J’s story

I am Colombian, and my ex-husband is a British national. We met in the USA, and we were working at the same restaurant. We started dating in January 2019. We were feeling comfortable with each other’s company, and we started a relationship. With time, we began to build a strong connection, and things became more serious. We travelled together and had the opportunity to get to know each other better.

My ex-husband suggested continuing to follow him to the UK. I was initially reluctant. We had lengthy conversations about it and consulted a UK immigration solicitor, who advised that the best option would be to apply for a UK spouse visa.  We eventually decided to take this step, and we married in March 2019.

Our relationship was fine initially, and the only thing I found a bit concerning was when my ex-husband told me that I should “follow him if I really loved him”. I felt that I was not given any other option, but I was so much in love with him that did not pay further attention. I had explained to him that I did not have money to pay for my UK visa, and my ex-husband reassured me that he would take care of everything. We arrived in the UK in mid-2019 and settled in London.

The relationship was going relatively well. However, I was feeling lonely; everything was entirely new for me. Some months later, I started working, and I noticed that his behaviour changed. He was not the loving and caring man that I had met. I was literally ‘dropped’ in an unknown place, with no friends and connections and no support and started spending my weekends by myself without knowing anything about him.

I also wanted to open a bank account, but he insisted that there was no need. He told me that I could use his and that asking for a separate one would show that I did not trust our marriage. I insisted that I needed an independent account to receive my salaries, but he told me to provide his bank details to my actual employer. Therefore, he was receiving my earnings for a year when I managed to open my account. I ended up asking for money from my ex-husband every time I wanted to buy something, including groceries. He would transfer the exact amount; I did not have the freedom to use my own money. I felt too controlled.

His controlling behaviour gradually escalated. He would become annoyed if I went out. He would say that he was protecting me because London was not safe. He would ask me to send him my location and want to know who I was and return home before him. In the end, to avoid any arguments, I stopped going out, and I became very isolated.

He also became very aggressive and started to break things at home, which made me feel very intimidated and scared. One day after an argument, she locked me out of the house.

When the COVID-19 lockdown began the abuse also increased. We moved to his parents’ house, where I was exposed to racist comments from them. He would even often threaten me that he would get my spouse visa cancelled. He would also remind me that he paid for the visa and that I owed him for this. He would use my immigration status to threaten me regularly.

The constant verbal, psychological and emotional abuse and intimidation negatively impacted me, even until now. I lost self-confidence, and I felt it significantly affected my mental health. My mood became very low, and I developed symptoms of anxiety and depression.

I called LAWRS, and I spoke with an advocate about my situation. She helped me find immigration lawyers, family lawyers for the divorce papers and offered me counselling.  Recently, I’m working as Sommelier, I have been studying to get my diploma, I got my Residence Card in the UK, and I’m very grateful to LAWRS for everything that has done for me. Without them, I could not imagine how my life could be now.