By Yetunde Arebi
As a woman, how much can you sacrifice to remain in a marriage? A young girl’s innocence, family and love were just thrown away so Rachel could keep her marriage when her husband committed what she considered a sacrilege. Unfortunately, not a few people thought she had over reacted arguing that it was not worth throwing her marriage away for. Today, Rachel insists she no longer loves her husband but remains with him because of the children. I felt a bit drained after listening to her story:
“I had to pack out of my matrimonial home for almost two months when my husband raped my niece. The girl is my aunt’s daughter. She came to live with us after a very difficult pregnancy and birth of my third child. I was very ill and with two other children to take care of, I just had to get someone. So, my mother suggested that her sister in the village should send one of her daughters.
Tolani, the girl, had just finished secondary school. She failed all her subjects and so her mother decided that Lagos would be a better deal. I would sponsor her training as a fashion designer in return. It was better than keeping strangers in the form of househelps who could take off anytime. And though Tolani was a full grown woman, I never thought my husband would see or think of her in any other way besides being our little sister. He had a nephew living with us at some point too and I never saw him as anything but my younger brother. I had always thought of us as one big happy family.
It was one of my neighbours who called my attention to what she insisted was going on in my house. She said she overheard Tolani warning my husband that she would report him to me. She said she suspected that my husband was trying to molest the girl and that I should step in before he succeeded as it is an abomination for him to sleep with her. I was stunned. I told her I would kill the two of them if I found her story to be true. Whether they have done it or not was not even going to be the issue, contemplating it was enough crime. But she told me to calm down, as fighting was not going to solve the problem, if indeed there was one. I had to be tactical.
Initially, Tolani said it was a lie and that the woman was making up the story because she had been rude to her over some issues. Tolani said the woman had vowed to make sure she was returned to the village where she came from, because her “open eye” was becoming unmanageable in the compound. But I made her understand that the woman was only trying to help our family and that if my husband was indeed molesting her, it was dangerous as he could ruin her life. What if he got her pregnant, did she think he would marry her? I promised her I only wanted to know so as to make sure it would not happen again. Eventually, Tolani told me all that had been going on. How my husband would fondle her breasts, slap her bum, force her hands on his penis, though with his clothes on. She said he would always make remarks that made her feel guilty and ungrateful. How? Tolani said my husband would always tell her that she had come to Lagos as a bonga fish but had now added weight on his account. He would ask her what his own gain was going to be after feeding and training her. He would insist that she ought to show him some gratitude at least, and not take everything to another man. I asked if she had a boyfriend and she said no.
For several days, I did not know what to do. I could not even confirm to the woman that her story was true. How could I tell anyone that my husband wanted gratification from my niece payable with her body?! I decided to discuss it with our landlord’s wife, an elderly woman. She told me to call him and plead with him, insisting it was for my own good, if I wanted to keep my home. I should tell him after the discussion that the girl would be leaving as soon as she completed her training which was in fact just a couple of weeks away. On my part, I was to commence immediate search for a house help. She told me this sort of thing happens all the time and that it takes the grace of God for any man to be able to tame his animalistic tendencies. We as women should act as shield for them so they could stay within some measured limits. She told me that it is not something worth losing my matrimonial home over, more so, I must always think of the children’s welfare.
The story was just as Tolani had told it when I was eventually calm enough to ask without it resulting into a fight or shouting bout. He told me he had nothing to hide again since I’d been told. He said I should ask the woman who gave me the information, if her husband had not slept with at least, two of their maids to her knowledge since they got married. He asked me “what has he done that no other man had ever done before”? I could not believe my ears. My own husband! It turned into a serious shouting bout and I was forced to sleep in the children’s room with Tolani. That night, I told her she may have to go as soon as she completed her training. I knew things would be really difficult without her, but leaving was the only way out. I told my mother and she was as shocked as I was and wanted to speak with him. But I warned her not to. Such a discussion would land us nowhere. Should he be rude to her, the problem will only get escalated and Tolani might have to leave before her graduation.
Naturally, after my confrontation with my husband, a clear war path had been drawn. We hardly spoke, but he went about as if there was nothing wrong. He would insist on eating, and even demand for sex as if things were normal. This definitely was not the man I thought I married. There was definitely more to him that I did not know. I had thought he would not pick the bills for Tolani’s graduation, but he did. I was surprised and even began thinking that he had thought over his crazy plans and repented. But I was wrong.
Tolani was supposed to leave for the village with her mother who was also aware of the nasty development (Tolani had recounted everything to her) and had travelled to Lagos to attend the ceremony. The plan was for her to take Tolani back to the village where she would stay until we were able to buy the rest of the equipment needed for her to start her own tailoring business. But her mother did not like the idea, she wanted her to remain in Lagos at my mother’s or another relative’s house. This was however not possible. Everyone suitable to take on such a responsibility already had an extra mouth or two to feed and could not afford to take her on. Besides, after hearing the story, no one wanted to take the risk. So Tolani remained with us. It happened two days after the graduation.
It was my neighbour who called me at the office that something terrible had happened. My husband had raped Tolani right on the kitchen floor. How did it happen? It was obvious that he’d been targeting the right time to catch her. All he did was return to the house after we had all left home, knowing she would be alone. Nobody heard Tolani shouting as she claimed. He just came in, walked up to her and did it. She said he told her she was now free to go anywhere she wanted to. And should she decide to continue living with us, he would never force himself on her again as he had been adequately compensated for his troubles! I think he believed it was just the natural thing for him to do, a kind of fringe benefit for his kind gestures towards her.
All hell was let loose on my arriving home and when I told him I was leaving, he didn’t even care, he just warned that I must not take the children. I went to the office the next morning and reported to my boss what had happened and took Tolani to the hospital for cleaning up. She was a virgin and it would be more disgraceful if she were to conceive a child for my husband. My mother refused to talk to my husband about the matter, and till today, they do not speak to each other. She does not also visit us at home.
Tolani’s parents threatened hell and brimstone. They said he would never do such a thing again. That he would lose his manhood for what he had done to their daughter. And I was all for it. But today, his manhood is still intact, in fact, more active than ever before. Sometimes, I wonder if they did not go to the right juju man or they did not consult one at all. At the end of that week, I moved out of my matrimonial home with Tolani but without my children. I went back to my parents. But things were not the same.
Family members and friends gave all sorts of advice, some in favour of my action and others against it, insisting that the kids were my greatest priority and their welfare must come first. Can I give all three children to another man? If I thought my experience was strange, it was because I’d not heard of some others. The more I told people my problem, the more horrible stories I heard happened to some other persons. It was then I learnt that many so called happy couples were not half as happy as they appeared. Would I remain single for ever at just 38 years? If I decide to remarry, do I know what the man would turn out to be? What if he turns out a killer and not a rapist. After listening to all sorts of advice, I had no choice but to go back home.
For all the weeks I stayed out, my husband kept in touch, but never once did he apologise for his actions, nor did he ask that I come back home. And when I did, he just continued as if nothing had happened. He even had sex with me that night, even though I tried to resist him. I don’t know what is responsible for his erratic sexual behaviours. Because of what happened, I don’t love him anymore, we are just living together as husband and wife and parents to our children. If he decides to take another wife, that is his problem. All I know is that, he will never stop taking care of his children. And I’m fine with that.
Do have a wonderful weekend!!