Mrs. Dede (Surname withheld), in this heartbreaking interview tells JOSEPH UNDU how her ex-husband forcefully slept with her and her maids.
She also narrated her ordeal with the man who asked her to swear by a wooden carved idol in the midnight that no-one was sleeping with her and how she almost killed him in self-defence over persistent domestic violence. Excerpts.
Tell us briefly about your background.
My name is Faith (Surname withheld). I got married to my ex-husband when I was 18 years old, and at 19, I had my first baby.
I got married as a child. I knew nothing but all through the marriage it was trouble, it was war. I had so many issues where I was beaten up for voicing out my opinion. I had issues where he would forcefully sleep with me, I have issues where when I had maids he would sleep with them and I can’t do anything. I have had so many bad issues at so many points. And anytime I cry to my mother and tell her I want to leave the marriage, my mother, being a pastor, would encourage me that, divorce is not of God. That, I should keep staying in the marriage. You know, my family members keep pushing me to stay back in the marriage despite the fact I was going through so many difficult things.
What is the actual problem with your husband?
My ex-husband is a drunkard. He would come home drunk everyday. He would beat me up, and I dared not ask why. So many times he would force me to swear an oath that no man was sleeping with me. He would wake me up in the middle of the night and told me to start swearing with a wooden carved idol. I went through so many things that I couldn’t stand. Then, because of the custom of Nigeria, everybody kept telling me to stay because of my children.
At that point, what did you do when everything became unbearable for you?
You know at a point I got so depressed and I was tired of the beating. I told myself the only way to come out of this situation was to kill this man in self defence and be free. Nobody would tell me anything. I convinced myself, I was going to kill him. But when I thought about my children, the laws of the land among others, something kept ringing in my mind and telling me not to do it. No, don’t do it, don’t take a life! I remember that night I returned back the knife I had put under the pillow. I had to return it back to the kitchen because I just couldn’t do it. I was so frustrated and when I made up my mind after he beat me the last time that I was leaving, he started threatening me saying “if you leave me, you are finished.”
So, what did you do then?
I ran away with my children. By then, my mother knew it was really bad after I went to confess to her that I was going to commit murder. She knew I was at my tipping point, and she told me “if it’s this you want to do, well, we can’t force you to stay there.” I remembered the day I made up my mind I wanted to go, I ran with my children. He kept calling me, kept threatening me that I cannot disgrace him, that I should return his children or else he would kill me. I ran away from Abuja. Then, I was in Benin and my two eldest children were in boarding houses, so it was just my last son. So, I ran away to Benin to go and hide with a friend of mine. For one full year, it was trouble all through. I had to change my number. When he couldn’t reach me, he was threatening my mother, insulting her and sending emails to me, threatening that he would kill me if he found me. All of a sudden, I couldn’t hear from him again and I thought he had become calm. And because Benin was tough, and I don’t really know anybody there, I decided to come back to Abuja. Two months later, I came back. I was going into the small apartment I was able to rent one day when two people rushed towards me. I thought they wanted to steal money from me because I was just coming from the ATM. They dragged me on an untarred road close to my house, beat me up and kept saying, “prostitute, prostitute, go back to your husband.” I knew right then that, they were not robbers because they didn’t even take my purse. I knew they were from him. The next day, my mother told us to go to the police station, because I was having bruises on my body. Picture evidence is still there. Even now, it’s not as if I am safe, I am just trying to lie low. I closed all my social media contacts such as Facebook, WhatsApp and others.
Are you now free from him?
I still don’t feel very safe, but I am just living my life and hoping for the best. Why I am doing this publication is for people to be aware of what is happening and for me to have all these things on record because of tomorrow.
When these people attacked you, where were you then?
I was in Abuja in the house I rented at FedEx Housing, Kubwa. That was mid-July last year. Right now, I don’t know exactly where he lives, because we are not in touch. I was married to him for 19 years and I have three children for him. Right now, I am responsible for everything since I left him four years ago. He doesn’t send money or pay any obligation.
So, what do you really want now?
I just want my story to be out there, because I know so many women go through all these. I want it to serve as an example. Like ‘don’t take a life’ that I experienced. Domestic violence is real, leave if it is too much for you, Leave! I also have a lot of evidence that I didn’t even bother to tell anyone. I had picture evidence like the time when I was beaten up. I just feel like, let me come out now and talk about these things. Nobody knows tomorrow, and people would be like ‘why didn’t you come out to say anything,’ so I just want to come out so that everybody will know what has happened to me.
Are you still interested in the marriage, if he changes and apologies to you?
Absolutely Not! My life is very important. If I go back to the marriage, I am just going back to die! Even if he repents tomorrow, we don’t have to be together. Affection is no longer there. And you have to be with somebody because you care about them. If you don’t have affection for them, it cannot work. I don’t have one single affection for him. There is no need for us to go back together for anything at all. My children are grown up so they are fine. It is not as if they are small and still need a father figure, they are on their own now. My last son is 14 years, so my children are grown up now.
Were you forced into the relationship with him or you just went into it and things turned out this way?
I wasn’t forced into a relationship, I met him when I was 18 years old and he came to me and wanted to marry me. I thought he was joking, he kept pressuring me. At that time, I didn’t know anything but I looked very mature for my age and then he said he wanted to meet my mum. I took him to meet my mum and he told my mum he wanted to marry me. That was how we got married, I wasn’t forced at that time. I thought I knew what love was and I thought I knew about a person’s character but obviously at 18, my judgement about humanity was clouded. I wasn’t really exposed to know the difference between what was right and what was wrong.
Going forward, what is your advice to other women passing through abusive relationships or marriage?
I will advise other women not to stay in abusive relationships or marriages. Apart from the injuries it does to the woman, it also injures the children as well. Right now, I can tell you that I am trying to build up my children’s mental health from all the abuses their father did to me. I am trying to erase those thoughts from their heads and it is really difficult. As long as you keep tolerating that, you are not just hurting yourself, you are hurting the children the things you are exposing them to. You are hurting them mentally, and hurting the person they will become tomorrow. They grow up to see these things. Some boys see these things and emulate the characters. They feel it is okay to beat a woman. Some girls see it and swear never to get married again because of the troubles their mother goes into. So, I will beg women not to tolerate these things. Do not let a man turn you into a punching bag and suffer yourself and your children. Please leave if you are going through difficulties and domestic violence, your life is important.
Do you have any other advice?
Well, basically that is all. I just want my story out there to encourage people that I am alive. I am doing well, I am on my own now, though I still don’t feel very safe. But I believe in God and I believe he is going to protect me. I still get threats from now and there. He insults me frequently, telling me I will never be happy and that I will never do well and all those things but I ignore it. I believe solely in God for my life and for my children’s life.