Zimbabwe: Robbed of my career, property and health

Date: October 9, 2019
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My name is Vanessa* I am a 35 year old single mother of two who was traditionally married to James*. He physically and emotionally abused me whenever and wherever he felt like. James* would stay away from home for as long as he wanted even up to a week and would not tolerate being asked where he was when he returned home. The moment I asked him he would answer with either a hard clap to my face, an insult or I would be turned into a punching bag. He would beat me up even if the kids asked him where he was. He assumed that I would have planned with the children to ask him. He would at times send me and the children out of the house to sleep outside because of his violent temper. Some good Samaritans would give us some shelter for the night. He did not even care what the weather would be like because at times it would be very cold or raining. He would listen to the radio which he would have turned on to the maximum volume and lock himself in. Initially James* did not take any intoxicating stuff but because of his friends’ influence he would usually be drunk.  

James* began inviting his numerous girlfriends to our place and we would be ordered to use the spare bedroom whilst he and his lover used my bed. I would not even get any sleep knowing what they would be doing on the bed that I bought with my hard earned money. I had no option but to comply because if I ever questioned or showed any resistance he would beat me up like a possessed devil. The way he beat me was like he would be fighting against a group of men and I often wondered if he still was mentally stable. I tried to involve his relatives but they were all scared of him and he would rudely accuse me of backstabbing him with other people. I suffered in silence.  

James* to those who did not know him well mistook him to be a very quiet, sociable and caring father and husband. One of his girlfriends got pregnant and James* came home with her and told us that we were then staying with her as an additional member of our family. I was ordered to move from the main bedroom with my clothes only as her new wife was to use it. They were now permanently using my wardrobe and bed. I was working as a secretary at one of the local hospitals. At times my bosses would advice me to report the abuses I suffered from James*. He would demand all the money I earned. He would disappear and return after he would have squandered every cent of it. He would not even think of buying any food stuffs, clothes for the family or pay our bills. The moment I asked him what wrong I had done to deserve such ill-treatment he told me to resign from work with immediate effect. I tried to knock sense into his head but all was in vain. He would come and embarrass me at my workplace and I finally resigned. He said that I was being thick headed in our marriage mainly because I earned more money than him. He would use my money to buy gifts for his new wife and boost about it. 

The new wife was also giving me a hard time even when James* was not at home. She would instruct what had to be cooked for the family and if I ever did what she had not instructed James would be angry with me. My children and I were to be contended with what they would have left on the dinner table. At times they would choose to go and eat and restaurants and I was not allowed to cook that particular night.  The only option I had was to beg for some food from our caring neighbours who would gladly assist us. If ever James* knew that I had been given any form of assistance he would beat me up.  

James* would seldom have sex with me. He would roughly shove me onto the bed and expect me to perform as if I was enjoying it. At times we would do very unusual styles and he would slap me hard for not doing it the way he liked it. I was heart-broken when I realised that I had contracted a sexually transmitted infection. I had never cheated and not even had entertained the slightest idea of having sex with another man. I knew that James* was responsible and gathered some courage to face him. He did not say anything when I openly told him of the infection in the presence of his pregnant wife. He came to me later, gave me some money and told me to leave for his rural home Nkayi, Matebeleland North to stay with his mother. I did not argue for I knew that it would mean another chance of turning me into a punching bag. I left for Nkayi together with my two children and stayed there for a few days. 

Matters became worse when I returned and found James* having relocated with all our household property and his pregnant wife. They had left my children’s clothes and mine only. Even my neighbours did not know where he was then staying. He had left the place during the night when everyone was indoors. I decided to go to my parents’ place. My mother was not feeling well and I took the role of nursing her. She finally succumbed to her ailment after a few weeks. I was heart-broken as she was my comforter despite her sickness.  

My father later remarried and life immediately changed for my step mother’s presence was felt within a few days of her arrival. She occasionally shouted obscenities to my children. They would come crying to me for comfort and my father also joined in insulting me. They both told me on a daily basis that I was a liability to them and that I had to find somewhere to stay as I was a grown up. My father shouted that I was an embarrassment to the community in general and to the family in particular and that was why my abusive husband had left me for a better woman. My father’s words pierced through my heart as I could not believe that he was the same man whom I grew up loving and respecting very much. 

My step mother’s hatred moved to overdrive when she influenced my father that I had to move away from the place. My father told me that he wanted to have a paying tenant to use the room which I occupied. I had no choice but to pave way for a paying tenant. I sought refuge at our neighbours’ residence. I then had to spend days on end looking for employment yet leaving my children in the care of our neighbours.  

One day I found my son burnt by some hot porridge. I then started fearing that my daughter that she might be raped by some unruly and drunken thugs roaming in the community. One of our neighbours advised me to approach Msasa Shelter for advice and protection. I am currently housed at Msasa Shelter.