It isn’t easy leaving abusive husbands.
The earliest recollection I have of witnessing domestic violence was probably when I was about 8 or 9. We were walking to church and we saw a man hit his pregnant wife. She, in turn, grabbed him round the waist shouting, “You must kill me today.”
She started shouting to people that he beat her and she saw blood.
I had no idea what that meant then but of course now I do. A pregnant woman is not supposed to bleed when she is pregnant. So, if he beat her till she was spotting, then he was threatening the pregnancy.
I remember feeling very depressed about it. It is not a pretty sight when a man is beating a woman. But I saw them again another day. They might not have been laughing but they were walking together as thought that day never happened. The woman went on to give birth to a baby girl. To my knowledge, they stayed together till the man died years later.
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When I was a teen, there was a Wednesday Bible fellowship I attended at my church. One woman was giving a testimony of her relationship with her husband who was not a church goer. She talked about him punching her repeatedly that when she looked at him; it was not a human being she saw but an actual beast with horns punching her.
I was horrified. I sort of expected that the story would end with either her husband repenting/reforming; or the woman in a place where her life was safe. It ended with neither. The woman’s interpretation was that someone possessed her husband, making him beat her. She was celebrating surviving the beating; still trusting that the spell over her husband would be broken.
I found it alarming.
How were these women taking these beatings over and over again and not leaving their abusive husbands?
Why did they think staying and waiting for the man to be too old to pack a punch was some sort of victory?
I didn’t grow up in a home with domestic violence. A man beating a woman was alien to me. But thinking back, I also did not grow up in a community where divorce was common-place.
I remember once a man married a second wife (they were not Muslims). People were very upset about it. I overheard my mother saying that the first wife packed out of the house but was persuaded to return by her friends. Women don’t give up and abandon their homes for any reason. Who was she leaving her kids for?
Because of societal conditioning and my interpretation of Christianity, I had picked up prejudices against women who left their homes and husbands. Hindsight is 20/20 vision. If you had asked me then, I would have said I had no prejudices. Any woman who left a husband was always subject to gossip and speculation.
Divorce was such a stigma that most women preferred to stick out their horrible situations than be labeled as divorced.
Did you notice I am talking about this strictly from the female perspective? We don’t treat men that are divorced the same way. Men that are divorcees usually promptly get married without any issues.
But I am in my 13th year of marriage. Now, I can confidently say that I hold zero prejudices against women that leave marriages. What I never understood before I see more clearly. I know why women stay in bad marriages. I know why it is hard to up and leave. But I also know why they remain and hope against all hopes that things will get better.
I don’t just know it. I support and respect women with the courage to leave abusive husbands and try to put their lives back together again.
It takes a lot of courage to admit to yourself that what you envisaged when you said yes was not what you were seeing. It takes a lot of courage to remove your children from the unit you desperately wanted for them. A place where there is daddy and mummy under one roof navigating life together. It takes a lot of courage to not care what our society is saying. To not care about what your pastors are saying. To not care about all the family meetings that tell you to stay.
People don’t walk away easily from marriage. This is why I will never berate a woman for leaving. This is also why I understand when a woman is unable to make that decision to leave. It is hard.
While we all discuss Sister Osinachi who was purportedly a victim of domestic violence; I would like to plead for a little understanding as to why women stay. I make bold to say that it was not her fault that she died.
If a woman cannot be responsible for being raped i.e., where she was and what she wore; then a woman cannot be responsible for her death in a domestic violence situation.
A woman is raped because she came in contact with a rapist.
A woman dies in domestic violence because someone committed a violent act against her.
In both situations, the aggressors are the ones in the wrong.
I pray though that it would be a little easier to leave.
That we would all be a little less judgmental.
That people get the full punishment for abusing spouses.
May the soul of Sister Osinachi rest in peace.
May women living with abusive husbands have the courage to leave.