I have a friend who was a victim of domestic abuse; for way too long, if I might add. When it started at first, she was shy to say so. Then it progressed, she was trapped in a cycle that she could not seem to get out of. I remember her reaching out to me one evening because she simply wanted to talk. One of the things she said that made my heart stop for her was “I don’t like the person I have become and I can’t seem to help it because I love him“.
There is the danger of a single story but in this case, I unfortunately cannot reach the other party and have no intention to try. I am writing this with my friend’s consent. Please note that there is so much that has been omitted for privacy reasons, but this is the nicest of all the ugliness of that relationship. So here are some of the incidents she told me about as I remember:
This friend of mine had convinced herself that she wasn’t one for commitment. She was fine to have ‘things’ here and there, or ‘friends with benefits’ kind of situations. It worked for a while until she met him! After she met him, she told me how she realised that being alone would not work for her. So for her, one good thing that came out of the relationship was that she was certain that she would like to have her man as she could use the company.
The relationship started, they were from different countries and lived in the expatriate bubble in Abuja. Life was good for them…or so it appeared.
He didn’t have a steady job but was one to hustle; so somehow, he seemed alright doing things here and there. He was at a low period so like any good girlfriend, she was happy to cover the finances while he sorted himself and things out. She enjoyed the company, the sex was good so she seemed to have her emotional needs catered to. She glowed and for a quiet person like her, it was different for a few of us who knew her because she put the relationship out in public so quickly.
He, on the other hand, was a talker. He could take over any conversation and could speak for everyone. There were times that didn’t come off very nicely. He smoked a few things, so seemed to be intoxicated quite a bit. He was always so energetic. It worked for them so who could say otherwise? He convinced her to move in with him, she was skeptical at first but he is a smooth talker and knew just what to say to her. So she did.
One day they had an argument and he walked out of the house. On a general note he does not like to talk about issues; he would rather will them away then continue life like nothing ever happened and that was one thing my friend didn’t like.
The way the door to the house was, once you were outside, you would not be able to open the door without a key. The door can only be opened from inside without a key. This argument happened at night so by the time he returned, she was asleep and he didn’t knock. He slept in the car.
She woke up around 2am looking for him and found him in the car. She woke him up concerned asking why he didn’t wake her up when he got back. For some reason he thought that she was about to start another argument and got defensive telling her to stop. She was asking him to come in, but he was already aggravated and while she was holding onto the car door, he attempted to drive away. She asked where he was going to at that time but he drove off. The door tore her arm close to her elbow. She still has the scar and it isn’t pretty. At that time of the night, she was not prepared to call anyone!
They made up and life continued. One vice that this friend of mine has is alcohol! When the world throws tough situations at her, she resorts to drinking. The problem is that she drinks until she passes out.
The issues he had were no longer temporary because he had become comfortable being a moocher. He lived off of her and would even charge her to help with certain things. One example – she is paid in dollars and during her early days in Abuja, she didn’t know where to change that to naira. She asked her dear BF who was more than willing to help her do the change but with a fee!
There was another argument and my friend was being a needy girl this time. She wanted some love and attention but he was not in the mood for that so she proceeded to drink till she passed out. She woke up to his hands on her neck, she managed to get him off her then asked what he was doing. He replied asking whether she claimed to have passed out. She kept asking what he was doing.
Anyway, she left his house. We met up the next morning and she told me how she was done with him. I listened…when people are in love, you can’t tell them otherwise. I only asked her to be careful.
So many times she went back and he treated her like dirt and said the worst things to her. There were times he would call her a whore and he called her all sorts of names, this would be in public sadly. If she tried to hush him, the shouts would only get louder. A few times, she walked off.
One day she was at an all time low and wanted to talk, I heard desperation in her voice and although I had a bad day and was not in high spirits myself, for once, I was scared for her. She poured out her heart and on that day she wanted my opinion. While she was talking, it seemed like as she said some things, she realised how the person she talked about sounded like a completely helpless wimp, at a point she paused and said I expect you to slap me now.
Let’s just say that day, she got some tough love from me. I told her how I felt about her so called relationship and how she needed to take back control of her life and do what was right for her. At this point, it wasn’t about anyone but her. Sometimes one has to think of ‘me’, be selfish and walk away when you need to.
One other thing she constantly talked about was how well he knew her and how manipulative he was. He always had some story to whip us guilt and force her to do unimaginable things for him. Well, I had never heard that much breaking up and getting back together until this relationship!
She met somebody else who had been in love with her the whole time she was in the abusive relationship. He tried to step in immediately it seemed like she had actually walked away but she was not in a good place and was unable to reciprocate his love. Then he started feeling insecure. So much happened in between, not just with the new guy but with the ex also, who had become a stalker!
One last incident to wrap this up, she buzzed me one day and asked if I was free to talk. As I was not around for a while, there was no chance of us meeting up.
New guy upset her and she drank herself to stupor, became an angry woman and was yelling so much. In that inebriated state, she called ex hoping to have a listening ear from him. He came by and at some point, it became about him, always ends up that way, so an argument ensued. On this day he took it to a whole new level. He slapped the hell out of her countless times till she fell. He kept hitting her and she curled into a ball to protect herself, but he probably felt that he had not done enough.
He straddled himself over her and held her by the neck/was strangling her and trying to kiss her at the same time and shouting ‘who is on top now?’
In her words, she hated how helpless she felt. It was obviously a thing of power for him at that moment. She sent me pictures that showed how bruised her body was from the beating. We spoke a day after the whole thing but her voice was so hoarse. It was a bit too much for me to process after I saw the pictures. When she called back, I asked if she had eaten and she said no. She hadn’t eaten the day before either so I reminded her that she owed it to herself to look after herself so she needed to eat and rest. It was a Saturday so she could rest and recover to some extent before she showed up at work looking like that.
There was no advice to give, I was sorry for her but could not help her. The only thing I reminded her of, in the nicest possible way, was how nothing good had come out of her alcohol abuse so she would need to get her act together and seek help.
Before she was in this position, she said it wasn’t like she did not have respect for abuse victims but somehow she figured it was in them to react or do something about the situation until she was in the same place. She was powerless!
The one time she shouted for help, she was told by a neighbour not to escalate things. I am unsure why third parties who could help try to hide situations like this.
This brings me to the point of parents raising their daughters to be right for their husbands but not necessarily teaching their sons much about being right for their wives. It seems sometimes like there are more responsible women out there than there are men. This could account for a percentage of the problem. This is a subject that begs for attention and luckily, more women are speaking out through different platforms. There is a wealth of information online these days on how to handle and deal with cases of domestic abuse.
Don’t keep quiet!