He threatened me that I would be deported.

Mariam's story

My husband was already working in Switzerland when I met him. His family lived just a few streets away from me in my hometown. He was the eldest son, and his family was so proud of him. After all, he was the son who managed to build a successful life abroad. When he visited his relatives during the summer holidays, we met by chance, and I fell head over heels.

In the beginning, he was so good to me. He was loving, gave me jewellery and wrote me love letters. My family was delighted, they thought I had met the perfect man. After only a few months, we got married in a traditional ceremony and I moved to Switzerland.

Everything was new. The language, the culture, the weather, the people. I had no knowledge of German nor French. Then my husband changed. He did not allow me to leave the house or meet other people. He did not give me any money. At home I was not allowed to sit on the sofa and watch TV - I had to be busy. Cleaning, cooking, tidying up. When I did not obey, he hit me. The first time it happened I was so shocked. I did not understand why he was doing this to me. But then I thought: It only happened once. And then: It only happened twice. And every time he’d been violent, he came to me the next morning and begged for forgiveness: "I'm so sorry. I was drinking, I lost my patience. I’m so sorry. It will never happen again."

On the phone, I talked to my husband's family and asked for advice. They told me if I were a better wife, he would treat me better. I was not allowed to talk to my own family, my husband did not allow me to have a phone. My biggest fear was that I would lose our daughter. He kept threatening me: "If you say anything to anyone, I'll take our daughter and you will be deported."

I did not know the laws in Switzerland. I did not know there were women's shelters or victim advisory centres. I also did not know that I could have talked to my doctor or my social worker. In my country, men are allowed to treat their wives however they want. I googled for information in my language but found nothing.

One night it all became too much. He started beating me again, severely this time, and I knew: “This can't go on, I must save myself and my child.” I grabbed our daughter and ran out of the door. For hours I walked through the wet streets in socks, desperately looking for the police. When I found a police car at last, I told them in broken German what had happened. The police were very good to me and took me to the police station, after that to a women's shelter.

The social workers in the women’s shelter saved me. I learned that domestic violence is prohibited by law. I learned that I am allowed to divorce my marriage and that I have rights. Unfortunately, I learned too late that it would have been good if I had documented the abuse.

Today, I am divorced. I am free and happy - and so is my daughter. I teach my daughter values I wish I had known. I want her to know: No man in the world has the right to treat her badly.