You love me? Then why the hell do I have a black eye?

I never met a lady who was physically and emotionally abused by her boyfriend/fiance/husband until today. I mean I’d heard and read about it but, I’d never met anyone in person who was a victim before now. The chilling details of her abuse broke my heart to little bits and gave me goose bumps. What made it doubly worse for me was that just a few days ago, a woman called in on the radio program ‘Sharing Life’s Issues’ seeking advice from the show host/counsellor on where to get psychological help for her husband who she’s been married to for 2 years, and who has been beating her for that long! And here I was, sitting beside a real live victim, listening to her recount horrid details of the most horrible period of her life.

But this is not about me or how shaken I am by her revelation. This is about the women who face domestic violence everyday, who are beaten into numbness and submission at the slightest provocation; women who are stripped of their dignity and self-esteem in order to fuel their partners ugly desire for control and dominance; this about the physical and emotional torture these women go through everyday; about countless pillows wet with tears of disbelief, pain and anguish caused by the hand of their so called ‘lovers’. And one thing I can never seem to grasp is, why do they still stay?

I stole a side glance at my new friend, trying to make sense of it all. Yes he was rich (very rich), handsome, professed love to you, gave you the most expensive gifts, was caring in his best moods, proposed to you, threw a big engagement party and you absolutely loved him. But he slaps you at slightest provocation, gives you a black eye at every chance, warns you never to speak with other guys and beats you when you do, puts pepper in your eyes in an attempt to make you blind, disrespects and humiliates you in public.

“Why”, I ask her, “did you stay that long? For 2 years? Why didn’t you leave?”

“It was love I guess”, she said, sad and looking out the car window.

But love is not enough, obviously. How can someone in his right mind raise his hand against the one who he is supposed to love and protect?

“Love ke? How could you still love him?”, I asked

“He would come back crying and asking for forgiveness”, she said

“How now? If I were the one, I would leave him the first time it happened! How can a guy hit me?”, I said, disgusted

“My sister, just pray that you never find yourself in such a situation because you may do the same thing. The last straw was when I almost lost my life and was hospitalized. I just had to break off the engagement. And then I told my parents what had been going on”

“You mean they never knew all this time?”

“How could I have told anyone? It was such a shameful thing, I couldn’t tell anyone.

“Wow! You really have gone through a lot”, I said, trying to console her as her eyes brims with tears once again.

Domestic violence is a rude reality in our supposedly ‘modern’ world and we have little idea as to how deep it has eaten into the fabric of our society. Many women are living (and dying) in misery due to physical, emotional and psychological abuse, and it is hard for them to speak out because of the associated social stigma, especially among the middle/high income earners and the seemingly elite.

In an economy that is still struggling with provision of basic social amenities, welfare services in Nigeria are more or less left in the hands of very few civil organizations who have no punitive authority over men who hit women (or vice versa in some cases, as I’ve heard). Until laws are enforced against domestic violence, victims have little choice but to find a trusted confidant, join support groups, seek help for their partners and/or share their experiences and seek advice on radio programs like ‘Sharing Life’s Issues’. If we continue to expose it for what it is, it will eventually get the attention it deserves. But in the end, the last resort would be to find the strength to walk away from such a destructive relationship.

That’s my candid opinion!