In late July of 2014 a Facebook Messenger bubble popped up on my phone. It was from a woman who said that her name was Tehmina. She told me that she was from a small town in the Middle East and that she was married, in her early twenties and three months pregnant. She told me that she’d read one of my blog posts on domestic violence and wanted to know if I could chat with her for a bit. I agreed.
Our first Messenger conversation lasted almost two hours. She confided in me about what was going on in her marriage; the infidelity, the beatings, the name calling, the angry tirades. Tehmina was sad and confused. She had gone to school and worked before she met her husband. She’d lived a regular life, happy and full of promise, but since her marriage her life had changed in ways that she hadn’t been able to anticipate. She expressed anger and frustration that nothing she seemed to do was good enough; the way she looked, her weight, even the fact that she’d agreed to cover her hair when she married him. Nothing seemed to please him. I asked her about her options and the picture she painted was predictably bleak. I told her she could message me again if she needed to, which she did several times. I suggested that she move back in with her parents. I asked her to please keep herself as safe as possible while she tried to decide what to do. I suggested that she seek outside assistance but she explained that wasn’t available where she lived. I nicknamed her Mina, and there were times that we talked about things other than the battery. Sometimes we talked about day to day life but discussions about God and our different faith communities came up, as well. Though we became close in our own way, eventually the messaging became less frequent At some point I stopped hearing from her altogether, though I kept a close eye on her Facebook feed.
There were days that she seemed happy and well and filled with hope for the future, espousing love for her seemingly wonderful husband and her beautiful life. She was patiently waiting for her son to be born and the posts about liars and cheats and loathing and fear gave way to colorful blurbs about changing diapers and growing old together. Eventually, a picture of her and her husband cradling their newborn son was shared. It gave no hint of anything other than profound happiness and promise for the future. I hoped that it was what it looked like; that Tehmina had found peace and safety. Unfortunately, within weeks the posts once again started to show signs of the stress. Her son was five weeks old the next time I heard from her.
Hi. Do you have few minutes to chat? Please! I need to talk to you.
I’m here. What’s up?
I can’t take the right decision yet…I must though…I can’t take it anymore…But I am terrified to leave
I know. I’ve seen your posts.
I am terrified of the changes. I don’t know what to do. He is a liar. I have a boy now.
Having a baby doesn’t change most people
He thinks I am a chicken and won’t leave. He didn’t…
He beat me so bad while pregnancy and I didn’t tell or leave
He’s not going to stop.
And now we moved in with his mother in a bad low class place and I lost the privilege of privacy. And I can’t have people over without her coming. Even my family.
It’s time for you to go back to your parents.
He didn’t beat me for a while but he is changing all passwords and leaving me all the time. He is in love with his coworker.
He only loves himself.
Yes, true. I really need the strength Miss Linda. He is so mean. He hurts me so bad emotionally. I just need to put myself together and not chicken out.
You’ve got to be smart about leaving. Find some way to tell your parents, have many people come to get you when he is at work and GO!
Now I am at my parents…should I just stay? I can’t take the lies no more. Or should I wait until he beats me?
It only freaks you out before you go…once you’re out you’ll feel so much better, no matter if you’re in a weird situation. It’ll be so much better, you’ll feel stronger immediately.
A picture of Tehmina shows up on my Messenger feed. It’s only the right side of her face, but her eye is blackened and her lip is fat and purple. She looks exhausted. I swallow hard and try to keep myself together. I have children older than Tehmina. “If this were my daughter,” I think, then let it go. Tehmina is an ocean away and I know very well that you can’t force a battered woman to leave. She’s got to be ready. I swallow hard and try again.
YES!!!! STAY WITH YOUR PARENTS!!!!
That picture is after 3 weeks
I realize that she is telling me that the picture was taken three weeks after the beating. This is a picture of her mostly healed. I swallow down tears and take a deep breath. I want to reach through the phone and pull her and her baby to safety, but all I have is words.
But that was while pregnancy. Should I show it to my parents? If I do they won’t let me go back and I’m worried that I will freak them out.
YES!!!! Show them and tell them…Mina, PLEASE…you don’t deserve this…I love you, Mina, please…don’t go back.
But is it O.K. to give up your marriage? I am so worried. He is a crazy liar and he can be so sweet.
Your marriage isn’t valid if he treats you like this.
I think he is a pathological liar. He won’t change, will he?
God never intended for you to live like this. God loves you. You are His child. Would you want your child treated like that?
Nooo. I love my son. He is my everything now. I stayed cause I think he needs a father. But I can’t take the lack of privacy among all his darkness.
That’s why I stayed…thought my kids needed a dad…they will always love him but it’s against God’s Will that they should see their father disrespect their mother like that. You don’t want him growing up with that example.
No I don’t and I don’t want more kids but he won’t let me have a birth control pills
Stay with your parents. Show them the picture and tell them EVERYTHING. For the sake of your won soul, please leave him.
It’s harder than I thought…the feeling…the fear of change…
Fear is harder than change.
He hurt me so bad while pregnancy…he tried to kick me out of his house so many times so he could marry his obsession but I didn’t…I prayed for a change but he is obsessed about himself ad her. He hit me with a belt on my belly. Thought the baby died. Then he begged for forgiveness. He broke my thumb with the belt, too, and I kept silent about it. Prayed for mercy, love and change. But I don’t think he loves me. And then there are those few clear moments of his goodness. I am sorry for taking your time I am just so sick physically and emotionally. I am collapsing.
The worst possible scenario right now is that regret and fear stop her; I’m starting to worry that her resolve is weakening.
Never apologize. I’m always here for you. You’re in a good place right now…I’m here for you, but you need to go RIGHT THIS MINUTE and tell your parents.
They are asleep. It’s 3 a.m.
WAKE THEM UP. RIGHT NOW!!!! THIS IS IMPORTANT!!!! SERIOUSLY…WAKE THEM UP.
That’s right! Maybe I should do that. My marriage is over.
Yes…you should…right now. Please…You’re ready to tell on him… GO TELL ON HIM!!!!
Why didn’t he love me? I gave up everything for him.
He’s not capable of love. Go wake up your parents. We’ll talk about everything else tomorrow. Go!
I am worried they won’t be able to sleep. I will tell my brother tomorrow. I am worried he won’t give me my stuff. And my baby’s stuff.
No, Mina…tell now. You’ll lose your courage tomorrow. And stuff is only stuff. You are irreplaceable.
There is a very long pause. My battery light has gone from green to yellow and I’ve already gotten two warning blurbs that I’m about to lose charge. It’s time for both of us to go; talking to me is helpful but Mina needs to take the next step; I can’t keep her safe.
Mina… WAKE THEM UP! Of course they’re gonna be upset, because they love you.
They will be mad at me because I promised to tell on him if he beats me again
No, they’ll be disappointed but not mad. I’m losing phone charge. I love you. God loves you. Love yourself enough to leave! Wake your parents up. They won’t be mad at you… they’ll love you for finally telling them and getting you and your son to a safe space.
Ok thank you Miss Linda
Go wake them up!!!!
I wait. Two minutes, three minutes.
Promise me you’ll message me tomorrow and tell me how it went, O.K?
***** The above conversation was used with “Tehmina’s” permission. I have changed her name for the sake of her privacy and safety.