In a typical African setting, we would hardly ever hear of domestic abuse. Frankly, I never thought I was being abused until my health started to deteriorate.
When Soila told me the theme of the week on the Divorce Magazine, I knew I had to write an article on this ‘semi-taboo’ topic. It is still a kinda hushed topic because of all the emotions, hurt, shame and you name the rest that come with the abuse.
To make matters worse, sometimes, the abused spouse doesn’t even know what to do or whom to turn to. The spouse cannot leave or doesn’t want to because we may think and hope the situation changes. In my case also, I thought of my kids and what people will say.
Soila once shared a you tube clip of a ted talk on why a spouse (In this case and as often, the woman), stayed although she was grossly abused.
I will therefore, and as usual, share my own story with abuse and how I ignored what started out as ‘little’ abuse to culminate in some physical abuse and outright violation of my body and our bedroom.
It started out as a ‘cold war’
We may think of the historic cold war and yes that started out over some incident and then carried on and manifested itself in different ways, causing ‘stress’ to the parties.
In my case, I wanted for us to talk and my ex husband didn’t want any ‘communication’. It hurt me terribly that the man I had ‘gotten’ to marry me, couldn’t even talk with me. It tormented me when he would receive an excellent grade at pretending in front of guests and family that we were doing just fine.
Today, I see those episodes as mental abuse. I must admit we ended up abusing each other because I gave up trying to talk and in retaliation refused to speak with him in public although he would have preferred that I ‘fake along’!
The Verbal Abuse Starts
Imagine those heated discussions in the bedrooms between two people who can’t stand each other but don’t know what next?
I think my husband felt hurt too at my behaviour during our “Cold War” and so wanted to show me who he really was. He threatened to beat me up and insulted me over and again especially saying how fat and ugly I had become and how little I brought in as income and much more. Of course I responded too and told him all the nasty things which hurt a man’s ego. What could I do? Who could I turn to? Our relationship was already deep in crisis then but society demands of a woman to bear all that at least for the children’s sake.
When the physical abuse started and I had to do something
As if that was not enough, my ex husband decided to give me a beating one day. I almost lost an eye! Could I retaliate? Hell no!
Did I tell my mother? Oh Yes and what did she say – oh don’t get him angry again!
When the abuse gets physical, there is no turning back. He has done it once, he will probably do it again and again unless…
I remember one episode as recounted in my book, when I locked the door of the room and hid the key with the hope of forcing my ex husband to have a conversation. He first gave me a sound slap, then he broke the door, then he kicked and pulled me out with my hair and throwing me away in the sitting room, screaming he no longer wanted to see me in our bedroom.
Unfortunately, my sons witnessed all this. They were the ones that got him to let go off my hair.
That room stayed without a door for three good months although I slept in there.
When such incidents happens and your spouse still demands sexual intercourse and forcefully gets onto you, I wonder what more we have to undergo before we save ourselves?
In Europe, there are several helplines and shelters but if every domestic abuse incident was ever to be reported, these shelters and helplines would definitely be overwhelmed. Still, I sincerely think it is vital for the victim to attend to that very first abusive incident and not ignore it wishing it won’t happen again.
By the time I took the decision that I was leaving that marriage, we had already sufficiently abused each other, I had been violated, I had become so filthy within and without, I think I was more angry at my self than at anybody else.
It took courage and determination. I knew the rejection I was going to face for leaving and eventually telling my story. Yet I am healing and getting much better and so can we all.
Marie Abanga – Follow Marie on Twitter