My name is Lila Begum and I am a survivor of child and forced marriage, as well as a survivor of domestic abuse.
I have been supporting Bedfordshire Police as a volunteer for nearly ten years, initially as member of the Independent Advisory Group and now on the Chief Constable panel.
I have worked both professionally and voluntarily for over 20 years, supporting victims of domestic abuse, forced marriage and honour-based violence.
I am always ready to support anyone who seeks my help, even if it is in the middle of the night or early hours of the morning.
Having my rights to live as a child, access education and live life without fear, were all deprived from me.
I also faced many discriminations because of my faith and ethnicity, including discrimination from my own community because of being bought up by a single parent.
I was very fortunate to have met many amazing women who gave me the inspiration and strength to live life and my mother was one of these amazing women. During her own personal hardship, she never ceased to help others and stood by those who faced injustice. She spoke for those during a time where women were not to be seen or heard.
My friend Carol who mentored me to ensure I reach my potential professionally, Glenis who looked after my children when I needed medical care after a horrific incident.
Debra from Nine Red, who I never met in person but helped at a time in my life where I needed practical help to keep me safe.
Delphi, Rehena and Clare who helped me be heard.
My manager Joella, who believed in me and made my workspace safe.
My best friends Nasima, Jay, Shamela and Fsella who wiped my tears and picked up the broken pieces, without them all life would’ve been hard.
Trigger Warning: This article contains themes of domestic abuse, suicide and depression. If you are affected by anything in this story please follow the links for support.
Tracy Watts shares a story of abuse and loss after her daughter Lisa took her own life in April 2019.
Lisa was a super strong, confident woman who loved her children more than anything. She was the type of person who would brighten up the room the moment she entered. When she was younger she was a tomboy and grew into a beautiful young woman. She was an amazing mum, before she met her abusive partner she had three children from her previous relationship, and they were the love of her life. She always put her children first and worked hard to provide for them and give them a good home.
She was a hardworking person and everything she had she worked for herself. She always wanted to learn to drive and buy her own car. She and her children had a full and happy life, going on holidays twice a year. She had a vibrant social life and a group of close friends.
Lisa was very much a family person and we would often spend weekends together.
But everything changed when she started seeing a new man.
We don’t know where he came from but it was almost like he appeared from nowhere and moved into her place straight away. He didn’t work. The two years they were together were very difficult with many ups and downs.
In that time, she went from an outgoing, happy and beautiful woman to a shadow of herself. Her mental health began declining the moment they met. He made Lisa vulnerable, using the vulnerabilities to exploit and manipulate her and her life.
The signs were there. She began to distance herself from me, her family and friends and we saw less and less of her. I saw bruises on her body but she always had an excuse for them, she covered for him and didn’t admit the abuse.
He would call her names, slowly chipping away at her confidence, making her believe she was ugly and worthless.
With time the abuse began escalating from emotional manipulation to serious assaults resulting in injuries which would take her to hospital.
Even then she would cover for him and when police were at her home she asked them to turn their body worn cameras off.
After the birth of their daughter, his behaviour changed however that didn’t last long and the abuse continued.
Then she attended domestic abuse workshops at the Freedom Programme, she began to open her eyes about what was happening and better recognise abusive patterns.
After a while Lisa managed to gather enough courage and strength to break off their relationship. That was where the threats started. He would keep asking to see her even after she would say no to him numerous times.
He relentlessly messaged her and knew exactly what to say, lulled her into false sense of security by lying and making promises he never kept.
The final straw happened on 5 December 2018. Lisa agreed to meet with him, but he began accusing her of seeing other men and assaulted her at a local hotel in Bedford. This assault was well documented on CCTV and with multiple witnesses present. He was arrested and charged with the offences, but pleaded not guilty at court.
After that assault Lisa’s declining mental health as a result of the toxic relationship, led to a decision for her children to be taken away from her.
We will never know exactly what pushed her to taking her own life. All we know is that at the time she was suffering immensely due to being separated from her children and left messages about not being able to live without them. Her self-worth was extremely low due to the years of abuse.
She took her own life just days before the original court date was scheduled.
After her death the case was postponed numerous times for various reasons but the police, and especially Detective Sergeant Darren Armitage, never gave up and were adamant to bring him to justice even after Lisa passed away. I cannot thank them enough, the support and professionalism of police officers involved in this case is something I will always praise.
The abuser maintained his innocence through all these years and made us go through the pain of the trial. He was found guilty by a jury of causing grievous bodily harm without intent and received a two-year suspended sentence on 1 October 2021.
Lisa’s death made a ripple effect across many organisations including the police who changed and reinforced their policies following the inquest and its findings, such as preventing contact between abusers in custody and prison and their victims.
Sometimes I ask myself what could I have done to change what happened, or if there is anything anyone could have done.
Lisa was a beautiful, strong woman and she is no longer with us. Our entire family has been torn apart by her passing. I have lost a beautiful daughter and my grandchildren lost their mum.
I want to share her story with hope that it will give enough strength to anyone experiencing abuse at the hands of their partners. You are worth more than that, you are important and you deserve to live your life without abuse.
The first step is the most difficult, if you are living in fear, under emotional or physical abuse, pick up the phone to organisations that support victims of domestic abuse and will help you make strategies to get out. Help from specialists and the police is available. It will take time and it won’t be easy, but I can promise you it will be worth it.
I want to bring up my grandchildren to be strong and teach them that if a person really loves you they will never hurt you. Most importantly they would never ask you to lie for them to your family, friends or police. And that’s also a message I want to pass to anyone who is reading my story.
I hope our story will help anyone out there who is struggling with abuse or mental health issues and if it saves even one person it will be a legacy which Lisa would be immensely proud of.
If you were affected by Tracy’s story, remember there is support available.
Mental health crisis support for all ages is available 24 hours a day every day across Bedfordshire and Luton by contacting NHS 111 (option 2) or the Samaritans on 116 123 (freephone).
If you are a victim of domestic abuse you can contact Signpost for Bedfordshire, which offers free and confidential support regardless if the crime was reported to the police.