Violence tears a family apart

Date: January 1, 1970
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Have you ever dragged yourself up the staircase just so you could find a place of safety only to find yourself in a corner of no escape? Have you looked for answers while your eyes tear, or hands bandage your own wounds caused by your spouse only to find out you are living in confusion and hurt? Well! This is me. I am 30 years old. I have been married for 10 years and l have two girls. I was happily married to a man who is now 40 years old. 3 years ago I woke up one morning only to realise last night was not a dream.

 I should begin by revealing my childhood and this would be scary stuff. My parents were good to me yet harsh to each other, which was triggered by my father’s extra-marital affairs. My mother kept silent, as she was afraid of my dad throughout the abuse. There were times when he would burn her clothes and hit her, leaving long-term bruises and scars.
I felt helpless and hopeless watching. I was only 7 years old. Now I am 30 and reliving this nightmare. Gender violence can be very influential, instilling a sense of fear, thereby silencing the voices of women. I believe strongly that gender based violence towards women needs to end in every manner possible.
An affair also triggered my husband’s violent behaviour, which drastically affected our family lives. I was not happy but I thought it was normal because of my upbringing. I live in a society whereby we are supposed to honour our husbands and accept life as it comes. From fear, I was unable to speak out as it might tear our family apart.
My daughter felt abandoned by her dad because there was no family times anymore. When I questioned him, he became angry, verbally abusing me, saying I am useless and not a career woman. My husband is a diligent worker and a progressive provider, something that I would love to do as well. He felt he was the man and he dictated the rules.
Due to the affair, I saw this man change from an angel to a very different man, and this was a quick transformation. There were many instances when he would come home late from work and, if I questioned his whereabouts, he would get aggravated and violent. He even threatened to kill me. He would come and go as he pleased, without any warning as to his whereabouts. I could not do the same, if I had to visit or go out shopping without him, knowing he would approach me later with vulgar words and physical violence.
My husband could even throw a chair or fan at me very forcefully. If I tried to retaliate, it worsened the situation and he would get so out of control and, believe me, I would be looking at Satan. I did not know who he was anymore. If things don’t go his way or on his time, he would resort to violence.
Once I moved his beer to another shelf and one broke, he noticed that and started swearing, telling me to leave him and his things alone. The very next day I replaced his beer which, I thought, was the right thing to do. To my amazement, he threw the bottle at my feet and aimed it at my back again. This was insulting to me as he did that in the presence of his friends. The violence intensified within 3 years. Whenever I tried to communicate, he shut me out by punching me on the head.
Once he pulled me down the stairs, that’s when I dragged myself upstairs only to find myself in a corner where I could not move. He had the upper hand in our situation, he kicked me continuously on my back and legs, punched me over twenty times on my head. I could not feel the pain because of the numbing impact. I only remember awakening about ten minutes later by the voices of my screaming children. My legs were swollen and I could not walk properly, I could barely move. The angel that I thought I knew fought like human without heart.
My husband did not seem to consider my feelings or even that I am human, until I took a step to reconciliation with the police, S.A.P. who then handed us over to the Justice and Restoration Programme (JARP). JARP showed me that even when it is dark there are still many stars that shine. They rebuilt my confidence, enabling me to empower myself.
Domestic violence can cost you your life if you do not seek help immediately. Gender based violence tore my family apart. Being a man did not give my husband the right to violate women and abuse our kindness. Men should not treat women like dirt, use them to flirt and hurt. My appreciation goes out to those working with women, for a job well done on my today improved marriage, I am able to provide for my children and myself a safer and happier home.
* not her real name
This story is part of the “I” Stories series produced by the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service for the Sixteen Days of Activism on Gender Violence.

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