Tuesday, April 5, 2016

I am a child of abused mother

In recent past Kenya has witnessed escalation of violence against women. While others have been left injured with disabilities other women have been killed. Quite recently a young woman was beaten by her partner and thrown out of a four-floor building. She was then electrocuted by the fence at the gate and hit the floor with her head. She died instantly. This has made me wonder so many things. Perpetrators of violence often instill fear to their victims and that their self esteem is no more and the strength to leave is not there. I kept on wondering what about children who witness these crimes and violence, what about them? 

Recently I caught a story by a child of a survivor of violence and this is her story. Her name is Nancy* and this is her story;

This is particularly hard for me to share, first because I love my mother very much, and secondly, because I know this update will bring scrutiny to her, and I am not sure she wants that part of her life known but anyway.

My mother was in an abusive marriage for as long as I can remember. First emotional abuse. He broke her little by little. First she had a terrible lip color, next the blue dress made her look like a slut. Then the heels sent the wrong message to men, and then she was spending too much on expensive clothes or shoes or perfume that was not good anyway. Then, her friends were not good enough. One was too opinionated, the other loose morals, the other a smart mouth, and yet another a bad influence. My mother, caved to all of her husband's demands, because he loved her, and he was her prince charming, and his comments, however nasty, were coming from a good place. After all, aren’t partners supposed to be brutally honest?

Then we were born, and mom did not have enough time to look as good anymore. All she wanted was her kids to be fed and happy, and her business to run successfully so that she could provide for her family. Then the incessant complains intensified. Her clothes now were dirty, did not fit properly, she smelled, did not do her hair... etc. etc. Mom still stayed despite the hurtful things he said, because, men are visual beings, and father was just asking for more instead of roving. Soon after, the beatings started. First it was a slap for talking back, which was followed by remorse and an apology. A black eye here, bruises on the stomach there etc. mom stayed. After all, her kids were tiny and they needed her. Then the aunties started. He would bring them to live with us, so that they could go to college while living with us. They were always his distant cousins. When mom was away at the family business, he was home sleeping with his "distant cousins" he was so careless that we saw it, but we were just too young to know what we saw. We told our mom, and her heart broke into pieces. When she confronted him, the "distant cousin" was thrown out and my mother beaten black and blue. She had had it, so she moved upcountry to her parents in law's farm, hoping that they would intervene.

They did not, they told her to vumilia (persevere), go back to her husband and kids and figure it out. After all, 'wengi wamevumilia na wanaishi'- many have endured and lived. By then I was around 10, and my father was already emotionally abusing us the kids, especially me because he had some deep seated hatred for the female gender. We were completely alienated from our friends. He picked at everything we did, and I was often punished for my brother's mistakes, so much so that my brothers actively avoided trouble to keep me from beatings. My elder brother, at 13, dared my father to hit me ever again; he was beaten, but at least my father knew his son had grown up enough to start challenging him. That night, we told our mother to leave. We packed her stuff, she left in the morning to go to the business as usual. We packed some of her clothes in a school bag, and with those she left. Left an abusive marriage, an abusive man, a toxic life.

When a woman gets a chance to leave it takes a lot of strength and at times children also play a major role to that shift. We should support survivors and end Violence against Women and Girls.

By Esther Wambui- Executive Director for YWLI

Young Women's Leadership Institute (YWLI) is one of the four partner institutes of the African Centers of Excellence (ACE) for Women's Leadership program run by the Institute of International Education (IIE) , Ethiopia Office.

For more on IIE , ACE or YWLI please follow the links below.