A violent marriage crushed the fight in her martial arts dream. She knew it was time to get out or she might end up dead.

Once the violence in her marriage escalated to a point where she feared she would end up dead, Anaya* knew it was time to get out. But now, living on her own, struggling to cover the bills, she has had to quit Taekwondo. And it was the one thing – through it all – that had been holding her together. Her confronting story inspired a unique fundraiser to help more women learn Taekwondo.

It was after 11pm. She lay on her pillow wondering if she should escape now or wait until the morning. She’s terrified, thinking if she gives in to sleep, he might actually try to kill her.

It started as control. What she should wear, who her friends should be, constant put-downs and name calling. So quickly it had turned into something much, much worse.

Earlier today he choked her so hard that it left a mark on her neck. Now, It hurts to swallow.

She knows she needs to leave. There is no way in hell she is going to live through a repeat of the unspeakable violence her family endured at the hands of her alcoholic father back home in India.

She runs her fingers over the long lumpy scar on her chest – a ghastly and permanent reminder of what her father was capable of.

Her life with a seemingly loving new husband on the eastern side of Australia was supposed to be an escape from all of that. How wrong could she have been?

Connecting with Anaya

This is a re-telling of Anaya’s* story (with her permission) as she told it to me.

She wasn’t looking for sympathy. She only wanted to share her love of Taekwondo with me.

The morning after the night described above, Anaya did leave her husband of three years, but with nowhere really to go, no family close by and only a small group of girlfriends – also from India – life was about to get hard in a whole new way. And not just because her ex-husband would spend the next year harassing and stalking her relentlessly. With what you could only describe as the inner fighting spirit of a true warrior in spite of what she had been through, a part-time job at a local supermarket and the family of friends she had developed by recently taking up Taekwondo, Anaya began to put one foot in front of the other toward a new and better, independent and safe life. Starting Taekwondo had meant so much to her. It was something she had wanted to do since she was a child and now at 28 she had done it.

She always worried he would try to take it away from her. Seeing how it built her confidence and strengthened her body. In a round-about way he now had since having to cover all of her living expenses on her own, plus continue to send money home to her family, means she can no longer afford the fees to train. Fiercely independent she refuses offers of financial help from her new Taekwondo family who want to ensure she keeps training – knowing how important it would be to re-building herself.

They also know how heart-broken she is to stop.

How she inspired me

Anaya’s story inspired my concept for Pink Belt Project. All costs associated with one year of martial arts training covered for one woman in Australia who would receive immense personal benefit from the training but could not afford to participate. As the idea came together, it became daunting. So I approached Australian Taekwondo to see if they would be interested in helping me spread the word. They agreed almost instantly! From there, a small idea grew wings and three years later almost 50 martial arts clubs across  Australia stand in the Pink Belt Project corner, providing their own club-sponsored Pink Belt Scholarships.

*Anaya’s name has been changed to protect her identity.