My name is Farah and I am thirty years old. I once led a happy life, living with my parents, studying, and working. But that was all before I fell in love with my ex-husband.
We met on Facebook, where we spoke for some time before he asked to meet me. I invited him to my family’s home and, as soon as we laid eyes on each other, we fell for each other – we became entirely infatuated with one another. Even at that time, I knew how much of a heavy drug user he was, but because I loved him so much, I thought I would be able to change him or make something of him. He was unemployed and my parents didn’t approve of our relationship. He had nothing to his name and no plans for the future, but still I came to love him.
The beatings started as soon as we got married, but I couldn’t share my pain with anyone because of how my family felt about him. I had nowhere to go. As newlyweds, we were living with his parents, who would constantly get involved in our life, and he would beat me whenever I spoke back or spoke up. He was also verbally abusive, but the physical abuse was constant. I was his scapegoat whenever he got angry with anyone in his family. If his sister misbehaved or upset him, he would take it out on me.
Eventually, I offered to get a job to pay rent for a home of our own, mostly as a way to escape living with my in-laws. I found work at the Eldorado shopping center, where I would stay for three years, which allowed us to move into our own place. However, it wasn’t long before his parents started sleeping at our house, causing problems again and doing drugs with my husband.
And then I got pregnant. I thought that the beatings might stop, but they didn’t.
That’s when he started hitting me again. If he woke up and asked for a man’oushe, and I refused because I would be late to work, that would be enough to set him off. Eventually, I gave into everything he wanted to avoid his beatings. He even forbid me from seeing my parents, so I would sneak out to meet them without his knowledge. They never intervened, however, because we were afraid of what he would do to me if they did. Even after all that, I never considered leaving him. Every time I worked up the courage to leave, he would ask for forgiveness, and I would pity him. We loved each other so much and I kept hoping that he would change.
And then I got pregnant. I thought that the beatings might finally stop, but they never did. He would throw plastic chairs at me and beat me so badly that I would start vomiting and think that I was having a miscarriage. It’s not that he wasn’t happy about becoming a father, but he wasn’t ready. He was ashamed that I was the breadwinner and he was the househusband and was mostly worried about his reputation. I tried to encourage him to get a job, and I paid dearly for that every time.
I eventually delivered, but he wasn’t there for our daughter’s birth. On the way out of the hospital, though, he was so high that he punched me in the stomach for asking to stay at my parents’ house with the new baby. Instead, we moved back in with his parents before finally moving into an apartment they gave us.
Last year, I got really sick, probably as a result of the abuse. My husband didn’t have any money at the time to take me to hospital, so my sister took me to see a doctor and I was sent home with an IV drip. He hated the fact that she had covered my hospital bill.
One day, as I was lying down at home with my daughter, she accidentally hit the drip, which caused me to start bleeding profusely. I freaked out and woke him up – he was high and had fallen asleep. I begged him to take me back to the hospital, and he did. When we got there and he saw that there were men working in the clinic, he flipped out. He turned to me and screamed, “Why didn’t you tell me that there were men here?” And then he proceeded to beat me in front of everyone. He snatched the IV from my arm and hit me repeatedly where the needle had just been moments ago. He dragged me all the way home, and no one intervened. His family’s reputation meant that even our neighbors didn’t dare get involved.
Once home, he sat me down on a chair and continued to scream at me, telling me that I should have told him that I was around men. He hit me so badly that my eyes started bulging out. He threw me on the floor and stomped my stomach until I threw up. Finally, when the beating stopped, I was able to go to sleep – but that wasn’t the end of it for him. The next day, he woke me up and, with a ring and hand corset on, the beatings started again. All of this in front of our daughter.
But I had finally had enough. It was time to leave. I begged him to stop hitting me long enough to feed our daughter, who hadn’t eaten. He grabbed her and left the house, leaving the door open. That was my chance, and I took it. I fled.
I went to the gendarmerie with my sister, but the officers refused to take my case. According to them, they would only intervene if this were a homicide, so I contacted Kafa, an NGO in Lebanon that works to put a stop to the abuse and exploitation of women. We filed a complaint, and my husband was arrested that same day. I moved into a Kafa shelter, and my daughter was brought to me. Eventually, I was able to move back in with my parents, where I live to this day.
Before I left my husband, I couldn’t look anyone in the eye – let alone talk to people. Today, I am a responsible, happy woman. I am now fully independent. The only thing I regret is not leaving earlier. I shouldn’t have been so patient because I wasted a part of my life. Only now am I starting to live again. We were married for nine years, and I put him in jail for an entire year until he divorced me and granted me sole custody of our child. We’ve now been divorced for about six months and my daughter is being cared for by my parents. She doesn’t think about the past and is living a life we would never even dream of. All of her needs and wants are cared for.
Since then, he’s contacted me a few times, asking me to come back. When he was first released from prison, I was so frightened that I went back to Kafa’s shelter, a place where no one can find you. The social worker assigned to my case asked me to be strong and to know that I am able to face him. So I took her advice. If I had not confronted him, I would not have had the power to speak up.
Before I left my husband, I couldn’t look anyone in the eye – let alone talk to people. Today, I am a responsible, happy woman. I am now fully independent.
I was now free of him, but needed to find a way to support myself financially. Kafa introduced me to Phenomenal Women, a company that helps abused women find economic independence. Rana and Caroline, the founders, taught me and other women from Kafa how to prepare for interviews, talk to business owners, dress well, and conduct ourselves. I took an interest in sewing and embroidery and worked with them on a collection in collaboration with a Lebanese designer, Nour Najem, which was later sold to the public. I also got a full-time job, where I still work to this day.
We’re currently working on a new collection, which will be sold in Dubai in April [if you’re interested in receiving an invitation to this event, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Each piece in our collections is one-of-a-kind, and embroidered with the story of the woman who worked on it. In my case, I use bite marks to illustrate what happened to me. It’s a very cathartic moment, to see your hard work come to life like that.
If you’re reading this and going through something similar, I want you to know that you shouldn’t be afraid. One incident is enough for you to take action. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Don’t blame yourself. You didn’t sign up for this. Also, know that not all men are like this. There are good people out there and it is possible to get help.
Call Kafa: +9613018019
Phenomenal Women, in collaboration with Goodness and Savoir Flair, will be hosting a trunk show in Dubai for the sale of clothing created by survivors of gender-based violence in Lebanon. Contact email@example.com for more information.