My abuser was my wife and it went on for a period of about seven years of marriage and the subsequent separation. The abuse I received falls into four out of five categories as defined by the home office of the UK government. I was subjected to psychological, physical, financial, and emotional. I only realised this many categories after I separated, as had assumed that DV was only of the physical kind.
The abuse was occurred in four countries, Malaysia, Qatar, Bahrain and UK (my original home), as we were expats. It also occurred across religion and disability.
The first known abuse I can remember was two years into the marriage (Malaysia) when I was assaulted with an object into my eye orbit (a common target). It had been triggered by my wife having a meltdown about the defects of the house that we had moved into. Somehow it was my fault, even though she had bought it before we married. The same behaviour was repeated six months later. The financial abuse comprised of taking my salary in Malaysia without any explanation as to where it was going (she earned a lot more than me).
When I eventually challenged the financial issue, I was threatened with deportation. During our time in Malaysia, my wife threatened suicide. I discovered later that she had made a previous suicide plan after her first divorce with details to make it look like an accident, Why an accident? Because it’s a sin in her religion to commit suicide and you can be sectioned by doctors.
There were also episodes of jealousy from my wife in that she was afraid that someone else would steal me from her — particularly another Malaysian. There were comments in her own law office as to why would I marry her, which knocked her self-esteem a bit.
We eventually relocated to Qatar because my wife was offered a position of lawyer in an international law firm. She got this as a second chance and a big favour. She had interrogated a major equity partner in the job interview, which caused a scandal with her own boss and nearly broke the political partnership between her current and future employer.
Even with this seemingly fresh start the abuse started again. I was denied the right to work in the Qatar without an excessively strict criterion (thus rendering me unemployed). I had no say in the financial decisions that affected our family. My wife had a terrible habit of maxing out credit cards and not paying them, to which I had to remind her that many expats abscond because they lose their jobs and cannot pay (defaulting on loans/debts is a criminal offence).
All of this was enforced with threats of divorce, termination of my spouse visa, deportation (a pattern from most of the countries we lived in) and the threat of never seeing my Qatari born daughter again.
Further violent behaviour ensued such as throwing big heavy shelves and their contents out of cupboards and slamming big heavy doors (an angry woman is surprisingly strong), and hitting me in the face (eye orbit) with a glass bottle. Our infant/toddler daughter was a witness to many of these behaviours, including being caught in the cross fire as she was in my arms when I was assaulted or had hot tea thrown at me.
Jealousy and now paranoia raised its head as she was afraid that some other Asian woman (whether expat or domestic help) would steal me away from her. She had this obsession that many people thought she was a Filipina maid. At one point she threatened suicide again, but this time to kill our daughter as well.
My daughter and I are both sensory disabled and rely on equipment to help us participate in everyday life (my daughter needs it for her childhood development) and we both had regular check-ups in the UK. My wife became resentful of this going as far as to cause damage to my senses.
The doctors had advised us both that the best person to raise our daughter at home was dad because he understood his daughters developmental needs having been through the same situation. My relationship with our daughter made her very positive and independent despite her disability except around her mother’s episodes. It allowed my wife to have her legal career for which we had relocated to the Persian Gulf and allowed me to bond closely with my daughter, as I had from day one. This made my wife very resentful and jealous. I was accused of having an affair whilst we lived in Qatar with an unknown person in another country based on something a former work colleague of hers had stated on her Facebook!
After my wife had outstayed her welcome in Qatar, we relocated to Bahrain. Again the abuse continued amidst the Arab spring. The jealousy continued when we hired a lovely Filipino grandmother as a cleaner in our house in Bahrain. My wife said that the good news was that she was too old to have an affair with me.
This same person was instructed by my wife to report my movements to her and spy on me, so that when I attempted to contact family or friends (I was at that point not allowed contact) with my daughter on Skype, I was threatened with divorce and never to see my daughter again if I continued. I had to sneak up onto the flat roof of my home at midnight to Skype my friends and family in order maintain secrecy.
My wife’s mental state became gradually worse with more confrontations with her work colleagues (a pattern repeated in all of the previous six jobs she had during our marriage). Threats of divorce, removal of my daughter and a demand to let her have a child with another man because she wanted a “normal child” followed again.
On one of the last trips we made to the UK for my daughter’s health checks, my wife assaulted me in our house. My 15-month old daughter was screaming and refusing to let go of me as she watched her mother physically restrain me and beat me around the head and eventually bit me. From that point, my wife denied our daughter’s disability removing the medically prescribed equipment and thus impairing her development.
She practiced PAS, withholding our daughter from my company at every point in the day when she was she was not at work (our daughter went to a nursery during the working week). I was referred to as a gold digger, parasite and reminded how the English courts/police would never believe my allegations of abuse and that I would never see my daughter ever again.
The psychological and emotional abuse was comprised of derogatory comments about my disability, although she was happy to milk it to elevate her status in her culture/religion as a redeemer after she abandoned her first marriage. I was blamed for the disability of our daughter even when she knew the possible risks during the pregnancy and willingly accepted it. I was blamed for every fault that happened in her life, including her behaviour issues in the various jobs she held over the years. I was used as an emotional punching bag and was told, “It’s your fault — you made me do it”.
So why didn’t I go to the police?
In Malaysia, I’m neither of the majority race nor a national. The local police had a reputation for corruption and did not tolerate criticism of members of their race by foreigners let alone other nationals outside of their own race or religion. In the Gulf, again the local police were considered untrained and comprised more of rent a cops from outside the country. Even the local population resented them (part of the grievances in the Arab spring). In the UK, most people confirmed the gender bias of the police in DV matters and I didn’t want to risk being removed from my own home and not be able to protect my daughter. As we didn’t live in the UK at the time of the assault I knew the local authorities would not be sympathetic.
I couldn’t leave the relationship because I could not protect my daughter from her mother’s behaviour if I left. But I did choose eventually to flee (from Bahrain) after a 45-minute verbal abuse incident. Her behaviour became so erratic that it reminded me of her mental state the previous year in which she had threatened suicide and to kill our daughter.
After I went back to the UK, the abuse continued in a different form. She tried to foreclose on our home in UK to make me homeless and did not acknowledge my requests to see my daughter. I was petitioned for Sharia divorce (from Bahrain) with 12 days’ notice, so from the UK I had to struggle to find a Sharia lawyer in time willing to represent me or I’d automatically lose.
That process itself was seriously flawed as our civil marriage was not recognised under the law even though we were married in the UK and state registered. My wife attempted to use a ceremony certificate from a mosque in the UK as a marriage certificate. The same mosque stated that it was not a marriage certificate and that they cannot perform it until we are legally married under UK civil law (to prevent sham marriages).
I found a credit report my wife had taken out on herself just before we got married. She was in debt for 1.7 million. She had previously lied to me about this when I had asked her before our marriage about any debt. She had multiple properties overseas with defaulted loans. This led me to think that our entire marriage had been a sham
I was accused of abuse against my wife and our daughter and of not providing financially (even though my wife wouldn’t allow me to work and I became the at home dad to care for our disabled daughter). The court threw out the abuse allegations after I provided a very detailed account of her assault on me and the photo of the bruises and bite-marks on my body. Even though I could prove that I had provided early on in the marriage with proof of salary and work visas, it was not enough for them. To counter it I would have to provide two Muslim witnesses who could back that up, so that I could not do in a country where I did not know anyone.
Worst of all was the secret custody hearing in Bahrain, of which myself and my lawyer were not informed at any point (as required by law), until they gave my wife full custody. I was not allowed any relationship with my daughter because I don’t live there. We appealed on the grounds of the secrecy and the child abuse, but the abuse was not considered un-Islamic, which you need in order to remove the custody from the mother to the father.
My wife appealed against her own custody award, demanding alimony despite her very high salary. The court threw that out. They did ask her to consider moving to the UK for the sake of the child to let her see her father, but she refused with a statement I have yet to ever see. My counter memo was in Arabic so I don’t know what was said, other than what looks like a counter argument against accusations. I am currently waiting to go through a UK family court as the Bahraini court judgement is not considered legal for many reasons.
In His Own Words/In Her Own Words is an effort to help raise awareness about the invisible victims of domestic violence, men. If you would like to submit your story, please follow the guidelines at the end of this article.
Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD helps individuals work through their relationship and codependency issues via telephone or Skype. She specializes in helping men and women trying to break free of an abusive relationship, cope with the stress of an abusive relationship or heal from an abusive relationship. Coaching individuals through high-conflict divorce and custody cases is also an area of expertise. She combines practical advice, emotional support and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Schedule a Session page for more information.
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