iStock_000005608156_LargeGrowing up, I had all the luxuries in life. My family and I travelled around the country, lived in big houses and went to the best schools and colleges. After completing my master’s degree I started teaching in a distinguished private school in my city. I loved everything about my life as it contained comfort, love, hope and luxuries. I believed it would be like this forever. But then ‘he’ arrived.

One of our family friends brought a proposal from a man who was handsome, well-educated, earning a good living and was settled abroad. Arranged marriages are common in my culture and I was married to him within the next two months. I came to a new and strange country the day after our wedding eagerly looking forward to spending the rest of my life with my husband.

As soon as I landed abroad, I was given a wake-up call by my husband. The person who I thought would protect me for the rest of my life turned out to be the one hurting me.

In our first month of marriage he began to physically and verbally abuse me. He checked my phone calls, forbade me from leaving the house without his consent and I was not allowed to interact with anyone outside of our family.

When our first child was born, I thought our baby might change him, but everything stayed the same. Soon after I had my first daughter, he forced me to have another child as he wanted a son.

My confidence in myself was badly shaken and I started to believe that it was my fault he was hurting me. For five years I struggled to make my marriage work. In our culture a woman is expected to make all sorts of sacrifices to save her marriage as divorced women are nothing but a disgrace to the entire family. I loved him too much to leave and I was afraid I could not survive on my own with two daughters.

But then my prayers were answered and my fate brought me to Canada. Finally, I did what I thought I was not capable of. I decided to stand up for myself on the advice of a friend who urged me to seek the help of police in getting out of this relationship. Believing in the Canadian rule of law, I stepped out of my house with my daughters to fight my own battle in a country that was totally new to me. Shortly afterwards, I arrived at the YWCA Sheriff King Home emergency shelter, which instilled in me the hope that I had lost years ago.

The counsellors helped me get rid of the deep-rooted guilt that held me responsible for everything that happened to me. I was provided with all the things that I needed for myself and my children. I met people who were faced with circumstances similar to mine. I received the best legal advice from the legal supporter at the shelter. I had a chance to meet a trauma counsellor who helped me overcome my fears.

If today I can see the possibility of a better future for myself and my kids, it is because of the support that I received at the YWCA. I don’t know what the future holds for me but I am glad that I stood up for myself and realized that I have the right to be respected.