“Watching my five year old boy as he struggled with soft tears that poured from his heavily dampened eyes, I knew I could never doubt what next I would do. I felt this sudden burst of anger rush through me. This wasn’t the heaviest beating I’d received from his papa, but maybe I just knew it was better I ended it. As the third slap fell on my heavily reddened cheek and I felt the weight of his heavy blow crash my left eye socket releasing a rush of bitter blood, I rushed into our small kitchen and came out with a knife. I warned him to stay off me as I could feel my bile rise and adrenaline pump without any rhythm. He underrated me and threatened to over-power me and stab me like he’d once done, but this time he boasted he would watch me bleed to death. It was so fast, the only thing I remembered was seeing Junior let out a loud cry like he could predict what was to come. Next, his papa lay lifeless. I’d killed him with the sword. I don’t regret my action and I am prepared to die by the sword if need be.”
I watched her say these heavy words without a pinch of tear or even any compunction. I watched the magistrate tighten the grip of his pen, he too must have been surprised at how unremorseful she was. The late man was her husband after all and between them were a five year old boy and a six week old girl. I could see her in-laws look at her with utter disdain. It was a murder case, but one with a genuine reason. She was defenceless and had the right to defend herself and what her children learned!
Domestic violence is an abuse (physical, emotional, verbal, economic and / or sexual) which can range from subtle, coercive forms to marital rape and to violent physical abuse that result in physical disfigurement or death as the case may be. It is an abuse by one person against another in a domestic context (marriage or cohabitation).
I’d first learned of the existence of this form of inhumanity from one human to another when I was just six. I remember listening to my maternal aunt recount tales of the endless battering she received from her “supposed” husband. I would watch her cry in regret at how much she missed the love he’d once shown her. My mum would rub balms on her heavily reddened skin, gently press her swollen eyes with towel in warm water and then tell her why she had to endure and pray for him to change.
“This is Africa, women are supposed to endure all kinds of hardship even in marriage. You won’t want to face the scorns of people if your marriage fails. He would change,” Mama would say.
In those times, I would wonder why being African had to mean losing yourself to another person. I would wish I was born in a better society- society that would teach respect in relationship; one where grave consequences was imposed on any form of domestic violence, one where we are taught the ethos of love even in our forming years. I would wish I found myself in a society where every form of hardship in marriage is shared 50-50, one where the children who are the long term victims learn the dignity in abstaining from domestic abuse and the gains of peaceful living.
What is the fate of children who seem to be just spectators during domestic abuse? They learn and even most likely end up being better abusers, this ends up breaking them, sometimes it teaches them that violence is the only way of life and other times it affects their self-esteem, cause them to lose their respect for the other gender and in summary breeds hatred!
Domestic violence often occurs because the abuser believes that abuse is justified and acceptable, and may produce intergenerational cycles of abuse that condone violence. Not only do direct victims experience post-traumatic stress disorder, children who live in household with violence often show ‘dysregulated’ aggression from an early age that may later contribute to continuing the legacy of abuse when they reach adulthood. This calls for better education and awareness on already established laws against domestic violence or even more stringent penalties if need be. Everyone have the right to peaceful living after all.
As she made to leave the courtroom following the case adjournment, I watched reporters flock around her. She looked defiant as she spoke not minding the hand cuff that dangled around her wrist or the heavily armed officers with her.
“…..not for the pains I’d endured daily or near death experience I’d had the day he stabbed me and I watched litres of blood leave me as I bled only to be saved by a caring neighbour who’d been aware of how much abuse I’d faced all along. I did it to protect my children and what they learned. After all they are children and have the right to learn the right things!” she’d said before being dragged into the waiting Black Maria.
This was one case I actually wished to know the end of. She had the right for a fair trial, but this is Nigeria where anything goes!
-OKEKE KENNEDY CHUKS