But for Tabassan Khan, it marked the beginning of a very different life. British-born Tabassan, given a new name to protect her identity, was told she was going on a summer holiday. 

Instead, she was forced at gunpoint to marry a cousin six years her senior in Pakistan. She was held captive and abused over the next three years. 

Now, having found a way back to safety, she wants to share her story and shine a light on the plight of thousands of young British victims. 

Her life had already been difficult. Her father had murdered her mother when she was 12, leaving her and three brothers in the care of an aunt in Doncaster, South Yorkshire. 

The now 26-year-old said: “I thought I was going to Pakistan on holiday. I was excited. Then two months passed and it was time to start the school year. I asked my uncle when I should go back and he just kept saying, ‘Stay a bit longer’ for weeks. After four months, he came up to my room with a gun and told me I had to marry my cousin. 

“I kept refusing, but he told me that if I didn’t do it he would kill my brothers. I was terrified but felt I had no choice. On my wedding night my cousin raped me. I thought my cousins were family. It felt so wrong. He raped me every night for three years. I felt I was a sex worker, stuck in that room. I was ashamed.” 

In 2008 when she turned 18 Tabassan was sent back to the UK to work, with her husband to follow later. 

She said: “A while later I heard my aunt on the phone with my mother-in-law in Pakistan. She said, ‘Once he gets his visa he can divorce her and do what he wants’. 

“It was only then that I realised what this whole thing had been about. I decided then that I would not go back. My family threatened to disown me and make me homeless but I didn’t care by then. I asked for a divorce.” 

It took three years of fighting, and the threat of it going to Pakistani courts, for the divorce to finally come through. 

Tabassan has been working with It’s My Right: No Forced Marriages, a grass roots organisation dedicated to working with the community and in schools to tackle the issue of forced marriage, made a criminal offence in 2014. 

She now questions why the British authorities did not do more to help her. 

She said: “I don’t think they understand Asian communities. In Muslim families honour is incredibly important. His brother lives nearby and every time he walks past my house he spits. 

“He is married to my other cousin. Even my brothers aren’t supportive. I went to Women’s Aid but the Asian women there know my family. If I talked to them, they would tell them. 

“In Muslim culture the girl is supposed to do as she is told. The backward people from villages in Pakistan think they can do what they want with us. Our lives mean nothing. We are just a way to get a visa. They will do anything to get someone over here. If they’ve family abroad, they gain respect.” 

Some 1,220 possible cases of forced marriage in Britain were reported to the authorities last year, but many believe the true figure is probably higher. 

Pakistan was the number one country that girls were taken to, with 539 cases last year alone. 

Tabassan added: “I have tried to take my life so many times since. I saw myself as the type of person who would get married, have children and be happy. But I haven’t been able to be with anyone ever since. 

“My family ruined my childhood. I am just waiting to die.” 

The Home Office said: “Forced marriage is an abhorrent practice. We know that it is often a hidden crime and we want to give more victims the confidence to come forward so they get the support they need and perpetrators are brought to justice. 

“This is why we are introducing lifelong anonymity for victims. 

“The UK is a world leader in the fight to stamp out the brutal practice, with our dedicated Forced Marriage Unit leading efforts to combat it both at home and abroad.”

courtesy EXPRESS