FADEKE, a 46-year-old mother endured 19 years of vicious beatings from her 6ft bully of a husband. According to her: “I spent 19 years believing things would get better; that the most recent beating would be the last. That he really was sorry this time. For all those years, I was punched, throttled, spat at, abused and my every action controlled. Yet I remained silent – terrified of the consequences of speaking out.”
Fadeke saw the light when she came within a hair’s breadth of joining the deeply disturbing – and shaming – global statistic of the two women murdered every week by their partners. The terrible final attack came when Damola, her husband discovered she’d been making plans to move out of their matrimonial home. “Damola worked with one of the Armed Forces,” she explained, and was getting ready to be transferred to another state when a friend’s husband let the cat out of the bag. I’d confided in my friend, but sadly, she didn’t know the extent of the abuse I’d constantly been subjected to, and told her husband with the hope he could try to save my marriage by having a word with Damola.
“Eyes blazing and in the presence of our 16 year-old son, Damola shouted obscenities at me before trying to strangle me. It was our traumatised son who yelled at his dad and rushed out to fetch the neighbours. It was a relief when he left for his new post a few days later threatening to deal with me if he came back and I wasn’t waiting for him like the ‘ mumu’ wife I once was. A couple of months later when he came back and found me gone, he came looking for me at my hairdressing salon. He burst in, eyes bulging and charged into my office, battering me and hauling insults when my workers attacked him.
“My dad had insisted I made a formal complaint against him at the police station nearest to me and I insisted on my complaint being recorded. Being a military man, he often had the sympathy of the police, but when they saw the state I was in, he was invited to the station …
“When I met Damola, he was a young 26-year-old military officer and I was 23. He was handsome and an extrovert. I was glad we had a lot in common.
But unknown to me, he already had a history of violence – a previous girlfriend had almost died when he attacked her not caring she was five months pregnant. She lost the baby and left him. He’d also had numerous run-ins with the police before he joined the armed forces. Months into our courtship, his vicious temper spilled over for the first time. An innocuous comment from a friend about a man I used to date set him off. On the way home from our evening out, he pushed me down a puddle, ruining my lovely clothes in the process.
“He was inconsolable afterwards – this was to become a performance I knew so well-gushing apologies and pledges that it wouldn’t happen again. But of course it did. My poor teenage son even experienced his father’s violence before he was born. I was seven months pregnant when he lifted me off the floor by my throat during an argument, while screaming in my face. I knew it wasn’t right but he was always so sorry and would break down and cry afterwards, then I would find myself comforting him. The deeper his love for me grew, the worse his jealousy and the violence would get.
“Our first son was two when he witnessed his father dragging me around the kitchen by my weave-on, leaving clumps scattered on the floor. Sadly, it became the poor boy’s idea of normal, family life – and for his younger brother too. In spite of the fact that I ran a very busy salon, Damola was always snooping around and insisted I was ‘banned’ from cutting men’s hair!
“After I left and he came barging into my salon, I filed for divorce. Inevitably, he was unable to accept my decision and repeatedly came looking for me in my new place. How he got the address beat me, but I remember opening the back door and there he was with a murderous look on his face. And the beating I received was vicious. My dad took me in his car and drove me to lodge a complaint with his superiors. After their intervention, I had a sort of respite.
My boys and I could relax, but whenever I went out, I was always looking over my shoulders in fear.
“After the divorce was final, he came calling at the salon again, calling me all sorts of names as he advanced menacingly towards me, and this time, I was so enraged, I decided to defend myself. I squirted shampoo in his eyes as he hit me on the face and I fell to the floor. I then crawled like a crab to the salon area and the girls started screaming. He couldn’t see properly and he proceeded to smash up the place. The security man hit him on the head with a chair and pushed him out of the salon. We quickly locked the place up and called the police. By the time they arrived, he had fled.
“Thank goodness that shortly after, he was posted out again, this time for a long stint. I heard he’s now involved with another woman. I feel sorry for her already. As things are now, the country needs to realise that domestic violence is an epidemic. If it were Ebola, we would be throwing millions at it, looking for a cure. Judges and the police need to be aware of the complexities of domestic violence cases – and recognise that women like me are so obviously in need of half, but are too fearful to ask. No woman should ever live in fear.”