I came to Canada alone with my husband 15 years ago. It was a difficult adjustment because I didn't know anyone, didn't know English and would barely leave the house because everything seemed so foreign. As newcomers to the country, we struggled financially, coping with harsh winters and culture shock, but I soon gave birth to two beautiful children that made everything worth it. From far away, we seemed like the typical immigrant family. Unfortunately, underneath the surface were the hidden family secrets. The ones I tried to hide and "get over".
My husband was a violent and abusive man. Every conversation with him felt like I was walking on eggshells. If I said one wrong thing, it would set him off. If dinner wasn't ready on time or if he had a bad day at work, those would be the days I would dread the most. I was his punching bag. I wanted to go out and learn English, but he wouldn't allow me. He refused to let me work. Everything I did was controlled by him and I was entirely dependent on him. During my first pregnancy, when we found out it was going to be a girl, he was disgusted. He wanted a male to carry on the family name. I was so in love with her, he barely looked at her after she was born. He wasn't happy until the second child I conceived ended up being a boy.
As time went on, his anger got worse. His beatings got worse. Then he started hitting my daughter. That's when I decided enough is enough. I couldn't take it anymore. I couldn't live in fear every day of my life, and more importantly, I couldn't stand by and watch him hurt my daughter without doing anything. One day, I packed my bags, I took my children and walked out of the house. I had heard about a place called Nisa Homes which provided women with temporary shelter. I called them and thankfully was able to move in. I filed for divorce and got legal custody of my two children. They spent the weeks with me and the weekends with their dad.
Even though things were tough, the kids were great and went along without complaints. They had to change schools and take public transportation to get from place to place. They went from having an apartment to living in a room at Nisa Homes. They didn't have their electronic gadgets or video games.
Unfortunately, with time, their father started influencing them. They would come back from their weekend visits and tell me that I'm just trying to break the family apart. That because of me they are uncomfortable. They wanted things to go back to normal, to go out with friends, play video games, get dropped off at school and not take two buses back and forth. It was heartbreaking for me to argue with them and stand my ground. I didn't have anything to offer as I was still trying to get my life in order, learn English, find a job and find a home. In the end, in a legal court battle, he won custody of them. Now they live with him during the week and spend weekends with me.
I still stood my ground and refused to go back to him. I wasn't going to let him control or manipulate me anymore. He thought taking the kids would make me run back home, but I had other plans. I was going to get my independence and get my children back inshAllah. I started building my life together piece by piece. I took English lessons, found a minimum wage job, worked tirelessly day in and out until I could afford my own apartment.
If it wasn't for Nisa Homes, none of this would have been possible. They helped me find myself, they gave me a voice, they gave me food and shelter when I had nothing to give in return, and most importantly they showed me empathy and love. If it wasn't for them, I would have given up on life and killed myself if I had to live another day locked up in that house with him.
To help us keep providing shelter for women in need, please donate online today at www.nisahomes.com/donate