Everyone thinks I’m a wicked woman. They just can’t get over the fact that I actually reported my own husband to the authorities after finding out what he did to Temisan. Should I really have turned blind eyes to the issue and deprive Temisan of justice? Wouldn’t that damage the poor, little girl completely? Is it not bad enough that she is already an orphan at the tender age of 13 and has to survive by helping me out with the house chores? Does she deserve to face any more misfortune? Why is everyone blaming me for the animalistic behaviour of my husband? My parents won’t talk to me because they said I have brought shame upon them by doing the right thing. My husband’s family members are always raining curses on my head because according to them, I have ruined their name. They said I should have covered his shame as any virtuous woman would have. This was the same thing they told me when he slept with Ejiro, his supposedly business partner, and thoroughly beat me up when I challenged him about it.
My name is Isioma Adekunle, and this is my story.
I met my husband while I was serving in an advertising agency. I had developed a communication strategy for a brand relatively new in the market. No one asked me to do it because really, I was just a corps member and not a thoroughly trained strategist like the others. But you see, I was hooked with the big idea, and I just couldn’t let go of it until I prepared the whole slides and pitched it to the talent manager. She was quite impressed with the outcome and absolutely fell in love with the tagline. She informed the rest of the creative team about my plan, and they were sold out on it. I had to make a presentation to our client and the whole creative team. Trust me, I’m a very timid person who always mixes up her words in public. But on that particular day, I killed my presentation without stuttering or being nervous. And by Jove, our client loved it and paid immediately for the execution of the plan I had come up with. This upgraded me from the mere Corper to a Communication Strategist in the agency. This also brought the ‘client’ into my life.
Tunde was really sweet when we started dating. Although he was a little controlling and possessive, his good qualities made me turn blind eyes to his horrible habits. We got married barely six months after courting and he asked me to quit my job because in his own words:
“The babies will start popping soon and I don’t want you to stress yourself. I make enough money for both of us, so you don’t have to worry about anything because I will take good care of you.”
I tried to remind him that the job makes me feel fulfilled and I was sure going to go crazy if I become a stay-at-home wife. He retorted by striking a deal with me. He said he was going to open a grocery store for me to keep me busy. I asked him what difference that will make since I will still have to leave the house every morning and return in the evening, but he answered me blandly saying “oh, it is different because you will have more time for me, Isi”. I knew right there that I was in for a long ride.
I tried to fight it, believe me. I really didn’t want to be confined to that stifling box. But when I told my mother about it, she said I have to be submissive to my husband. Oh, how I hate that word ‘submissive’ with passion now. I practically let my husband get away with treating me like a second class citizen because of that word. My mother-in-law wasn’t any different. She said my husband is my head and I have to behave like a virtuous woman if I wanted God to bless my new family. I had no option than to swallow it all up and face my new family squarely by performing my wifely duties, since that was what God created me for.
This decision took a big jab on my self-esteem. I became sad and depressed. I missed waking up every morning and dressing pretty to work. I missed brainstorming with my colleagues at work. I missed how my eyes always lit up whenever an idea popped into my head. So to keep myself busy and save myself from insanity, I decided to start a cooking business since I’m pretty good at it. I opened different social media platforms for my business and started delivering meals to my various customers.
I became a food influencer on Instagram and started cashing out big time. I needed the extra help I could get at the home front to make me focus on my new found business. So when my mother told me about her distant relative who just died and left a little girl of 10 years old behind, I knew I had to take her in.
My husband surprisingly accepted Temisan without making any fuss about the issue. Temisan became my daughter since I didn’t have any myself. I enrolled her in a good school and before long, she started excelling in all subjects. For three years, everything was good with my life and business. My husband, on the other hand, had perfected his philandering. He didn’t even bother to hide his escapades from me and still beats me up once in while to ‘put me in my place’.
I know you must be wondering why I didn’t just leave him since I was financially independent. You see, I couldn’t leave him because I was scared of being alone. So instead of facing the issues in my marriage, I focused all my attention on my business and kept praying to God to grant me a baby even though my husband wasn’t barraging me for one.
The artificial happiness I had created for my family was indeed alluring so you can imagine my consternation when I got back from the market one afternoon and met Temisan wailing in my living room. I immediately dumped my grocery bags on the floor and rushed towards her.
“Ogini my baby, why are you crying?” I asked her quietly, cradling her beautifully plaited hair. She looked at me squarely in the eyes burst into another round of crying. I pleaded with her for more than thirty minutes before she finally opened up to me.
“He touched me again aunty, he did it from the back today and threatened me not to tell you or anybody” she replied quietly, averting my gaze. It was then I saw her torn skirt.
“Who touched you Temisan? Was it Haruna our gateman? Biko, tell me” I pleaded with a racing heart, desperately craving a different name from the one popping up in my mind.
“Aunty, it was uncle. He has done it so many times, he came back immediately you left for the market this morning and did it again. He said I will die if I should tell you. Aunty please, I don’t want to die. Please help me”. She collapsed into my arms, sobbing loudly.
My whole world crashed immediately she uttered that statement. My biggest fear had been confirmed. I should have protected her from the monster I got married to. But I never thought he could resort to this level. We took Temisan in when she was barely 10 years of age; how could he do this to her? I held on to Temisan crying alongside her in solidarity and wept for the sufferings of the female gender. We both cried for a long time before I finally made a decision that changed my entire life. I definitely won’t let my husband get away this time.
I asked Temisan if she had taken a bath after my husband violated her, and she said no. The answer she gave me birthed clarity into my decision. I took pictures of her in that unkept position, helped her into my car, and drove her to the hospital.
The forensic practitioner made use of her rape kit to gather enough evidence on Temisan’s body. Her clothes were taken and sealed up with the other evidence gotten for her body. She was given a thorough wash before they administered treatment on her. I called my friend, Justina, who happens to be a gender advocate and brilliant lawyer. I relayed everything that happened to her over the phone.
“I don’t want him to get away. Please, help me fight it, Tunde’s parents are very influential”, I told her sobbing.
“Relax, Isioma, we have a very good case. It is a good thing you rushed her to the hospital to gather all evidence. I’ve got this, Isi. I just need you to trust me.” She reassured me. I knew Temisan will get justice.
My husband was arrested a few days later. Meanwhile, Justina, with my permission, posted the story on her Twitter handle, and a movement was birthed for Temisan. Everyone started calling for the head of my husband. He was arraigned and found guilty of sexual assault and first-degree rape. The judge sent him away for fifteen years, although I wished it could have been for life.
I got a good therapist for Temisan to help her through the trauma she was experiencing. I know she will never heal, but the therapy sessions will help her a great deal.
They all hate me for defying the societal norms and exposing the rapist, who was my husband. But I am happy with the decision I made. I could have begged Temisan not to tell anyone and kept my horrible marriage intact. But for once in my life, I decided to stand up against patriarchy and take away its power. It feels so liberating to finally break free from its shackles.