A month ago, I was really enjoying my time at university. I am a wheelchair user, so some things were more difficult for me, like getting from one lecture to another. But my uni had lots of ramps and my classmates were really helpful too. Everything was great until two weeks ago.

My mum told me that she had found a man for me to marry, a much older man who didn’t mind about my disability. I was so angry, I couldn’t even speak. My mum said that I was ungrateful and should be glad that this man wanted to marry me. I told my mum that I will marry if and when I choose to, and that just because I use a wheelchair doesn’t mean I need a husband to be my carer.

We didn’t speak to each other for a couple of days. When I talked to my brothers, they just shrugged and said that I shouldn’t complain. I wished that I lived in halls, far away from home. Finally my mum came to me and told me that I had no choice but to marry this man, that nobody else would ever want me. She said that everything had already been arranged, we were flying home at Christmas for the wedding and there was nothing I could do about it. She said my brothers would make sure I got on the plane. I felt utterly helpless.

The next day at uni I knew I had to act quickly. I told my best friend what had happened and she came with me to the student counsellor. They gave me the number of a women’s refuge. I stayed with my friend that night, but the next day my mum came into the university to find me. I told her that I wasn’t coming home. I couldn’t believe what I was doing, that I was leaving my mum and my brothers. But she hadn’t given me any other choice.

I called the refuge, but they didn’t have any spaces. They gave me a few more numbers to try. I almost gave up at that point, but my friend convinced me to keep trying. After an hour of phoning, I finally found one refuge that had a space. I was half relieved, half terrified. I moved into the refuge that evening. I didn’t take any of my belongings with me, I was too scared of what my brothers might do if I went back to the house. I have had to stop going into uni, as they will definitely be looking for me there.

I can’t believe where I was a month ago and where I am now. I never thought I would go to a women’s refuge, but here I am. It’s so hard. Without my family I feel so alone. Sometimes I really miss my mum, in spite of what she was trying to do. To be honest, sometimes I feel like going back home and just going along with the marriage. My friends have to constantly remind me that I’m doing the right thing and in my heart I know they’re right. I may have a disability but I have the same rights as everyone else. I deserve better than being forced into marriage.

Select Story