Screw you for not knowing better, you mumble to yourself. For failing to read in between the lines. For blinding your eyes to the obvious. For putting off instincts that kept warning you. For being oblivious of his erratic temper—how one moment, he was all sweet and nice, and the other, he was an explosive fireball, ready to go off any minute.
You really cannot blame anyone but yourself. You wish you could put it all on him. You want to blame him, hate him, cuss him, hurt him too. But each finger you point at him has four directed back at you. Worst of all, no one is on your side.
As you blink away blinding tears, you wonder how on earth you walked right into a house on fire, with all the smoke and orange-red glows surrounding it. What were you thinking? That you’d go in and not get burnt? Because, why? Well, now all you’ve got is charred flesh, a scarred soul and proof of your refreshing folly.
You were there with him, in the pub, the night he charged at Mensah—his closest childhood friend—and broke the empty beer bottle on his forehead, because of a lame joke that didn’t sit well with him. That particular evening, you gave him a good talking to, made him promise to apologize and also, never to repeat the hideous act. He did apologize, only he didn’t follow through with the other promise. Because exactly two weeks after Mensah’s incident, you heard he got into a fist-fight with a colleague at work, and the poor lad lost three front row teeth—two canines and an incisor, amid other substantial injuries to his face.
“Kofi, Kofi ee. This your way of using violence to settle every little misunderstanding will land you somewhere you don’t wish to be someday oo. Mmm. Why? Eh, why?Why can’t you just talk things through like a human does! This your rage–”
The first slap landed on your cheeks mid-sentence, while you were still talking; it was hotter than the mpusu you had for supper yesterday. It stung even more because you were still in shock of it then. You hadn’t seen it coming, had never anticipated it. Why you hadn’t ever considered the possibility of it back then is part of the reason your heart tears now, as you perch on the veranda in your paternal home.
During your courtship days, you were never the direct object of his fury. His anger was always directed elsewhere. Although once awhile, he’d raise his voice at you, but don’t we all, when angered? Maybe that’s why you got complacent and thought you were special, you think now.
You stumbled back a little to sustain yourself. After regaining your composure, you scream with teary eyes and a throbbing left cheek, “Kofi! Did you just slap me?”
“No, I kissed you,” he retorted, his eyes an angry dark-red, the colour of blood. “And I’ll do it again if you ever run your silly little mouth at me ever again in this house! Do you understand?”
After he hissed and exited the living room, you crumbled down on your light brown, honey-coloured sofa, your hands still glued to the spot he slapped you, crying.
That night, you thought a lot, till your mind came up with the perfect answer—it was your fault. Perhaps, if you had lowered your voice, or said it a bit calmer, or chosen your words a bit more carefully, then probably there definitely would have been a different reaction. Yes, that made sense, so you accepted it as your fault. The next morning, you both apologized to each other—you went first—and made up.
What you did not know was that that was only the beginning of what would be your reality for the next three years of your life as Mrs Frimpong. He’d get into fights and violent rages, you’d confront him, then he’d direct his fury at you. Some days, he’d come home bloody-drunk and kick anything in his path including you, your two-year-old daughter, Sara, and the family dog. Then when you get enraged and lunge at him for touching you or your daughter, he’d beat you because physical strength was on his side.
The apologies followed after. At first it’d take just a day. You’d take the chocolate and flowers he ordered with a card inside. Sometimes, you’d crown it with some serious love making or dinner at a favorite place. Then the apologies started dragging, taking longer to come. Sometimes a week, two weeks, a month, two months until none came at all.
Your former excuses and rationalizations dwindled quickly with the apologies, but yet the violence remained. All the meetings with his family proved futile, in fact, they further infuriated him. His mother and sisters said you complained too much, and that maybe, if you focused on being a submissive wife and not provoke your husband so much, he’d actually leave you alone. The numerous words of counsel from his immediate uncle—the only member of his family who listened to you—fell on deaf ears too. You often called your mom and threatened to quit, but she told you, this was marriage and not one of your office jobs you could quit anytime if your boss angers you. She asked you to be patient with him, that if you treated him right, everything will be alright.
Now you are mad, really. About the revolting pain you feel in your body, and the hurting in your chest, due to years wasted, holding on.
How you could not have seen him for who he truly was, how on earth you missed all the signs, each time you’re reminded, you hate yourself a little more. For it was there vividly from the start; in each voice or hand, he raised on someone else—a clear indication, a forewarning, of the hell you were getting yourself into. But you still couldn’t see. Because love is blind, you guess. But is love really blinding? Or it’s just we, humans, choose to close our eyes to reality and later blame it on love, just to eschew ourselves responsibility for our own actions and inactions. Now that you think about it, true love sees all; it is humans who are blind.
With time, every insult, every slap, kick and blow left you broken and smaller than before. And yet you stayed, and endured for three years. Why? Well at first you didn’t understand why you just couldn’t leave. Now you know why. Ever since you left, things are gradually becoming clearer now. You stayed because you were afraid. You stayed because you knew there was nowhere else to go. Because it was expected of you as a woman and wife to stay. You stayed because society would question and shame you, if you left.
Shame. The way the word keeps repeating in your brain, like a line from a song you know. It hangs over your mind, like a rainbow, making you furious. Your hands shake and your legs, fidget at the sight of the grim, aged face of your father approaching.
Shame. The one word that has been used to manipulate women over the course of time, forcing them into subjugation, into staying in situations that do not serve their interests, keeping them in marriages that are unhealthy, into making decisions they would otherwise not make.
Why? Because “shame” is a word no one wants to be associated with. To be described as “shameful” is to be made to feel less human and no one wants to be less than they already are. “If only it were used in the right instances, the word wouldn’t be so bad at all or cause much harm,” you think, anger and pain, overwhelming you, that you burst in tears.
You’ve been hearing it since the day you left the hospital. The place you went to fix the ribs Kofi broke your dining table on, and to stitch the head he slammed against the kitchen door, bed frame and wardrobe three times in just a week.
You came straight to your parent’s house from there. Mom said but for Sara, she’d have let you stay. She was crying when she said that. You find it funny because the reason you finally decided to leave was because of Sara—because to stay would mean to teach her that constant endurance and accommodation of male abuse by a woman was okay and normal. It wasn’t and you’d make sure she learns that.
However, unsurprisingly so, Dad insists you go back. Says it’s shameful for a married woman to be living apart from her husband. “A married woman has no place in her father’s house anymore,” he stated emphatically, the first day you showed up at the door, limping. Outraged, you had wanted to ask him whether or not it was shameful for married men to beat their wives, choke them, slam their heads into doors, break chairs on their wombs, or crack their skulls on walls while family members looked on unperturbed? But you dared not. You swallowed hard the lump that had fixed itself in your throat and kept your eyes on the cold terrazzo floor.
Of course you will move out of your parent’s house, but you will not be going back to your husband’s. That you know, for sure. Any man who preys on a woman doesn’t deserve to live with one. And if leaving such a man was what society considered “shameful”, you would gladly live this shame than die before your time.
Gender-based violence affects every woman regardless of class, race, education, employment, culture or ethnicity. Gender based violence thrives on the silence of its victims, survivors, society and you. Let’s end gender-based violence now by speaking out and standing up for people in abusive relationships. Let’s educate ourselves, friends and family on what constitutes abuse. Be an Advocate. End GBV Now!
Thank you for reading.
Catch you soon with the next post.