Little girls dream of the day when their fathers will hold their arm, walk down them aisle to hand them over to the man of their dreams to live happily ever after. However, for some Ugandan women, the case of happily ever after is a tale that has remained in the story books and Telemundos. Violet watched as the man she fell in love with became a monster, hoping against hope that he would change. I listened intently as Violet narrated her story to me.
“Ours was love at first sight, he was the storybook tall, dark, and handsome or at least that is what I thought. It was two years after graduation. Long story short, we got married. A few months later, I was pregnant. He was responsible and I had no doubt that he loved me. When the child was born, I noticed that he started staying out late with his friends. I brought up the issue and he instead brought his friends home every day of the week – they ate all the food in the house. This became an issue.
When I finally got a salaried job, he stopped buying food or anything for the house.
We were arguing one day I don’t remember about what when he slapped me, I slapped him back. He kicked me, pulled my hair and hit me with every object his hands could touch. He was like a rabid dog. I thought that it was a one off, but later, it became routine. In the morning, he would apologise and tell me that he did it because of the alcohol and that he would never do it again. I clung to every word that he said.
I was tired of neighbours’ peeking eyes that pried the nightly scuffles. I secured a salary loan from the bank, bought a piece of land and started to build a house. We moved into the house in an isolated place outside town.
I wanted to stay married because I didn’t want my friends and relatives to know that I was fighting with my man. For a few years, we had been the perfect couple. When my boy was three, the fighting intensified. At 3:00 am, he would return home drunk, and chase all of us away from home – My kids, my maid and we would spend the rest of the night in the bush.
I thought enough was enough. I called my father to mediate. My husband told my father to take me away with him. My father asked me to go back home with him. I refused. I was hoping that he (my husband) would change. He was a different person when he wasn’t drunk. It is like they were two people. I clung onto the good sober person that I had fallen in love with. I turned my eyes to church to pray for him. I prayed for peace for my in the family, I prayed for peace to grease my heart. The peace for my heart was an illusion. I dragged him to church, they prayed for him I didn’t see the results for months until he got saved. We savoured some peace.
Those few months when he ‘got saved’, I decided to have another child. I was six months pregnant when he started to drink again. He started beating me, he would strangle me, urinate on the bed, and sometimes even shit on the bed. Yes, you heard right a grown man defecating on our marital bed. I would be expected to wash up the mess in the morning. I cannot count the times he said that he hated me.
I thought that he would change. Often, I went to work with a black eye. At work, it was an open secret that I was being battered. Where was I supposed to go? I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere not even at my parents’ home. I was scared of the gossip of the villagers. I was stuck. I decided to stay. I felt like no one would truly understand my predicament.
The day I gave birth to our second son, my husband didn’t show up at the hospital. He texted me saying that there was no food at home. He had been fired from his job because of alcohol.
One day, I was coming from fieldwork on a dirt path that leads to my home, I saw two people wiggling in the grass, I requested the company driver that was dropping me home to switch on the full headlights. The driver turned on the headlights. I quickly asked him to switch them back to normal, because I noticed that it was my husband on top of a woman – a village drunk. We all knew her in that village as that woman who got drunk every day. I was speechless but my mind was racing. That was the last straw. I got home, bade the company driver goodbye. My mind went blank. I sunk into the couch. Checked on the kids. I paced. I couldn’t sleep. I was losing my head. About three hours later, he knocked at the door. I refused to open. I told him to sleep outside. He banged the door as if he would break it with his bare hands. I placed the kids and the maid in one room. There was silence- a calm like one before a storm. My mind was telling me that he would kill me. I tiptoed and unbolted the door and I run back locking myself in the room with the kids. A few minutes later, he fell inside the house when he came back to bang the door with force. He snarled and yelled, threatening to kill us if he lay his hands on us. This was the last straw.
When he fell asleep, I packed my stuff. I waiting for dawn and I left never to look back. Leaving everything behind, I had lost my job already. I had nothing left to fight for. I had saved up some money, I started a business. I didn’t have time for a pity party. Driven by the determination to work hard for my children, I moved on.
When I left him, I started to talk about the abuse. I didn’t care who listened to my story, I told it to everybody like a broken record. It is only when I started to speak out that I realised that silence was the key to the handcuffs. When I broke the silence that had held me captive, my friends started to counsel me, my family received me and accepted me. By God’s grace, I started to heal. I am still healing. It has been five years since I started the healing journey.
The consequences of his actions live with us. One of my boys the other day was diagnosed with severe anxiety and has had sleeping disorders since he was three.
At first, he (my ex) would call promising to send school fees for the kids, I would wait for the school fees in vain. I stopped waiting for him when I realised that his empty promises were one of the ways to keep himself relevant in our lives.
I have moved on since. My business is doing very well and I can take care of myself and my children. He is just a past chapter in my life. I love my boys, I will work to the very last drop of my sweat to give them a good future. To the women that are stuck in abusive marriages, there will always be signs, leave the relationship when the signs begin because changing a grown up is hard.”
Side Note: Are you an overcomer of an abusive relationship and would like to share your story? Please share to encourage those that are stuck in these toxic relationships. Get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org I would like to tell your story.