Dear Jasvinder

Questions & Answers

Is it normal to miss my family?

Yes. Missing your family is an entirely natural reaction. Even if you were mistreated, the loss you are experiencing is completely understandable. These people are your family, you have grown up with and love them. During these times you may feel like contacting them just wishing to hear a familiar voice, a mother, sister, brother or father. You might be hoping that they will hear and understand your point of view. Or if time has passed, that things might have improved. At these times it will be important to remember why you left and to think clearly.

Give yourself a reality check. Do you think things will be different? Are they really going to allow you to be free and make independent choices? Is it right for people to hurt you just because they are your family? Picture yourself returning home compared to how relieved you felt when you first experienced freedom. It is at these times we encourage you to call the helpline and read the stories of others just like you. Many others have experienced just what you are going through and yet they stood by their decision and survived.

Am I a bad person for doing this to my family?

The first thing to know is that you have not done anything wrong. But, equally, we understand that your family will make you feel as if you have dishonoured them and this can make you feel bad. They might have made you feel worse by guilt-tripping you and making up stories. They may say things like “come home now, your mother is ill” or “we can’t show our faces now because of you.” Remember that this is emotional blackmail designed to make you give up and even give in and go back.

It is not bad to stand up and ask for the right to choose who you want to marry or to live a life free from abuse. It is the right thing to do and it makes you a good person. But feeling bad is normal because families want this. Remember that you’re choosing your own wonderful future, rather than giving them more power over you.

How can I manage risk from my family?

The risk from family members is a reality for many who leave and there are many ways we can help you keep safe. But it starts with you. First of all, you have to accept you are at risk. However much we love our families in this situation there is always a risk. If time has passed and you think they will probably be OK seeing you now, consider whether or not to meet them carefully as they may be biding their time. Every time you connect with family it can bring a risk to you and your children. If your family does not know of your whereabouts then it will be important to keep this information safe. Families go to great lengths to find those who leave and may even recruit people to find them.

We provide various options for support but they all depend on your circumstances. Here are a few to consider in reducing harm to you: you can change your name by deed poll, get help with safeguarding your national insurance numbers, use a PO Box number for correspondence. It is advisable to consider changing your mobile phone number and not engaging on social networking sites such as Facebook. Only tell trusted people of your whereabouts and let people know where you are going and when you are returning if you are away. If you feel your family is capable of significant harm, call the police so they can undertake a risk assessment and place safety measures around you without contacting your family.

I think I regret my decision, did I do the right thing?

The decision to leave abuse and especially your family, is one of the biggest and most difficult things you will do in your lifetime. This decision is life-changing and many come to question it, especially during difficult times. Only you know how you felt when you lived a life with abuse and within a family that put honour or izzat before your happiness. When you feel this way, try to remind yourself what life would be like if you had stayed. Then compare how you feel today. Many survivors do this exercise as it helps them consider the person they were and how far they have come. It is normal to regret. But you must move forward. Stay strong.

I have ended up lonely, maybe it was better to stay at home?

Loneliness is extremely painful for anyone. But with survivors, who often have to give up their old life, it can be deeply painful. The moments of intense loneliness are when you must think about connecting with other Survivor Ambassadors through this platform. Read the stories of those who have gone through what you’re experiencing, engage with our helpline and talk to us.

We understand, we want to speak to you. We will also give you the option to speak directly with a survivor like you. We may also be able to extend our service to support you with advocacy for emotional support where you live. The feeling of being lonely is powerful and it can make you regret breaking free of honour-based abuse. At these times remind yourself of why you made your decision. What was life like at home? What would it be like if you went back on your decision? Loneliness can leave us feeling vulnerable, so seek strength in Survivor Ambassadors during these times.

They are telling me to come home, they say my mother is sick?

People will employ all sorts of tactics to get you to come back home. But remember they wish to restore their honour/izzat. They may have lied about where you are today to protect their reputation until they can talk you into coming back home. Many survivors are told they are forgiven, or emotionally blackmailed to get you to come back. But you must remember that this is a tactic.

One survivor told us how her mother had a so-called heart attack six times. She was told that returning home was the cure. But this is when things got worse. Her words of wisdom to other survivors? “Don’t believe them, no one dies in the family but victims can and do get killed.” Our guidance is for you to consider the risks of contact with families who use emotional blackmail to get you to act. They are usually lying, so seek advice from Survivor Ambassadors if in doubt.

It’s my birthday and no one cares if I am dead or alive?

Happy birthday. Merry Christmas, Eid Mubarak, Graduation. We are here to remind you that we care and wish to celebrate birthdays, festivals and life landmarks with you. We care that you are alive and we urge you to become a Survivor Ambassador. By joining this network you will become a part of our community. We understand the need to belong and be part of something. Survivor Ambassadors is not your family but we can come close to providing a support network in the absence of one.

My children don’t have their family anymore now, have I ruined their future?

If you have experienced abuse and your family did not protect you then take heart. You have paved the way for your children’s future. Your decision means your children never have to inherit the legacy of abuse.

Congratulations, you have broken the cycle. Imagine watching your children embrace freedom, independence, graduating and having the right to choose whomever they wish to marry. Let us remind you how your decision will provide them with these choices and impact on future generations of children and grandchildren. 

Am I shameful, I do so many things that would be seen as shameful by my family?

You may have been taught not to bring shame upon your family. This may mean you understand how certain behaviours can be deemed shameful. You may also have lived a life where you felt as if you were torn between two cultures and hid one from the family.

Today you have embraced the freedom and right to express yourself importantly. A life without honour-based restrictions. It may take time to adjust to a life which allows you choices and freedoms without fear of the repercussions. Try not to feel guilty or ashamed of your new happiness. We’d recommend that you read the survivor blogs on this site to discover the great things other survivors have done and are doing with their lives. Recognise that you have created this new life and given yourself the opportunity of release and realise your dreams.

Why me? Am I the only one to do this to my family?

This is a question many survivors ask. Among them is our founder, Jasvinder Sanghera, who was one of seven sisters and was the only one to oppose the forced marriage her parents imposed upon them. Jasvinder describes feeling that she had let her family down, yet she loved them so much.

The questions going through her mind related to how none of her sisters questioned the family’s motives, so why did she? Why was she different? Did she love her family less than her sisters? So many questions race through your mind but the key thing to remember is how normal this is and how courageous you are to honour how you felt and act. Remind yourself that you made this choice and how different things would be for you if you had not made it. Please remember that you have not done anything to your family in seeking the most basic thing: your freedom and the right to choose whom you want to marry. It was your family that did this to you.

Am I cursed, is this kismet, am I mad and bad?

Families use many tactics to distract you from their abuse towards you. Some make you believe you are cursed, mad and bad. This is designed to make you conform and various methods can be used, including black magic and physical punishments to ensure you conform to their way of thinking.

Remember, this is ABUSE. Some will use the kismet that somehow you are destined for a particular way of life or even a marriage etc. Again this is a tactic to ensure you conform to their way of thinking and is designed to make you feel guilty.

I could just go through with the marriage and then leave?

Many victims are told that they should marry and sponsor a foreign national and stay with them until they become a British citizen. This is a manipulative means of getting you to go through with the marriage. Rarely do families accept you leaving them once they become British. The opposite is often true as families start to pressure you to stay with the person and if you have children they will use them as a means to make you feel guilty.

If you are sponsoring a foreign national then you will be expected to financially support their visa by being in employment, which might be a means for you to pursue the studies or career you want.  But please do keep in mind the consequences of a forced marriage, many of which are horrific. You will have to consummate the marriage on your wedding night and will then be forced to stay with your partner. Think carefully if this is a risk you are willing to take.

My mum says I should get married but I can keep my girlfriend?

Men tell us that their families encourage them to do the “dutiful” thing and get married, but they can keep their lives including their girlfriends and express their true sexuality secretly. This is a painful option.

Many undertake it and then struggle with their lives as families begin to pressure them to make the marriage work and produce children. It is important to recognise the long-term impact on you and the person you will marry. In these cases we would advise you to call the helpline and seek guidance. Speak to a Survivor Ambassador about your options.

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