Two weeks ago, I had my usual catch-up sessions with my girlfriends and this topic came up. Just a few days ago, a website surfaced with “a letter from the grave” – http://www.ogorip.com/my-story.html
A lady named Ogo who passed away on the 27th of February 2012 had shared details of her struggles at home with someone close to her and the person has now published Ogo’s story online.
Along the same lines, on the 29th of February 2012, Nigerian actress and blogger, Stella Damasus published a personal account of her experience at a close friend’s funeral via PMNews and the struggles her friend went through in her marriage up until “her husband killed her”.
This is a very long post but definitely worth the read.
Why do women and men stay in abusive relationships? Why do many pastors, family and friends advice women/men to stay in toxic relationships. We have heard about or even experienced numerous cases of domestic violence, sexual abuse (of their partner or in some cases, children) and emotional abuse, yet, women/men are advised to stay in the relationships.
We are not saying that every squabble should lead to divorce but as we see in Ogo and Stella’s friend’s case, many women and men are experiencing extreme torment in their relationships. Nigerian musician Kefee remarried in March 2012; a large number of commenters chastised her for leaving her first abusive marriage which according to divorce documents (though allegations were denied by her ex-husband). It seems as though our society preaches “till death do you part…even if the one who is supposed to love and protect is the one who kills you”
Ogochuckwu Onuchukwu’s Story
My mum is crying. I can see her from here. She has aged since the last time I saw her.
Why does she look so old and why is she so thin? Can someone console her? Can someone make her stop crying?
I try to get up but I can’t. I try to reach for her, but I’m stuck where I am. It is very dark in here, and very cold, so very cold.
What am I doing here? Where is everybody? Where are my children? I begin to panic, to struggle; I want to get out of this dark room.
I can hear Uzo calling. She’s calling my name. Then, I see mum again. And I hear Uzo again. I don’t see my children. Where are my children? I can’t see beyond the walls of this dark and cold room.
Uzo calls again.
She sounds desperate to rouse me from my sleep. I am struggling to wake but I can’t. I open my eyes and they shut of their own accord.
I am powerless to keep them from shutting. And I find as soon as I stop struggling, my sleep becomes sweet repose. Suddenly I don’t want to wake from it just yet. It is peaceful.
I see mum again, and I see Uzo. Uzo keeps calling. She won’t stop calling. She is crying too, just like mum.
Can someone bring Kamsi and Amanda to me? Can someone bring my babies to me? I need to hug them, Kamsi, especially. Is he crying too and calling out for me?
Does he understand that I am gone? Kamsi will miss me.
He is a special child, you know; Kamsiyochukwu – my son and my first child.
I prayed and longed for his birth. He was the blessing from above that would seal Kevin’s love for me and give me some footing in his home and some acceptance from his family.
Before Kamsi, I was a nobody in Kevin’s home. I was born the last of nine children, the baby of the family. I was used to love and affection. I was everyone’s baby. I grew up knowing that everyone had my back, I grew up knowing the safety and security of being the baby of the home. You may then understand my shock when I stepped out of my home and into new territory with the man of my dreams only to find that I was really not as special as I had been made to believe. I look back to that day when Kevin took me home to introduce me to my new family. The cold and rude shock of the welcome his brother’s wife gave me set off an alarm in my head.
These people didn’t think I was special. In fact, her first words were, ”Kevin, ebe kwa ka isi dute nka?” (Kevin, “Where on earth did you bring this one from?) That would be the first time I would be addressed as “this one” and from then on, I grappled with the realization that I was not welcome in my new home.
I remember my first Christmas at Ihiala as a new bride. My brother-in-law’s wife would sneer and clap and refer to me as “Ndi ji ukwu azo akwu” (the people who process palm fruits with their bare feet). I knew she meant my impoverished home town of Nsukka. She would sing to me all day long telling me the only reason why their brother married me was because of my beauty and complexion.
Now, I lie here and I wonder if I was in my right mind to ignore the several other alarms over my 12- year union with Kevin.
I had to ignore them, I told myself. I had already taken my vows to be with Kevin until death did us part.
They never really wanted me, I can now see. But I was too blinded by love to realize that. I needed to do something to cement Kevin’s heart with mine. I needed to remain Kevin’s wife and to prove to the world that indeed Love would conquer all.
When after one year of marriage there were still no children, the painful journey that sent me to my grave started. I went from specialist to specialist, ingested every kind of pill that promised to boost my fertility. As my desperation grew, so did pressure from Kevin’s family. My horror-movie life story started playing out; the horror-movie life that has sent me to an early and cold grave from where I write this letter to my husband.
My sweet Kevin,
We started to fight over little things. The fights were worse after you visited home or attended any of your numerous family meetings. You came home one evening and asked me to move out of the bedroom we both shared and into the guestroom downstairs. The next time you returned from the meeting, you tied me up with a rope and used your belt on me. No one heard my screams.
I remember when you told me that your family had asked you to remarry. You showed me documents of all your numerous landed property including the house we lived in. Your brother was listed as next of kin. When I asked you about it, your answer rocked the ground I was standing on. You said, “What have you to show that entitles you to any stake in this household?” You were referring to my barreness.
It is funny how to my family and friends, I was the beautiful and loving Ogo, whilst to you and your family I was a worthless piece of rag. You called me barren. I could have fled but your love and acceptance was of more worth to me than the love and admiration of the world outside our home. I desperately sought to be loved by you, Kevin.
In your family’s presence I felt unworthy, unloved and unwanted. Yet, I stayed on. I would make you love me one way or the other and I knew that one sure way would
be to produce a child, an heir for you. That was the most important thing to you.
I began the numerous procedures, painful procedures, including surgery. I gave myself daily shots. At some point the needles could no longer pierce my skin. My skin had toughened to the piercing pain of needles.
After seven years of marriage, our prayers were answered. God blessed us with our son Kamsiyochukwu, which means ‘’Just as I asked of the Lord’’. God had intervened and miracles were about to start happening because for the first time in seven years, my mother-in-law called me. Finally I was home. I had been accepted. I was now a woman, a wife and a mother. Finally there was peace. Kamsi will be four in November.
The miracles stayed with me because 18 months later through another procedure, Chimamanda was born. Her birth was bitter sweet for me. Sweet because you Kevin, my husband, and my in-laws would love me more for bearing a second child, but bitter because this particular birth almost cost me my life. The doctors had become very concerned. You see, I had developed too many complications from all the different procedures I had undergone in the journey to have children and these were beginning to get in the way of normal everyday living. I developed conditions that had almost become life threatening. So the doctors sent me off with my new bundle of joy and with a stern warning not to try for another child as I may not be so lucky.
I chuckled, almost gleefully. Why would I want to try for a third child? God had given me a boy and a girl, what more could I ask for. I was only ever so thankful to God.
Kevin, you and I gave numerous and very generous donations to different churches in thanksgiving to God. All was well. I was happy and fulfilled. Kevin, you loved me again. Your family accepted me. Life was good. And all was quiet again. …………………… For a while.
Then fate struck me a blow. As if to remind me that my stay in your house was temporary and was never really going to be peaceful, Kamsi – our son, our first fruit, my pride and joy and the child that gave me a place in my husband’s home, began to show signs of slowed development; the visits to the doctors resumed, this time on account of Kamsi.
We started seeing therapists. After we’d been from one doctor to another I decided I had to resort to prayer. I was frightened. I was terrified. I was
threatened. I started to feel unwell. I had difficulty breathing. I needed to see my doctors, Kamsi too. He wasn’t doing too well either. He had difficulty
with his speech. He was slow to comprehend things. I did not know for sure what was wrong with him but I knew all was not well. Not with him and not with me. We
were denied visas to the USA because we had overstayed on our last trip on account of Kamsi’s treatments. So whilst we waited for a lawyer to help us clear
up the immigration issues with America, I applied for a UK visa and sought help in London. But by then, trouble had reared its head at home, again.
Kevin, you had again become very impatient with me. My fears were fully alive again. The battles it seemed I had won were again in full rage. My husband, in your
irritable impatience and anger, you told me to my face that our son, my Kamsi, was worthless to you. You said he was abnormal. You said that our daughter, my
Amanda, was a girl and that you had no need for a girl child because she would someday be married off. I remember, in pain, that you didn’t attend Amanda’s
christening because you were upset with me. You told me your mother was more important to you than “THESE THINGS” I brought to your house. You were referring
to our children, were you not? “THESE THINGS”.
My heart bled. I wept bitterly. Then I quickly calmed my fears by telling myself that you were under a lot of stress at work and that you were also probably reacting to all the money that you had spent on my treatments. Surely, all that was getting to you? Even when you threatened me with a knife, twice you did that, I still felt unworthy of you and very deserving of your hatred. Even when you would say: “I will kill you and nothing will happen because you have no one to fight for you”, I kept on struggling to get you to love me because, Kevin, your validation was important to me
You had refused to give me money for my medical trip to London. I knew then it was because you had your hands full with caring and catering for everybody who was dear to you. Your finances were stretched. I thought then that in time you would come around.
My health continued to get worse. Eventually, I made it to London. After extensive consultations and tests, I was given a definitive diagnosis. My condition was life threatening. It was from this time, when it was clear that I required surgery to save me life that I came face to face with a different kind of war from our home.
Kevin, you stopped speaking with me. I was in pain, in anguish and in tears. I didn’t understand what was happening. I had stayed three weeks in London and Kevin, you never called, sent a text or inquired how I was faring. You stopped taking my calls. Instead I got a call from my cousin in whose care I had left my children. She was frantic with worry because there was no food in the house for the children to eat;
Kevin you had refused to provide food for our children. Kevin, you had also refused to pay for Kamsi’s home schooling.
Then Kevin, I received that e-mail from you. The only communication from you for the entire period I was in London.
Do you remember?
It was an angry email. You berated me for putting your integrity at stake at your work place. Apparently your employers had called a hospital in London to inquire about me and were told that no one by my name was ever their patient. I later found out that you had given the wrong hospital name to your employers. Do you remember, Kevin?
For the first time in my 12 year marriage, the alarm bells in my head began to sound real. For the first time in 12 years, I felt real anger stir up in my heart. Kevin, I was angry because you paid no heed to the hospital where your wife was at in London. You had no clue and cared little about what I was going through. Yet you would
berate me for putting your INTEGRITY at work at stake. Your integrity was your primary concern, not my health.
Then it hit me! All these years I was trying to be all I could be for you, Kevin, to make you happy, to please you, Kevin, ……… you actually hated me. You didn’t want me in your life. The signs were all there. Your family had showed me from day one that they didn’t want me. I was the object of a hatred that I could not explain. I
couldn’t understand why.
Then I saw the hand writing on the wall, all those many things that went on. You even sold my car whilst I was still lying on a hospital bed in London, with no word to me. I was not to learn of what you had done until I returned to Nigeria. The doctors had allowed me to return to prepare for surgery.
Kevin, do you remember that on my return I gave you a pair of shoes I had bought for you? Kevin, my husband, do you remember hurling those shoes at me? Kevin, do you remember me breaking down in tears? Kevin, do you remember me asking you that night, many times over, why you hated me so much, what I had done to make you hate me as much as you did?
“You are disturbing me, and if you continue, I`ll move out and inform the company that I no longer live in the house. Then they will come and drive you away”. Kevin, my husband, that was your response to me. Did you know then I only had days to live?
Is that why you told me that would be the last time I would see you physically? Did you know it would only be a few more hours?
I still had a surgery to go through. Kevin, since you wanted no part in it, I had contacted the medical officer in your company directly for referrals. I left Eket for Lagos on
Saturday. That same day I consulted with the specialist surgeon and surgery was scheduled for Monday morning.
In those final hours, as I prepared for my surgery, I was alone, my spirit was broken. I had lost all the fight in me. Kevin, I knew that nothing I did or said would turn you heart toward me, and I had nobody for whom you had any regards who would speak up for me.
In those final hours, Kevin, I called you. This was Sunday morning, less than 24 hours to my death. Do you remember, Kevin? I called you to share what the specialist surgeon had said. I was still shaking from your screams on the phone when I got in here. You did not want me to bother you, you screamed. I should go to my brothers and sisters, you screamed. I should pay you back all the money you gave me for my treatment in London, you screamed. Kevin, did you know that would be my last conversation with you? My last conversation with you, my husband, my love, my life, ended with you banging the phone on me.
Recalling the abusive words, the spitting, the beating, the bruising, the knifing, and the promise that I would not live long for daring to forget to buy garden eggs for your mother, an insult you vowed I would pay for with my life ……., I knew then it was over for me. There was no rationalizing needed any longer. Even the blind could see ………. You did not want me in your life.
I went in for surgery on Monday morning, February 27, 2012, and after battling for several hours, I yielded my spirit.
Kevin, my husband, I lived my promise to God. The promise I made on the day I wedded you.
For better ………………………… For worse
For richer …………………………. For poorer
In Sickness ………………………. And in health
To love ………………………….. And to cherish
Till DEATH US DO PART!
And it has.
NOW I AM DEAD!!!!!!!
Just as your mum predicted ….. Her cold words follow me to morgue. She swore to me that I would leave her son’s house dead or alive. I couldn’t leave whilst I still breathed. It had to be through death, and death it has become.
Kevin, you are FREE! And, so am I.
Your freedom is temporary. Mine is eternal.
Whilst you still have freedom, remember Kamsi and Chimamanda.
Lovingly yours until death,
I am gone. Gone forever. But if one woman, just one woman will learn from my story, then maybe I would not have gone in vain.
My heart weeps for my children, my mummy, my sisters and my brothers, my extended family. These ones, I was a gift to. These ones, they loved me. These ones, they wanted me. These ones, they needed me. These ones, they wish I had spoken out earlier.
Stella Damasus: When Is It Enough?
It was 8 o’clock that morning and I was already dressed in my black dress, black shoes and no make-up, with my brushed hair in a pony tail. I was heading to Yaba for a friend’s funeral.
She was 35 and beautiful, a mother of two beautiful children. I really did not want to go because I was not sure of how I was going to react. I was not sure if I could pull myself together.
Anyway, I got to the church and it was filled with people who knew her and who had heard of her. As I approached the church, I was already battling with the huge lump in my throat, making sure that I could at least sit through the service. I managed to get inside, and then the ushers took me up-front to sit with the family. I saw her mother and siblings who were weeping uncontrollably, so I tried to console them while battling with that same lump in my throat. I did all I could until the kids walked into the church with the nanny. Oh my goodness, now that lump has melted into liquid, the flood gates were flung open and the tears started gushing out. It was not a very pleasant sight as the choir leader could not continue the song.
This is to give you an insight into the kind of person my friend was and the life she lived.
She was extremely intelligent, kind, simple and most of all was in love with God and His word.
Well, as I tried to calm down, he walked in —THE HUSBAND.
I am sure by now you are thinking I would run to console him since I was very close to her and he knew me. Instead, I stood up and walked to the other side of the church and sat down. That was when I knew how much respect I had for the church and the dead.
If I could, I would have locked him up in the coffin so he could go with her; after all, he put her there in the first place.
We had all begged, prayed, complained, reported, and fought, just to get him to stop beating her. I was tired of seeing the black eye, the swollen face, the bruised arms and the constant headaches. It was so bad that I had to tell him that one day he would do something really bad to his wife and end up behind bars. Little did I know that the day in question was fast approaching.
He had beaten her so much for sending her own money to her mother without telling him, and when she tried to protect herself by pushing him off her, he got infuriated and hit her head on the wall.
This time no black eye, no bruise to worry about, she just did not wake up.
When her sister called me in the middle of the night, I was not sure whether to cry or get angry or scream. My whole body was shaking and all I could say was “no… no… no… please God, no, no, no… please”.
I started to feel guilty, “maybe I should have moved her out of there” but then again who am I to move her out of her husband’s house when she herself refused to move. It really hurt, so much that even as I am writing this I am still crying.
The case was taken to court and was dismissed, because according to the courts the evidence was not enough, and so he was discharged and acquitted.
In a country where an accurate autopsy cannot be carried out, let alone thoroughly investigate a crime, what do you expect?
She is dead and gone but the killer is walking free, and as usual, he has custody of the children whom he has passed on to his new wife.
My heart has been bleeding ever since because I know that this is happening to so many women. Some are still alive today to tell their stories, some are afraid to cry out for help; some cover up when they are asked questions about their black eye; some believe that there is no justice for the abused woman because other cases they have heard of, have always favoured the man, and lastly, some are no longer alive to speak up.
As sad as this is, it is still happening even as I write.
Now it has progressed to acid baths, body mutilation, and other unthinkable things.
In anger, I stormed to the church we all attended and demanded to see the head pastor. When he came out, I screamed and yelled and people came into the church to hold me down. Please, do not think I disrespect men of God. Oh, far from it, in fact I respect them so much because without some of them who have mentored me, I would not be the person I am today.
Truth of the matter is, my late friend’s sister told me that a few days before she died, she had gone to meet the pastor in fear because she had another fight with her husband who told her that he was ready to kill her and nothing would happen to him. He kept saying in pidgin English: “na naija we dey o and when you die your dead body no go come prove to the court say na me kill you”.
My late friend then called her sister to tell her what had happened and that she was going to see the pastor.
I asked her sister: “Why pastor? Why not police?”
The sister laughed and said: “Do you know how many times she tried that? The policeman she met on duty laughed and said, ‘madam na domestic matter be dis abeg, husband and wife must fight, go beg your husband’ ”.
When her husband found out, he laughed and asked if she thought she was in America, then he beat her some more for even attempting.
So, she went to the pastor and told him everything again because that was not the first time she went to him to complain and ask for help. As usual the pastor said: “My daughter, there is nothing God cannot do. Please, prayer is what you need. Keep praying to God to touch his heart, he will not kill you and he will not harm you. Go back home and maintain peace, please; remember that God hates divorce so you cannot leave your home and children”. She left there feeling so dejected and scared, and so she called her sister and told her what the pastor had said.
I tried to think about what could have been going on in her head everyday of her life, thinking that there is no SAFE HAVEN. The man who swore to love and protect you is the one who is killing you; the parents who gave you to him in marriage will tell you not to leave your home because it is not a family trait and it will bring shame upon the family. You are too ashamed to even let people know you are going through domestic violence for fear of being stigmatized; you are not protected by law enforcement agents nor the law because some of them do the same thing to their wives; then the only place which is the house of God also tells you to go back to the place where you are being destroyed.
My heart broke and that was when I wept the most, because no one knows what she could have gone through alone.
So, I looked at this pastor and said ‘I hope you are happy now, I hope you are satisfied that she listened to you and got killed in the process’.
I am not saying I support separation or women running out of their homes, but I insist that there must be temporary measures to take the woman to a safe place until things can be resolved. She has to, at least, be alive first before any reconciliation or anything can even take place.
My question today is: what does the church do in cases like this? Is it saying that because of doctrines women should remain there and die? Is it saying that apart from prayer there is no other way to help?
I poured out my heart to the pastor and asked him a question directly without any apologies, “If your daughter came to you, bruised everyday, threatened and battered, would you tell her to go back there and pray? What if she does and gets killed? What would your reaction be? Will you be able to live with yourself?”
Then I calmed down and said God bless you pastor and thank you, I hope this means she will go to heaven.
He could not utter a word, so I walked out.
Call this ranting, lamenting, disrespectful, but one thing is for sure. We need answers, we need to shout it out loud, we need to educate women and let them know they can cry out for help.
I can’t stress this enough, if you are going through any form of violence, especially domestic violence, you can get help. Please don’t die for nothing. Make that call to Project Alert now 01-4737270, 08052004698 or send an email to email@example.com, log on to their website www.projectalertnig.org
Enough is enough; the time to act is now. Say No To Domestic Violence.
This piece is dedicated to all the women who have lost their lives through domestic violence.
May their souls rest in peace.
What are your thoughts on this?