By Faz zia
THIS week, I would like to share a story of a brave woman as I thought we are just around the corner to celebrate Women’s Day and is better to share some stories where you can see how a woman can raise herself up after a dark storm.
I asked a woman (Sunny Angel) who was abused for years and escaped one day and after she decided to help others rather then to be a depressed and play victim all her life.
Q: Tell us about your background and a story of your life.
Sunny: I was born in England from Indian Parents. My Dad was only 3 years old on the ‘Great Partition’ time. My grandparents often spoke of the harrowing stories before they passed away. My Dad came to England for work and went back to India to marry my mum for an arranged marriage in the 70’s. Growing up in England was all I have ever known, odd times we travelled back to India to see immediate family such as Grandparents, Cousins, Aunts and Uncles. The Indian way of life was so different – Poles apart. We had to be Indian but in England. I went through racial bullying at school, as I suspect every other kid did. It just became the norm. I didn’t ‘fit in’ England or ‘fit in’ India. I didn’t understand what ‘culture’ meant – I just wanted to be me. I was the only daughter, middle child, two brothers.
During my College days in 1997, I had a stalker at 17. He admitted that he followed me for a year, but I didn’t realise until the last 3 months until it became very intense. He was a 40 year old Pakistani Muslim man (married with kids) He targeted me because I was vulnerable and naïve. He had many victims already, I was his 9th victim. No one would listen to me. I didn’t have a good relationship with family, we were dysfunctional. I tried my best to seek help from the authorities, they turned me away saying it was my ‘culture’. The stalker then used fear to groom me. He threatened to burn my parent’s home down while they all slept. He said he would throw acid on my mum’s face, he’d stab my brothers and kill my dad if I didn’t do what he wanted. So I just gave in as I could not risk it. He isolated me from my friends and family. He turned my family against me, they wanted me dead. I had nowhere to go. The Stalker then became my abuser. He raped me, held me captive in a dark locked room for 6 months. He put cigarette burns on my back, cut me with glass and whipped me with his leather belt. He threatened to cut my body up in pieces. He withheld food, water and toilet from me. He took all my money and made me take out bank loans for him. He used to drag me around at 4am for air sometimes with a rope around my waist, just enough to keep me alive. After so many rapes, I just became numb. I now have a big wings tattoo to cover all the scars of the past. This represents my freedom.
Q: When and how did you escaped?
Sunny: On 5th December 1997, I escaped. He accidentally left the door unlocked and was away. I called the police and was escorted to see my parents. I was sent to India alone for 3 months. I was forced to have an exorcism. I was seen as ‘damaged goods’ rather than a ‘rape victim’ who needed support. On my return to England I was uncomfortable in the family home, I was seen as a problem to get rid off. I felt unwanted and I was so ashamed. The stalker came back, causing more problems for my family. I left the house and I went to a homeless shelter. I asked the police for help – they said ‘no crime’ Its ‘culture’. At the homeless shelter for 3 weeks I was building my pieces again, distraught. The stalker finds me yet again as does my mum, to arrange my marriage. To end my pain, I take an overdose of sleeping pills and pain killers and cut my wrists with a razor. I thought it would be my way out, I was desperate, I had nowhere else to go. Suicide is never the answer- and if anyone out there reading this is suicidal – please do get help. At the time it was difficult. I woke up in the hospital the next afternoon angry that ‘death had rejected me’. I vowed, that I will build my pieces back differently – and safeguard as many as I could when I am stronger. Life is a precious gift, I am glad I failed that day.
Q: You have been forced to get married?
Sunny: After the overdose incident, because I survived, my family married my off. They gave me a choice of husbands…but not a choice of if I can get married. I saw a few and then picked the less scary one. ‘Ajay’ (not his real name) seemed quiet. We hardly spoke and he didn’t look threatening like the others. We didnt make eye contact, we only met at our wedding events and once before at ‘the chat’. Turned out Ajay’s family was dowry hungry and used him as a pawn. Ajay had a disability and was forced to rape me at his mother’s orders. The marriage lasted 4 months after much dowry abuse and violence.
Q: You married again with Irish man?
Sunny: I then moved on after my divorce and started to grow and learn to be independent. I travelled the world with my Irish husband Ray who sadly passed away in June 2004, leaving me widowed at 25.
Q: how did you start with book and women empowerment?
Sunny: As a single mum I inspire and empower my daughter and many others across the world. I sold my motorbike to self publish my book Wings (available worldwide on Amazon and Book Depository). I go target shooting. I deactivated my AK47 Kalashnikov and turned it into Art to show that the ‘Pen is Mightier’ it was on exhibition at the House of Icons show at London Fashion Week in Kensington, London.
At 40, I’m now a Cognitive Behaviour Therapist, a Reiki Grandmaster, Author of Wings, Survivor Ambassador and a Speaker and Campaigner. I now do talks and speeches with judges, police, social workers, teachers (multi agency) universities, charities and more to teach them that it is not ‘culture’ it is abuse. Those Asians being abused is the same as the next person. Culture should not be a banner to hide crime under. Too many victims suffer– this needs to change.
I help many other victims and survivors that have gone through similar experiences through counselling, CBT and Reiki.
Collectively, we need to change the mindsets of those who watch and do nothing, they are complicit. We have a duty to stand up and speak out. Silence helps no one. We all know what is right and wrong. Abuse is not love. No one should ever feel alone in a world full of billions of people.