By Bunmi Sofola
Will spousal violence ever go away? Two readers sent in their views recently. One is a married mother of three and the other is a bew0ildered husband who’s been physically and mentally abused by his wife, “MY husband and I were together for nearly ten years”, wrote Ibi, “and he was a violent man who also used cannabis, aka Indian help! He would attack me, and the next morning would act shocked and disgusted claiming he couldn’t remember the incident. He’d promised it would never happen again and swear he’d stop the drink and drugs. He never did.
“But I loved him and chose to believe him every time, though eventually, the truth dawned me on. The abuse was never going to end because he was the only one who could stop it and he didn’t want to. Breaking off the marriage was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. My ex tried every trick in the book from emotional blackmail to more violence to try to get me back. But I knew if I stayed I’d have to face the mood swings and violence for the rest of my days, and I wanted more from life than that. The first time a man hits a woman is the hardest, but when they see that you haven’t left them, it becomes as much of a habit as cannabis. Every time they feel angry or frustrated, the answer is to lash out and believe me, it only gets worse.
“I know keep down that my husband loves me and our children, but he loves cannabis more. At first I was terrified and didn’t think I’d cope on my own but thanks to friends and family who witnessed a bit of the violence, I’ve been able to pick up the pieces of my life. I’ve since retrained and have a better job. My husband (we’re not divorced yet) lives with another woman but I feel nothing but relief at getting him off my back. I know know that there is a better life out there but you have to go and get it, it won’t come and find you. This is a fact abused people, male or female, have to face”.
Nuru’s text to me was disturbing. “I don’t know who I really got married to – a saint or the devil?” Intuitively, I picked him as the few readers of this column to have a chat with. What happened to your marriage?”, I asked him. “My wife, who I’d been married to for almost 20 years suddenly, turned into a monster”, he said. “It started a the beginning of 2014. She suddenly grew snappy. If I were late home she’d sulk or even swear at me. When I asked her what the matter was, she would swat my hand away. I didn’t have a clue as to why she suddenly became abusive. After some miscarriages we’d gone on to have two beautiful sons. Even after I lost my mother, she was a pillar of strength.
“So what got into her? Thee was a time I was in our bedroom watching TV when she barged inside. `I’m sick of your hiding in the bedroom watching football’, she roared. “But you always watch your favourite programmes in the sitting room’, I stammered, shaken. I tried to talk to her in her sober moments and it was then I learnt she’d been losing weight and feared she might have cancer. I took her to the doctors and thankfully, she didn’t have cancer only the onset of menopause. I was warned her behaviour could be erratic as a result, so I made a point of spoiling her. She was alright for a while until a few weeks after when she yelled at me, saying she couldn’t stand the sight of me. She said she wanted to opt out of the marriage. I was shocked.
“Then she changed and stared being nice all over again – cooking my best meals and we were having an improved love life. But it didn’t last. The next time we had a row, she went into the kitchen and came at me with a knife! Blood was oozing from a wound on my arm, soaking my shirt as I scrambled to get away from her, `I hate you I’m going to kill you’, she howled. She attacked me again and I managed to get out of the house and sped off to the hospital. After I was stitched up, I couldn’t go home. Visions of my wife’s hate-filled face lashed through my mind. Our two boys were bewildered by it all and went to stay with their uncle a few streets away. In the end, I went home, bracing myself for the worst, but she’d already left with some of her things.
“I immediately changed the locks in the house and told the night guard not to let her in. I also informed the men guarding the street gates she was no longer living with me – I didn’t want a situation where I would be stabbed to death in my own house! My family insisted I divorce her and since we had a traditional marriage, I took her to the customary court. I was sure she wouldn’t attend the hearing, but she was there, her hair well groomed and he was wearing a well-tailored dress. She looked like a saint.
`Who was this stranger?’ I thought. She admitted wounding me but regretted her action. Her defence was that she had been through a string of traumatic experiences – her cancer scare and the death of my mother. Shuo! The health scare was quickly resolved and it was my mother who died – not hers! But she claimed it was these factors that made her depressed. She then told the customary court judge, with tears in her eyes, that she felt such remorse after attacking me, she’d wanted to kill herself.
Speaking passionately, she told the judge: `I’m not a dangerous woman not a wicked one. I am a good mother who’s been deprived of any access to my children|’, I fumed. What children? Our two sons are adults and were free to see her if they so wished, but she’d been nasty towards them too and they confessed they couldn’t cope with who their mother had now turned into. The judge wanted to know if there was any chance of reconciliation and I shook my head. The woman in the dock wasn’t the one I married and it would be suicidal to take her back!”
“So how are you now?”, I asked Nuru. “Do you miss your wife in any way?’’
“I missed the woman I was married to”, he said, a bit confused, “What I need answers to is what made her change all of a sudden? It’s the not knowing that hurts. Will she be the first woman to go through the menopause, to lose a mother-in-law or to get cancer scare? For years she was a perfect wife who later plunged a knife into me, and I will never understand why …”
So what makes a seemingly perfect wife go round the bend without any apparent reasons? Nuru believed his ex wife had a Jekyhll and Hude personality, with the scale tip0ping dangerously towards the “Hyde” attitude as she grows older. She obviously knew a wrong force had controlled her life, or she wouldn’t have made efforts to look presentable before the judge. If only she sought help. There are drugs and hormonal treatments to curb mood changes. They’re temporary measures until victims are confident enough to take control of their lives once again.