not allowed to come near her due to a restraining order. Of course he ignored the order and came to the house and begged for forgiveness and Shama forgave him, allowing him to return to the house. After all, he promised that he was a changed man and that he would never drink or hit her. Within one week he went back to his old ways. However, this time Shama was stronger. She knew who to call. Her husband was arrested and this time, he received another year of jail time. While in jail, his green card expired and he was eventually deported.
Today Shama is a strong woman, working full time, paying her rent and bills. She has learned English. She focused on getting her life back on track. She still has fears but when she looks at her children who were once extremely shy and withdrawn now happy and healthy, she regains her strength.
All women have a right to live a life of dignity that is safe and free from violence.Aaina’s Story
Aaina was apprehensive about coming for a psychiatric evaluation to the Domestic Harmony Foundation (DHF). She had sought help because she was experiencing symptoms of anxiety, repeated crying spells, and an inability to focus on her work. These symptoms began after her few-weeks-old infant baby boy was kidnapped by her husband.
Since Aaina got married she had experienced verbal abuse by her husband. She was accused of being unfaithful, often being called a “slut” and questioned for her contacts with her colleagues. She is a physician and had to spend late hours at work at the hospital. The verbal abuse worsened into severe physical abuse after she became pregnant. Even though she tolerated her own abuse she eventually had to leave home when her husband began to abuse Aaina’s three year old daughter (from her first marriage). It was during such an episode that Aaina had to leave home to protect herself and her daughter in such a hurry that she could not pick up her infant from the crib. The baby was taken out of the country by her husband thereafter. Aaina had not seen the baby for almost a year since.
The evaluation indicated Aaina was suffering from Major Depressive Disorder with suicidal ideations. She required immediate psycho pharmacological treatment of antidepressants, which was initiated. Aaina’s symptoms improved but she continued to require medication and psycho therapy. She often became inconsolable thinking of her infant son. She continued her treatment with a psychiatrist from the DHF while she was in New York however she had to move to Kentucky for her residency. Hence she continued telephone contact with her psychiatrist and with her attorney (also from DHF). The FBI was notified of the kidnapping of her infant by her husband and a possibility of the baby being taken out of the country. The infant, an American citizen was indeed taken to Pakistan by her husband who was arrested when he tried to reenter the United States. The baby was reunited with the mother. Now the baby and Dr. Aaina with her older daughter are living happily in Tennessee. She continues to practice as a physician and helps other women and children who are facing abuse and abandonment.
Every woman has the right to live a life of dignity that is safe and free from violence.