FACE TO FACE WITH DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
By Margaret Kamba
The spike in domestic violence cases the world over during this covid19 period has made us aware of many things among them that we have been married to the wrong people, that we are just tolerating the people we are living with and perhaps that we must be more open to each other in relationships.
The fact that we have been stuck with our roomies and are seeing them for what they really are, is scary. We may have seen these things before but brushed them off knowing that the window period away during the time at work or a field trip, allows us to recuperate. This has however not been possible this time.
What has exacerbated the cases in domestic violence is a depleted source of income which has literally vanished into thin air. The reality has dawned that you are simply not compatible and the nagging, shouting, beating now becomes an everyday thing.
There is a tendency by many of us to persevere and hope for the best in people. But we are oblivious of the fact that it is rare for a stepmother to love her husband's son or daughter whether or not she found him or her already there.
So if faced with a situation that was previously or normally requires a woman, you simply need to step up.
Imagine being left alone with your pregnant daughter who may pop any minute. Brushing off thoughts such as, what if she lifts her skirts when the pain is unbearable, is the only way to go, in order to prepare yourself for the worst which may include becoming the midwife. You ask me why. Because she is your daughter and you cannot expect her step mother to love her like you would. Or perhaps think long and hard, what if she dies in the care of her stepmother? Would you forgive the act knowing very well that since your daughter was a child, she was abused by her stepmother?
You may think that example is a little off tangent but tell me, it is possible for an unemployed man to feel comfortable with a working woman and be supportive?
Most men find ways to cope with failing to be a provider, a role which he was given by the universe through very drastic means.
To compensate for that failure to provide, he can lash out and find himself sleeping with women even from the church that he and his wife go to.
He can also pick up an abusive behavior that the wife may not necessarily view as bad or classify as domestic violence.
However the black eyes, the broken bones, the name callings and being passive could have been a few forms of domestic violence acts she may have experienced during the numerous years of union.
Can you imagine being the bread winner for many years only for someone to tell you that you are wasteful, a month into their income generating business?
Can you imagine washing their clothes for years, being told you don't know how to wash and yet they can't sacrifice one day to just wash their own clothes?
Can you imagine being told that the clothes you have washed for years must today be taken to a dry cleaners because your partner has a newly found income which they think is far better than the one you have and have had over the years? This is the same income that paid the rentals, fed the family, bought clothes for the family, transported the family to work including caring for the extended family.
What makes love fade or die, I ask? This is the reality that many people face whether they like it or not. In Shona many would say, kwakungogarira vana to mean, you bear the pain because you don't want your children to suffer from the negative effects of a divorce should you choose to leave.
But what happens to the bitterness? Does it not eat you up and literally be seen and felt in your behavior?
What is there to lose should you choose to throw in the towel, if not the bitterness of a failed relationship?
If things are not working out, why not let go and start on a clean slate and make the most of your remaining years.
Many have died leaving young children behind because they had no courage to leave or never had the right support to do so.
On the other hand, no matter how families and friends try to pull their friends out of the sad reality, until it has dawned on that person, they continue in pain and turmoil which the rest of the world can see expect that person.
For some, it comes too late in life if not regrettably so.
The hope that the abusive spouse or partner will change lets many of us stay in toxic relationships. The thought that what has been fed into our minds, that we are worthless, ugly and low class among other crazy names that we have been told, makes many of us cling to such dangerous people who in actual fact are exactly what they accuse us of.
For years many of us have tolerated so much and continue to suffer in silence because we fear stigma and discrimination.
We fear being labeled because there are people who have nothing better to do than be the first with the latest gossip.
This is because they are broken themselves and cannot bear other people being better than them.
We fear the unknown. We ask ourselves what next? Where do i start? How will things be? We will never know until we make that decision.
We suffer in silence because we have been isolated from our friends and family as the domestic violence perpetrators control us.
It is also regrettable that many of the support structures in place are the very places that add to our pain.
The church which we believe must help us through this process, can be field of rumor mongers who share our painful story over tea parties or visits to pastors houses.
If it is not that, the very pastors that we go to for counseling take advantage of our situation and prey on us.
The Police stations meant to help us may not be willing or forthcoming. They may not believe we are being abused perhaps because it is our spouse.
The courts which we visit to seek protection or restraining orders from require evidence which we may not have been able to gather over the years of abuse.
One wonders how our great grandparents were able to manage domestic violence. I have heard people say, when the women saw that they were no longer able to do much to please the men, they made sure their sisters within the same family, took up that role so that the men would not look elsewhere.
But how possible is this in this day in age where it has become so easy for fathers to sleep with their own daughters? Where have we gone wrong? How can we resolve these problems because domestic violence not only affects the victim but the children, family and the community.