By KATE HALIM and VERA WISDOM-BASSEY
WHENEVER Roselyn disagreed with her husband, it would earn her a beating. For the eight years she lived with him, Roselyn was beaten more than 60 times. Sadly, her now 16-year old son witnessed several sessions of the ugly incident. With each scar, came a sting of pain in her heart that kept multiplying until she ran for her dear life. Even though she noticed signs of his aggressive nature before they got married, she thought it would be a one-time event. He slapped her once when they were courting but she waved it aside.
According to Roselyn, a French graduate, her ex-husband believed she shouldn’t have a say in their marriage. It was an abomination to him. She felt discouraged at the life she was living. She needed to take permission from him, to visit her family otherwise he would beat her till she fainted. She was literally living in hell.
Filled with regrets at the turn of events in her life, Roselyn said she would have put two and two together, because he told her his father used to beat his mother a lot. While beating her, he tells her, ‘my father used to beat my mother and she didn’t die, if I beat you, you will not break, you are not an egg.’
During the nine months duration of her pregnancy, the beating worsened. On one occasion, he threw a lit lantern at her, but luckily for her, she dodged and the settee in their sitting room almost caught fire.
At another time, he held a knife to her head. The horror she felt that day was better imagined as her whole life flashed before her eyes and she begged to stay alive for her son. His eyes were blood shot, and she didn’t believe that she would survive that encounter.
Roselyn was disappointed when she reported her husband’s inhumane behaviour to his father. He told her to be patient that the beating was normal. Her local pastor didn’t even provide the needed succour she needed at that time with words. Not even the police were ready to protect her from the beatings she endured at home.
‘’When I went to my local Pastor, he told me that I shouldn’t be making him angry, and that whatever my husband says, I should submit. I asked him if that included him asking me to rob a bank or kill someone. When I went to the police, they took one look at me and smiling said, ‘you are not a small girl. You either bear it or seek a divorce.’ But for her “What I wanted at that time was for the violence to stop butnot necessarily for the marriage to end.’’
Looking back, Roselyn confessed that her marriage was over in the second year, but was determined to make it work against all odds. Her reason? She didn’t want to be tagged a divorcee.
She was also worried over how she would raise her son, who witnessed some of the abuses. So, she had to hide him at her parents’ house at some point to shield him from the beatings. She eventually got help from an NGO that helps abused women. Roselyn is just one out of several women out there who are enduring domestic violence for several reasons while a number of brave ones have already taken a walk out of such homes so they can live. Some of them share their sad stories with Saturday Sun.
HADIZA: I lost count of how many times he beat me and pushed me out of our home
Hadiza was married to a popular Nigerian musician Zaaky Azzay. Right from the beginning of their marriage, it was hell personified for her frail body. Violence and physical assault was an integral part of their marriage.
She said that at the slightest argument between them, Zaaky would lash out at her, abused her verbally and threw things at her. Several times, in the early years of their marriage, whenever she got pregnant, he would ask her to abort it. She was concerned and asked him if he didn’t want them to have children.
Eventually, they had three children, but the violence didn’t stop. Hadiza has lost count of how many times he beat her and pushed her out of their house or abandoned her on the road if they had an argument in the car while driving home from somewhere.
“On more than two occasions, I went to the police station to report, but they never took me seriously. When I could not take it any longer, I decided to take my destiny in my hands. Initially, I ran away, because Zaaky had said, if I did not leave, he would kill me.’’
Someone referred her to Project Alert and they gave her shelter. She stayed there for six months. In the first few days she was in the shelter, she was miserable, because she missed her children.
Hadiza succeeded in having two of her three children but the action infuriated her husband who used his personal relationship with the Police to threaten and intimidate her. They tried tracing her to the shelter, and at that point Project alert had to petition the IGP.
It was all joy for Hadiza when the petition was approved and the Lagos State Police Command was asked to back off on a case that was already in court. She also went to the public to tell her story as he had gone on the social media to say one small NGO, known as Project Alert, was trying to use his name to make money. By the time she told her own side of the story, he could not talk again.
Reliving her sad days as a married woman, Hadiza revealed Zaaky didn’t allow her to do anything. She lived in his shadow and her self-esteem was at its lowest ebb because she was careful not to provoke him.
Since he was older than her by about 20 years, she disclosed that Zaaky felt she was too stupid to know or do anything against his order. Her opinion in the house did not count, and anytime she tried voicing out anything, she received serious beatings.
While she was at the shelter, and with the constant counseling she received, her self-confidence and esteem returned gradually. She started believing in herself and her ability to work and earn a living. She engaged in petty trading with support from her father.
Life smiled on Hadiza who was able to rent a small apartment for herself and her children after living in the shelter for six months. Today, her marriage to Zaaky is over. But he still has her oldest daughter and Hadiza is doing everything she can to get her daughter away from her father.
OMO: My six-year old daughter asked me if I would be happy if my husband kills me
Omo had gotten used to receiving severe beatings from her husband of eight years. She was an orphan who opened her heart and life to Kenneth. At the time they met, he appeared like her messiah but that quickly fizzled out as he kept presenting her with blows, kicks and slaps at every given opportunity.
One day, he beat her so much that she fainted. It was the voice of her confused children that kept ringing in her subconscious until her neighbours revived her. When she woke up, she was soaked in water. Her crying children were by her side looking lost, confused and scared.
Her six year old daughter begged her not to allow daddy killed her as the beatings had become a regular occurrence in their home. Her daughter informed her that daddy kept kicking her in the head even after she had passed out. Omo said that contrary to pleas from neighbours that she left her abusive husband while she could still be with her children, she stayed in the marriage and forgave him, praying that he would change.
However, Omo would live to regret her decision as her prayers fell on hard ground. He became worse and abused her even more. Three months ago, he threatened to kill her and the children. This time, she knew the threat was real. She became fearful and lost all hopes, thinking of what would happen when he eventually carries out his threats.
‘’My kids were frightened, my daughter begged me to call the police, but I refused, claiming that a good woman won’t call the police on her husband. Her next statement made me cry. She said you always protect him, he beat you, spit on you, but you still protect him. I hope you will be happy if he eventually kills us “.
It was not that her daughter wasn’t telling the truth, but the reality was that they had nowhere to go. But her friend came to her rescue offering her a boys’ quarters accommodation in her home and she moved in with her two children. They had rest for a while until her husband started threatening the couple who took them in.
She narrated further, “after two months, he started calling, asking people to call and say how sorry he was. I was considering going back but every time I pray, I keep getting this feeling that if I go back to him, I might not come back alive. I wanted to go back because I hate divorce.’’
OMOTOLA: One day, my husband tried to strangle me
Omotola was married for 10 years and she was blessed with two children. But then, her marriage was not the happy one she envisaged. Her husband had on several occasions beaten and threatened her to keep quiet the goings on at home.
She trembled whenever she heard his voice. All she would do to provoke was to ask him questions about what she deemed important and he would flip. On one occasion, he attempted strangling her and pulled off her hair from the skull scalp.
Worse still, he never provided for the family as and when due and refused her, conjugal rights. On several occasions, after enduring the frustration for a long time, Omotola made attempts to bring in their pastor to mediate, a suggestion he hitherto, refused.
It was then it dawned on her that she would no longer risk her life for a union that was snuffing every inch of her breath away from existence. With nowhere to go and no money to keep her and her children together, she ran to a shelter for abused women in Lagos and they helped her regain her life.
MERCY: Before our wedding, he beat me up and broke my left eardrum
Another domestic violence survivor, Mercy was married for nine turbulent years. Trouble started during preparations for their wedding. As invites were being sent out to friends, he beat her up and broke her left eardrum in the process.
Immediately, she wanted to call the wedding off, but both families begged and prevailed on her not to do so, as it would bring about shame. They pleaded on his behalf and he promised never to hit her again.
But he didn’t keep his promise. Four months into their marriage, he started beating her at every slightest opportunity. This led to further deterioration in her left ear, as he kept slapping and hitting her.
She revealed that the beatings and the problems continued unabated for nine years despite family interventions, which often times ended with both families asking her to apologise even after the beatings. Hardly would a month go by that he wouldn’t beat her.
At one time, he attempted to strangle her. She however managed to escape from him and called out to neighbours. Having escaped, she reported him to the police. He was invited but no agreement could be reached as he told the police that as long as she argues with him, he would keep beating her.
‘’At this point, I realized that there was no hope for our marriage and that I needed to run for dear life. Neither my security nor that of my children was guaranteed in the marriage. I got to Project Alert for Women, a non-governmental organization, six weeks after they opened the first shelter for abused women in Nigeria.’’
Her marriage was dissolved on the grounds of cruelty, physical assault and threat to life. While she gained custody of their children, her ex was asked to pay maintenance allowance for his young children.
Her ordeal was far from over as her ex-husband never adhered to the court judgement till date as he has refused to cater for his children as ruled. The NGO Project Alert assisted Mercy through Law School and thereafter, she got a job with at the University of Lagos where she now works.
Even though she is happy to be alive to tell her story, she has not had it easy catering for her children as a single mother. It was a tough road, but one that is laced with benefits. Her children give her strength to keep moving.
BOLAJI: He forced me to transfer my salaries to him even though he runs his business
A mother of four, Bolaji had suffered incessant physical and psychological assault from her husband, Lawrence. She experienced various forms of physical assault ranging from chasing her with cutlass on several occasions; throwing her things out of the house; seizing and destroying her personal and official properties such as office laptop and phones etc.
Even though he had a business of his own, her husband had on numerous occasions forced her to transfer her salaries to him on a monthly basis, using the children as bait. He had severally threatened to frustrate her in life and render her useless, saying nothing would happen.
For the most part of their 11 -year old marriage, she lived in unimaginable fear for her life and those of her children. At one point, he asked her to resign from her job after taking her salary. He placed her under house arrest for days. He seized her phones too. When she eventually communicated to her father begging to be rescued, he pushed her out of their home and stopped her from leaving even though she was still breastfeeding her baby.
After much power tussle between both families using the police, her baby was handed over to her. She filed for a restraining order against him. She has known peace ever since she left her abusive husband and she’s doing well with her four children.
ROSEMARY: He would beat me up after sleeping with other women
Rosemary had married Mr. Roland hoping the marriage would be filled with bliss. They had started a business together, built a house together and bought cars together, yet, all the documents were in his name.
When she summoned the courage to ask him why all the documents were in his name haven contributed 70 per-cent of the money involved, he beat her up, tearing her clothes before their neighbours.
He started sleeping around with women, and whenever she expressed her displeasure, she would receive a thorough beating. He proceeded to a customary court to divorce her because they had a traditional marriage.
‘’The last time he beat me up in the presence of my children and neighbours, I reported him to the police and he was invited for questioning. At the station, the police made him sign an undertaking never to assault me again.’’
ADEOLA: He took my children away
A mother of two boys, Adeola got married to Mr. Philip Otkupom Philip, a Naval Rating, after both of them met at the home of her elder sister. They courted for six months and consummated their marriage in 2007.
However, their love-at-first-sight story turned sour as he turned her to his punching bag. She received beatings whenever she confronted him about his numerous affairs, when she admires another man and refused him sex.
Once, he poked his hands into her eyes and till date, she still feels the pain in her eyes. As the beatings continued, Adeola cried out for help and reported her abusive husband at Navy Barracks at Iyana Ipaja, Alimosho area of Lagos.
As the case is still under investigation, he retaliated by taking her children away from her and she has not set eyes on them ever since. He took them to his sister’s house in Port Harcourt where they had denied Adeola the right to see or even speak to them on phone.
Adeola alleged that Philips is about taking another lady from the Airforce as a wife, while her two children are away from her. Scared of receiving another round of beating, Adeola has not ventured travelling to Port-Harcourt to get her children back.
There are insufficient data on domestic violence in Nigeria. This is primarily due to the stigma and silence surrounding the issue. While there not as much research as there should ideally be on such a serious social and public health issue due to the fear, shame and silence surrounding domestic violence as well as limited funding to engage in the requisite research, there are clear data generated by reputable organisations.
Domestic violence cuts across all socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. Twenty eight per cent of all women, almost a third of all women in Nigeria, have experienced physical violence, a significant number in a country of almost 160 million, where almost half are women.
Up to 43 per cent of women thought that wife-beating could be justified on the grounds of matters like burning the food; arguing with their husbands; going out without asking for permission; neglecting the children; and refusal to have sexual intercourse.
Women with no education were more likely to say that wife beating was justified. Rural men were more likely to say that wife beating on any of the above-mentioned grounds was justified. Men with a secondary school education were less likely to justify wife-beating than men with less education.
A study further showed that educated women were more likely to have experienced domestic violence. Also, women who live in urban areas are more likely than their counterparts who live in rural areas to have experienced domestic violence.
The Gender in Nigeria, 2012 report also indicated that young women between the ages of 15 and 24 were most likely to have experienced physical violence. They were also most likely to justify violence, including wife beating.
While many women are now speaking out against the violence they have had to endure, others have escaped with permanent disabilities and scars while some who are not so lucky have died in the process of being pummelled constantly.