‘My experience with an abusive man’

Sunday August 19 2018


By Fridah Mlemwa

The women talk about the things they have gone through at the hands of abusive lovers.

Naomi’s* story

“They say love makes the world go round, indeed the world did spin after the ‘love of my life’ hit me hard with a blow to my head. Then he scooped me up and held me against the wall with his hands tight around my neck.

We were on a romantic getaway at a villa, and the light from candles started to dim.

As I felt my body give way to the darkness, and I prayed that my child would find a loving home after I am gone.

“Suddenly, I could breathe again. My fiancé wrapped me tight in his arms as he let go my neck, and sobbed. In between his sobs, he muffled apologies and blamed alcohol for his envy and suspensions.

He said he felt insecure after his male friend jumped into the pool after me, and as he watched as we played in the water, he lost it.

“Looking at my engagement ring sparkle in the semi-darkness of our lavish villa, I chose to sleep and forget. Two months later, I walked down the aisle to say ‘I do’ to him – after all, it happened only that one time and he promised it would never happen again.

“Fast forward two months later, life happened. He was thrown off the board of his organisation and his accounts frozen. With no money and fuelled by frustration, he took to the bottle to pass the time.

Soon after, he turned his keen eye on me, scrutinising every action I took, hating my little income supporting us and monitoring my every movement. The insecurities showed up again. He began accusing me of infidelity and shadowing my every move.

He had alcohol on his breath everywhere we went; he cut contact with his family and took our child to boarding school, and depended on me to make him smile. It drained me. I was very unhappy.

“One morning, I woke up to find him staring coldly at me. I brushed it off. I went into the kitchen to make breakfast and motioned for him to join me at the dining table but instead, he started firing accusations of infidelity at me. When I tried to defend myself, he grabbed me by the hair and bashed me against the wall.

Before I could recover, his hands were on my neck, squeezing harder and harder as his jaw tightened. I stared into his dark eyes, clawing into his arms. I grew faint and passed out. I came to, to find him pointing a gun at me.

“I lay half-dead on the cold floor wondering how I would survive this. When he realised I was too dazed to hear what he was saying, he got up to go get some cold water to wake me up.

It was then that this sheer will to survive took over me; in a split second, I got to my shaky feet and jumped out of the balcony from our third floor apartment.

A shopkeeper rushed to pick me up and hid me in her kiosk. Two hours later, a gun went off. Police were called in and neighbours rushed to see the body of my husband lying lifeless. He had shot himself.”

Judy’s * story

“I have heard it said a million times that sometimes you will just meet someone and you will instantly know that they are ‘the one’.

It will just feel right from the get go; this man will make all those years of yearning and praying worth it. And that is exactly what I told my girlfriends when I met him.

“I couldn’t stop gushing over him. I would go on and on about his kindness and thoughtfulness. How he was always out helping people; rushing his neighbour to the hospital in the middle of the night, paying rent for his friends when they were broke, buying his uncle farm machinery to help him make a profit and attending all important events for his friends and relatives.

To add icing to the cake, he was a pastor’s son. I believed I had found my prayer partner. When I thought I couldn’t expect more, there was a cherry on top of my icing; he was an all alpha man.

He brought me shopping when I hadn’t asked, showing interest in my friends and my work, introducing me to his friends, calling me for hours in the dead of the night to talk about our days and make plans to meet our families.

“Well, it is true when the deal is too good think twice. I didn’t pause to think twice even though everything was happening so fast. I relied on the fact that church folks move fast into commitment.

I broke my cardinal rule not to allow any man into my tiny apartment for him, after all it was just lunch and it was only right he saw my place. I sang to my favourite gospel songs as I cooked his favourite meal, excited to show off my skills in cooking and interior décor. He was pleased with his meal but got bored with the movie that was playing. So instead he started playing with me.

Trying to tickle me. As I laughed hard into my cushy carpet he got on top of me and started kissing me.

Soon the joke was over; my arms were pinned behind my head and my legs spread apart.

The struggle was short, he was a strong and heavy guy on top of my tiny self. Twenty or so minutes later, he zipped up and pulled me into his arms claiming that he was burning with passion and I was too attractive.

Inside, I blamed myself for not screaming or praying for it to stop. I collected myself and dug deep into my love for him.

“The next day, my friend stopped by after church to hang out. As I narrated what happened, the reaction on my friend’s face broke me. She pulled me into a hug and whispered, ‘I am sorry he raped you.’

It is then that it dawned on me that I had been raped. Through the support from my friends, I stopped seeing him. I started my journey towards healing by first forgiving myself and taking a break from dating.”

Emma’s* story

“I suffered in my 16 years of marriage. I had been living by rules defined by his taste in clothing, timing and hobbies, raising our three boys in a particular way plus labouring after him, and even limitations to friends I could have. Then he was transferred to another country across the border, and I could finally breathe … I thought.

“I soon found out that my husband had tapped my phone to spy on all my calls and texts, and placed spies to report any deviation from ‘normalcy’. I found out the hard way.

I went out to a nyama choma base to celebrate my friend’s sister’s hen party and all hell broke loose. I was condemned for the place I went to, the glass of sparkling wine I took and for staying out until 11pm.

“For weeks I heard nothing from him except random messages of accusation and no response to my explanation.

The kids’ school fees was not paid; the weekly pizza delivery for the children was stopped; the shopping budget was ignored and all other costs not paid.

I regretted bowing to his pressure of being a house wife. For the first time, I felt I couldn’t cope with him anymore. I texted him ‘I want a divorce’. It has been two months since and I have received no response.”