“Abuse is like being in a war film, where people are imprisoned because they don’t know anything beyond it” Nazma Khatun says
“I am no longer a victim to him, I went through a tough time, but it’s only made my relationships with people better. It’s made my life better” Nazma Khatun, a counsellor and psychotherapist from Manchester tells me.
Nazma Khatun, a single mum of two children, changed her life for the better when she divorced the man who left her homeless with their six-month old daughter.
She now works with women who may be going through similar experiences as she did and aims to challenge and change the limited beliefs they may have about themselves.
In 2017, she opened her own practice, working from home in Levenshulme. She did this after working in the field of psychotherapy and counselling for ten years but this all came following many years of abuse and hardship.
Soon after she left sixth form, Nazma was taken to Bangladesh and was introduced and married to a relative there.
She said: “I got married to someone I didn’t know, I hadn’t seen. When I got back, I knew that there was no compatibility and there was just nothing there. I ended up getting divorced at 19”.
When she accepted a new job in a small office a few months later, Nazma received a proposal off a man she was working with but had not dated.
Nazma accepted the proposal thinking it would be a new beginning and that he was going to be the man of her dreams.
She explained: “There was so much pressure at home, being the eldest and getting told that nobody would ever marry me again, that I had brought shame onto the family, so I did it. I thought I bagged myself a handsome, charismatic guy”.
Now, as a psychotherapist and counsellor, she realises that the warning signs were there but just didn’t think of him as abusive when she married him.
“I had a similar abuse pattern in my home life, you know, getting shouted at when I lost my keys or when I left the window open. You just think it’s only small things, I thought it was normal. I just thought he was a little hot headed like my dad was, but I was naive.
“When I was growing up my dad was strict, boys weren’t in my radar, I didn’t really speak to my brothers and my first encounter with a boy was my marriage” she said.
From the moment the abuse all began, Nazma knew that her marriage was going to be challenging and managed to file the divorce after 10 years.
She said: “I told him so much about my past, how hard the first divorce was, and I put him on a pedelstal from the moment I met him, so he used it all against me. Anytime something would go wrong, he would say ‘I will tell your family’ or ‘I will divorce you’.
“At that time, he knew that getting divorced was my biggest fear, I really didn’t want to go through that again” she added.
Nazma described her marriage to be like a “rollercoaster, a really fast one where you have little relief as it comes down, but the cycle continues, and you drop again”.
She continued: “I ended up in hospital numerous times, I was homeless with my six-month-old daughter at one point because he’d kicked me out and taken everything, it was just too much and there was this big ordeal throughout our entire marriage”.
After getting divorced, Nazma followed through with her passion within the field of psychology and qualified as a psychotherapist using her experiences to help others.
“It’s really interesting how we think that nobody will believe us when something like this is happening. That is what abuse does to you, they tell you you’re emotionally unstable and you believe it. It’s reverse psychology because as soon as you’re ready to stand up for yourself, you’re in defence mode”.
She views abuse almost like a war film, where people don’t want to leave because of the lack of skills they have, they stay imprisoned because they don’t know what it’s like beyond it.
“That is the power of being in an abusive relationship. You tell yourself it is going to get better because you’re so afraid of what might happen if you leave” she said.
Nazma took up counselling two years into her marriage and found herself telling people what was happening when she lost her keys or forgot to close the window at home.
“There is a lack of people talking about domestic abuse and taboo around the subject. We need to stop victim shaming, the idea that you have done something wrong, so a person can hit you? No, there is nothing, nothing on earth that you can do to make it okay for someone to hit you or abuse you for” she said.
She believes that the idea of victim shaming within culture and religion is ludicrous and found going to Imam’s (Muslim leader) difficult whilst married.
“My religion is everything to me, I could not have gone through this without it but some of these people I went to speak to said ‘have sabr’ (patience) but that is not what sabr is. Sabr is not staying in a marriage getting beaten up, it is perseverance and fighting depression.”
Nazma speaks her faith as something that kept her going and believes that people who are in abusive relationships are in dangerous grounds with whatever faith they have.
“You wake up in the morning, you think about whether he’s pleased with you, whether you’re dressed right, whether you’re doing enough, all to make sure that you are okay. I think the divorce is just a small part, the real issue is what abuse does to your faith and mindset” she said.
Nazma encourages women to take action, whether it is big or small, to read, to learn and to expose themselves and to break the cycle of abuse.
“There are so many services out there to help you, many are free, some available in the middle of the night that don’t come up on your phone bill. I used services such as Women’s Aid who really helped.
“Do this for you because investing something like this is so important and it could change your entire life” she said.
Nazma has set up a YouTube page to share seminars which is over at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8gm032LPp44H3NU_m-vgvA/featured