“Scars in my heart”


“I left everything for his sake.”

It was hard for Nina to realize that the man she had married had let her down and now despised her.

I grew up in a big family. In my country we don’t live only with our parents, a lot of relatives often share a house or live next door to each other. I grew up with both my own siblings and other children and we were all like brothers and sisters. We had a lot of fun together, especially during celebrations when then there was always plenty of good food and sweets and lots of guests. I have to smile when I think back at what we children got up to. I cry at the same time, because even if it is not a long time ago, it belongs to another life.

My family wasn’t rich, but we managed all right. My mother and the other women worked in the house the men did agricultural work and traded. We lived near a big market and once a week the men went there to sell what we didn’t need of the food we had grown. My parents expected a lot from us children, wanted us to go to school and get good jobs. Even though I wasn’t clever in all my subjects, I was determined to get a good education. None of the women in our family had many years of schooling. That is why they encouraged me to spend a lot of time on my homework. If they saw me starting to do something in the house, they stopped me at once. My job was to study, they said, so I shouldn’t interfere with their work.

My mother was kind and very fair with me, but I was afraid of my father. He didn’t beat me and my siblings, but he beat my mother. Sometimes I wish he had hit me too, it might have been better than being yelled at all the time. I had to do things just the way he wanted them, otherwise he went mad. He knew exactly how much time I needed to walk home from school and if the bus was delayed or didn’t come, I dreaded coming home. My father accused me of being with boys, but it was not true. If we sisters wanted to go out, we had to ask for permission. It was much easier for the boys. The adult men did what they wanted; they had control over the rest of the household. My mother was afraid of my father and couldn’t do anything without his permission. When boys and girls go to the same school they might meet each other there, but they can never go out together. I have never been to a disco or to a party with boys. You would be very lucky if your family let you do that.

Illustration: www.colourbox.noIllustration: www.colourbox.no

At a wedding party I met a relative that I hadn’t talked with much before. I thought he was nice and he was good-looking too. He told me about his good job in Norway, life was fine there, he said. He said he liked me very much. Did I want to marry him and come with him to Norway? I didn’t have any particular dreams or wishes for my life, so I said yes. Apart from that, I liked him also otherwise I wouldn’t have married him. No-one in our family wanted us to get married. Some of them thought I was too young and some of them thought it wasn’t a good idea because we were related. My parents were angry with his parents and there was a lot of quarrelling. We pretended to submit to their wishes, but he gave me a ring and asked me to sign a paper. He said it meant that we were married. He arranged the documents I needed and one day we left for Norway without telling our parents.

I thought we were going to have children and live like other couples. In the beginning he behaved all right, but then he started to change. After only a few weeks he suddenly had to leave. He said he had to go to another city to arrange some papers. I was left alone, I didn’t understand the language and knew nothing. I was very confused and sad. He was gone for many days. Then one day a stranger called and said he was a friend of my husband’s. Not long after, this man moved in with us and the two of them were always together. They were gone most of the time and didn’t even talk to me.

I didn’t understand anything. “Why did he marry me?” I asked myself. “Why did he bring me so far away from home? I left everything for his sake. It is impossible for me to go back there now, he knows this and still he behaves this way”. I felt shattered and helpless. I had never been outside our town and then all of a sudden I was in a totally different country and knew nothing about how things are done here. I tried to find out what he was thinking. “Why did you ask me to come here”, I asked him. “You don’t want me”. He didn’t answer. I felt he was ashamed of me. “You don’t know anything”, he said many times, “you don’t even speak English”.

One day my husband told me to go with this friend of his to a city in a different country. “Why?” I asked. “I don’t want to go and why should I go with another man? Why are you doing this to me? I believed you, that is why I came here, you are everything to me. I didn’t come here to be rich or to have many things, I came out of love.” I told him all of this. The situation is a little difficult just now, my husband said. Some things hadn’t turned out the way he wanted them to, but if I agreed to his plan and stayed some months in that country, he would come for me and everything would be fine. “But what am I going to do there?” I asked him. “Do as my friend tells you”, my husband said, “and everything will be OK”. I cried and cried and told him I didn’t want to. Then he hit me.

Illustration: www.colourbox.noIllustration: www.colourbox.no

The man and I drove a long time before we got to the city we were going to. A lot of terrible things happened there. I would rather not talk about it. I cried a lot and was very frightened. The man I was with told me that I shouldn’t even think of going to the police as they would make everything even worse. “Your husband sent you here”, he said, “you have to do what he wants, if you lose him, then who do you have?” “It is better to die than to live like this”, I thought, “why should I live, I have nothing to live for”. I tried to end it all with a lot of pills, but I woke up.

One day on the street a policewoman talked to me. I started crying and she took me with her to the station. There they found out that I had lived in Norway and they sent me back on a plane. When I got here, the police met me. They gave me money for a train ticket to Oslo and a policeman pointed in the right direction. When the train arrived, I sat down on a bench at the station. I didn’t have money, no mobile, nothing. A man next to me on the bench lent me his telephone and I had the number of a man from my country, a good man. He took me to a crisis centre and that is where I am now. I haven’t seen my husband since. He lives with a Norwegian woman I’ve heard and I think they have a child. I am trying to think of the future now, but it is hard to forget that the man who said he liked me and whom I trusted just wanted to use me no matter how much I suffered. I am learning Norwegian now and hope to be allowed to stay here. What am I going to do if I can’t?

The exhibition

“Scars in my heart” is a web exhibition presenting the life stories of eleven women from around the world, who ended up in prostitution in Norway.

Cand. polit. Rachel Eapen Paul and Unni Rustad, writer, at KILDEN Information Centre for Gender Research in Norway interviewed them after their escape from the traffickers who brought them here. Unni edited the material.

As much as possible, the women’s own words are kept as they were spoken, but details have been changed to protect the women’s identities.  The women read and approved their own story before publication.

Published: 09.12.2008
© KILDEN. For copyright issues, contact KILDEN
Illustrations: www.colourbox.no