Dedication: All women who need courage to leave domestic violence in the past and start a new live.
I was born and raised in Germany in a patriarchal Turkish household. My parents emigrated there before my birth. At 19, I was arranged married to a relative who mentally and physically abused me for making fundamental life decisions such as wanting to get an education and a job. Despite witnessing the domestic violence, my parents rejected my wish to get a divorce and not only insisted I had to be obedient but accused me of abandoning my culture and traditions by wanting to adopt a Western lifestyle.
As the oldest of three girls and one brother, I refused the idea that my reality was to be the reality for my sisters, nor did I want to see my brother grow up in an environment in which he did not learn to respect women. I felt particularly let down by the lack of support from the females in my family who had, at the very least, grown up in Germany, yet failed to challenge the male oppression.
One early morning with only the clothes on my back, and a binder with my documents under my arm, I abandoned my husband’s house and found refuge in a women shelter. I knew that I injured the “sense of honor” of both my husband and my family, particularly of my father, by undermining their authority. Fearing for my safety from a husband eager to retaliate, I frequently moved from one women’s shelter to another. My parents disowned me, and I was forbidden to talk to my siblings and had to communicate with them in secret for seven years.
During my time in the women shelters, I met women from around the world who were victims of domestic abuse. Most had little to no German skills preventing them from defending themselves or share their experience. Elementary English became the language we communicate in, and I was able to help them fill out legal documents or document their experience.
This motivated me to learn English and French professionally. I enrolled at a private language institute to become a foreign language correspondent. I was driven to forge a new path and become financially independent, not only for me but for my siblings. I worked three jobs simultaneously to pay for living expenses and tuition and spend many nights falling asleep on top of my dictionaries doing homework.
My language skills opened the doors to a career at a global airline, a life in New York, and the opportunity to attend NYU. Most importantly, I was able to demonstrate to my siblings that any woman could build an agency for herself. Confident of my support, they challenged all forms of patriarchy in our family and forced my parents to overcame their identity crisis of living in two opposing cultures and began to change their behavior towards each other and their parenting style towards my siblings. Consequently, my sisters grew up with the same opportunities and freedoms afforded to their German peers.