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The ASK ME ANYTHING event turned out to be an amazing experience. I received very engaging questions, which gave me the opportunity for more inner reflection. Here are the questions and answers from the Feb 4, 2018, live AMA event. 

(Note that the questions are in the order received.) 

Q. Are you part of any organization or advocate groups that help and assist people who have same experience as you?

Yes. Since my return to the States, I have joined several groups as a regular member and speaker. My goals is to spread my story in hopes that someone who might be in my same position will not repeat what I did, but find the courage to speak up and tell someone.

I have joined the following: 

Along with the groups that I have joined, ten percent of the proceeds from my book, Bangles: My True Story of Escape, Adventure and Forgiveness, goes toward supporting services within the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence organization. I love the work that they do with a hotline for victims, education outreach, training webinars, and legal advice for victims. (I still remember what it was like to be alone and had no one to turn to.) 

Q. Why didn’t you call the police instead of just hiding in Pakistan?

Thank you for asking this important question. That is directly related to the reason I came forward with my story in the first place. There were no police records against my abuser early on to where I could prove myself innocent when they put felony charges against me. 

Why a woman who is being physically abused doesn’t call the police, holds only second to "why doesn’t she just leave?". The truth is that in most cases the woman doesn’t feel safe or confident enough to be able to escape her abuser. Maybe she is scared of the man. Maybe she is bound by religious restrictions. Maybe she has no skills where she feels that she would be able to take care of her children. Maybe she thinks she can change him. All of these reasons are extremely valid to the women trapped in abuse.

In my case, not only did I have religious boundaries, but I was scared of retaliation by my abuser. And for this reason, I never called the police and I hid the abuse from my friends and family. Which is why today, I share my story. (It is worth it even if I am able to reach one man or woman that is suffering in a similar hell.) When I was charged for custodial interference, the prosecuting attorneys claimed that I had pulled the violent allegations right out of thin air. And it was because I never went to the police when it first happened. 

Q. How did you overcome all those experiences?

While I was abroad, I started a new life for myself and eventually began teaching English language. I worked a lot!

After returning to the States, I turned to domestic violence awareness programs to get more involved, started writing my books and began meditation. I have moved forward with my inner healing and have accepted my past.

And as a side note, I have just recently published a book where I outline over 75 lessons that I learned during my time abroad. You can download a free copy of 75+ Things I Learned Living Abroad from my website:

Q. If you were offered a TV or film adaptation of your life story, would you do it?

Absolutely. I have been told that I should try to write the screenplay myself, but I don't think I am ready for that; so I'm keeping my fingers crossed for someone who does have that talent to step up for the challenge.

As a side note, I’m still trying to decide which actress would best represent my character; either Melissa McCarthy or Drew Barrymore. Which do you think?

Q. What is your primary goal or objective with the release of this novel?

My goal (for writing my memoirs) is to reach out to men and women who may be in a similar abusive situation and have yet to reach out to anyone for guidance or help. The reason that the felony charges were filed against me in the first place was because I never spoke up when the timing was appropriate; then when I did speak up it was too late, I was called a liar and manipulator. My motto now is: Tell somebody….anybody!

Q. Did you and your children need to learn a whole different language while staying in Pakistan?

Yes. At home with our new family, we spoke Hindko (a local Pashto/Punjabi blend). My children also went through the schooling system and learned to read and write Urdu and some Arabic. And because the region is so connected with India, we also learned how to speak Hindi and Punjabi.

And as a side note, the kids in the area also spoke a funny version of pig-Latin, we called the Fina Fana Foo language; so whenever my children wanted to say something they didn’t want me to understand, they would start fina-fana-fooing. (Honestly, I never was able to pick it up. LOL)

Q. What is the best advice you can give to other battered wives and women who are victims of domestic abuse?

Giving advise on this subject is a huge responsibility and I am so afraid of not giving the best advice for such a serious and delicate topic.

However, from the heart, the thing I would say--to anyone (men or women) who is in an unhealthy abusive relationship--is to tell someone you can trust, and then start planning to get out; you deserve a safe and fear free life.

But I know first hand this is easier said than done, and that leaving an abuser can be very dangerous and should not be taken lightly. I would suggest that everyone read up on the subject and be aware of the signs of abuse and be available for someone that needs to be heard. There are many great resources online.

Here is a place to get some information from a very thorough site:

If you are being abused, remember: 

  • You are not to blame for being battered or mistreated.
  • You are not the cause of your partner’s abusive behavior.
  • You deserve to be treated with respect.
  • You deserve a safe and happy life.
  • Your children deserve a safe and happy life.
  • You are not alone. There are people waiting to help.

Q. How was it like living in seclusion for 14 years?

It was like living with a secret identity; sometimes scary, sometimes lonely, sometimes exciting. It was scary because I never knew if I were going to get caught. It was lonely because I had to say goodbye to my friends and family. It was exciting because I got to travel to places I would have never dreamt of visiting before. I got to meet all types of people on the social spectrum, from mountain people, to unics, to royal families in UAE.

It was only after I developed great trust with someone would I go ahead and give them the inside scoop of my true identity and life. Then they would say to me, "Wow, that sounds like a movie!"

Q. Do you ever plan to press charges against your abusive ex-husband?

I have to admit that I did think about pressing charges, but the statute of limitations is well expired, making any attempt futile. I also considered filing a civil suit against him, but my son convinced me that, that too would be a waste of our time, and only cause even more animosity within my children's' side the family. 

Q. Were you completely honest with your kids and told them why you were hiding in the first place?

When they were younger, there was no way that I could be honest with them. Once they were older, they knew why I left him, but still, I withheld a lot of details.

Sadly, my son learned first-hand what his father was like when he went to live with him at the age of 16. I had hoped that his father would have changed by then, but he didn’t. Not only did his drinking increase, but he continued to blame his actions on me (even after so many years).

Q. How did you secretly plan and finance your trip to Asia?

Unfortunately, I do not feel comfortable sharing too many details about how I was able to plan my escape, however, I am willing to discuss the financial side of it.

The first time, I went, my second husband took care of all the financial details. I do know that we liquidated our condominium to pay for the tickets.

But as for our second trip, it was different. We had no money to send me and the kids back. The only thing of value I had was two gold bangles that my second husband had given me as a gift. I had one, but I had given my mother the matching one as a gift. When I decided that I needed to leave the country again, I went to my mother and asked for the bangle to help pay for the tickets for the three of us (me and the two children). This event is what inspired the name of my memoir. 

Q. Did you ever regret anything you did in the past 14 years?

I would be lying if I said that I had no regrets along the way. As all humans do, I have made many mistakes, resulting in all kinds of regrets. Some are great ones, and others are little teeny tiny regrets. But even after all of them, I have been able to pick myself up and march forward.

So since you asked, here are some of my regrets:

  • I wish I had become a psychiatrist like I wanted when I was younger.
  • I wish I had taken better care of myself physically.
  • I wish I had gone to college, instead of getting married after high school.
  • I wish I had married a minister and stayed married to him until we grew old.
  • I wish I had stuck with my violin and piano lessons when I was younger.
  • I wish I had read more to my children when they were little.
  • I wish I had used less money on useless items. 
  • I wish I had learned to set goals when I was a teenager.
  • I wish I had videotaped my entire 22 years of living in Pakistan and UAE. 
  • I wish I had not thrown away my diaries that I wrote in 1991 and 1992.
  • I wish I could have done something for the man that was shown to me, chained up, in a separate portion from the family. (It was in the Peshawar area of Pakistan, and he was there because he mentally unstable and had tried to seriously harm others. The family did not know what else to do for him, and felt it was better to keep him locked up hidden away. He stayed there until he died.)
  • Sometimes, I regret leaving the States in the first place. (But honestly, this idea seesaws back and forth.)
  • But by far, my biggest regret is, I wish I had been there for my mother in her last days.

And as a side note, I have just recently published a book where I outline over 75 lessons that I learned during my time abroad. You can download a free copy of 75+ Things I Learned Living Abroad from my website:

Q. Why, in all places, did you end up in Pakistan?

My second husband is from Pakistan, and he offered to let me go live with his family; I was young, in love and looking for a new life---so I accepted.

Q. Did you ever return to the United States or do you plan to come back home?

I did return one time in 1993; the FBI arrested me and returned my children to their father. They put me on probation for going against the court ordered 50/50 custody. But after watching my children suffer at the hands of their father and his new bride, I decided to take matters into my own hands once again. I left the country for the second time---this time thinking I would never return again.

But when I began having physical issues while living in UAE, I became worried for my special needs (then adult) daughter and had to make a decision. I chose to surrendered myself to the authorities in 2014.

Q. How did you manage to make a living while in hiding with your kids?

At first, I was supported by my second husband, eventually I started working in the local schools. I basically only had only two skills, customer service and speaking native-level English; so I became a cheerleader for English speaking. I was hired in a private school a few miles outside of the village; my whole job was to simply walk around the school and chat with teachers in English in order to sharpen their conversational skills.

Then once I moved to Islamabad, I started working as an American Accent Trainer for a call center that called Americans about mortgage loans. From there, I was hired at a government university to design and manage an English communication lab for Bachelor students (it’s still in use today).

After my second divorce, I decided to leave Pakistan and move to the UAE, a new country and a new life (I knew America was not an option for me at that time). I accepted a job in a local college as an English instructor. I taught English level-classes, prep-classes for English Evaluation Exams (IELTS and TOEFL), and conversational English classes that I designed myself. I also worked for several other universities and academies and eventually accepted a position as Head of the English Department in a K-12 school of 1200 students.

My final position before returning to the States was in a flight academy teaching military pilots English in order to pass their ICAO exams.

Altogether, I was in Asia and the Middle East for 22 years. I guess you could say, that my gift for gab was a blessing, and it became my lifeline. 

Q. What was the best advice you have received from neighbors in Pakistan while you were there?

All in all, the greatest advice that was given to me from a neighbor in Pakistan, happened the time that my son was arrested and beaten by four traffic police officers in Islamabad.

Once the police department found out that we were American citizens, they were asking me to forgive them for what they had done. But I was so distraught I did not know how I could forgive such an act.

I sat in my living room weeping in total despair, and my downstairs neighbor said, “You are a single woman living in this country. You do not want to make enemies of this kind. Accept their apology.”

I knew he was right and accepted a formal written apology from the head of the police department. I then decided to channel my anger and energy into training the traffic police department in conversational English language, and was also invited to join a human rights committee, in which we performed on-demand inspections of jail cells in the surrounding Islamabad area. 

To this day, I am still thankful that my neighbor was there when I needed him the most. 

Q. What did you do to stay strong and motivated to live peacefully?

Quite honestly, I think it was simply my drive to survive, and make my home as normal as possible for my children, that kept me going. And this goes for both the village and when I moved to Islamabad. When I separated from my second husband, I was alone with children, in a foreign country, and knowing that I would probably never be able to return to my family in the States---that is a lot of motivation for anybody. I learned to prioritize things in life and work hard. My children were always my top priority.

Q. If you were to go back to the past, would you still have gone hiding or would you rather just go to the authorities?

This is a very good question. I would have to say yes to both. I wish I had spoken up and let the world know at the time that my ex-husband was choking me up against the wall; but then I think about how my children and I are now a direct result of our experiences---a loving multicultural family. And that I am pleased.

Let's face it, I would not be me had things been any different. Cheesy answer? Yes. But, a true one.

While you’ve gone through extreme difficulties, what was the biggest challenge for you back then?

Probably trying to convince myself that I didn’t want to go home. While others were travelling around the world and visiting their families, I convinced myself that I had no home to go to. For many years, I would watch as little American television programs as possible, because it was just too painful for me. 

When my mother was still alive, I would dream of ways for us to see each other. But once I lost her, I gave up even the slightest hope of going home. I really had no idea that life would take down this path in America again. 

Q. How did your children cope with all the hiding you needed to do?

In order to fully answer this question, it must be understood that we had left America for Pakistan, two different times.

We first left Arizona in 1991. Then in the end of 1992 I returned thinking that things would just work out if I stayed in hiding; but it didn’t. The police arrested me and returned my children back to their father. His abuse continued but now the children were the targets. I tried to get help from the authorities, but they would not listen to me. Ultimately, I decided to take my children again, and return to our life back in Pakistan. I knew leaving again would mean that I could not return or else I would lose my children again. 

So to fully answer this question, it would have to be answered in two parts. The first time in 1991, the kids were very small (3 and 5) and they adjusted very well. They asked about their father a few times, but eventually the questions stopped. They had lots of fun and family life around them: farms, goats, chickens, rabbits and a doting grandmother. They also had nearly a thousand cousins to play with. They picked up the language without even trying. (Kids are great at that.)

The second time we arrived in Pakistan was quite different. The children (now around 7 and 9) were traumatized from being taken away from their mother and the abuse that they faced in their father's home.

They were so happy to go back to Pakistan and pick up life where they had left off about 1 year before. Life went back to normal, the kids went back to school. We never seemed to talk about it really, until my son finally decided when he was 16 that he was old enough to return to his country, and I accepted it. (My children were not in prison, they were in protection.)

My son returned to the States at 16 and remet the man that caused his departure over a decade before. (That is a whole separate book in itself.) My daughter never asked to return; she is a mama’s girl all the way. 


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