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COMMENTS & OPINIONS  

Lives of woe!
By Iris Bernard-Taylor
Dec 21, 2009, 17:26
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I am the person to tell this story, though superficial it might seem, I want you to please hear me out. I have gone through a lot of ordeals and would want to be heard. If not for any reason so that our leaders would understand the plight of some of us when they make policies that no one adheres to.


It all started nine years ago to be precise when I became the wife of my husband. A man thought to be gentle loving and of course caring. Not knowing that the very existence of the man itself means evil. Mucktarr married me from my parents house in Bo District from the Bo Township and we moved on to live in Makeni. This was whiles the rebel war was raging in Sierra Leone, amidst such uncertainty I was certain of one thing and that was of my husband.


Least I forget, my own name is Isata and I am educated as I come from a ruling house in the Bo District. My father had only one wife which was rather strange to his people and my mother gave birth to four children i.e. three girls and a boy. My father was quite satisfied as he did not believe in the issue of sons being the only true inheritor to the fathers wealth. Such beliefs were not hidden from us his children and this made us grow well in such knowledge and became promising girls.


My husband was also educated and came from a renowned family which was why my father readily consented to the marriage amidst uproar from our peers and contemporaries. They seemed to know of some things that were not evidently clear to me at that time. Curious though I was, I rested solely on my husbands love believing there was none other like him that could love me as much.


Our first year of marriage went by with some semblance of normalcy. We had our first child a son immediately after our first wedding anniversary was celebrated. Our son brought new hopes to my already formatted dreams which were to raise a formidable family.


Then came the unplanned, I became pregnant with our second child that made it difficult in raising two children. My husband treated me as if I was the one making myself pregnant, and would stay at the office till late at night. I guess, with the hopes of meeting us in bed. And true to his thoughts he came most of time when we were already asleep.


With the unplanned came the downturn of events, my husband leaving me at home with the two children all night claiming to be enjoying himself in night clubs and bars.


On one eventful night, my husband came home drunk and was banging very hard on the door. I rushed to open the door as I was worried that something was wrong with him which was why he wanted to come in so quickly. To my surprise, I was immediately attacked by him because he believes I had deliberately locked him outside. I tried in vain to explain that the door was not closed and I was sleeping as usual and believed he had his keys. In response to my explanation he banged me countless times on my head until I fell to the ground. Before I could get back on my legs he hit me again. I ran into the bedroom and headed directly for the wardrobe to hide myself. He staggered after me and asked me if I was packing because I headed for the wardrobe. I was so terrified that I could not respond but stood firmly behind the suitcases. When he realised he could not reach me he then returned to close the front door. I stayed hidden behind the cases because firstly I was in a state of shock and secondly I was in so much pain.

 

That was how my agonies began. Little did I know it would be coherent recession of my life?


The next day I was totally sore and battered and so stayed a little longer in bed hoping to find answers from the previous nights event. My husband caring less got dressed and headed for his office leaving me again in my pain to not only care for the children but also nurse my wounded self esteem. Realising I would not be able to stand the questions at the office, I called in sick. The officer I spoke to asked if they should send a vehicle to take me to the hospital. The obvious answer was no as I had already taken some pills and just wanted to stay in bed.


Life became so unbearable with two boys and a man that did not understand even the values of having a woman. In discussions held with family and friends around I was told that my husband was just jealous in protecting me. But as I told them on countless occasions that it was not an excuse of violence because when someone loves another, they support and encourage rather than try to limit and isolate the ones they love.  The aspect of my husband use of alcohol had been discussed in many silent quarters especially in our church. The Pastor told me real fulfilment in any woman comes from being a wife and mother and that divorce was wrong in the presence of God and our culture. I was encouraged to stay especially for the childrens sake.


I tried to live on so many years not that I could not look after myself and my children but was too afraid that he might pursue and get more violent with me. I discussed it with a lawyer not wanting to get public because of my status in Makeni were we live. But the Lawyer advised that 67% of women in Sierra Leone suffer from domestic violence which regularly leads to death or permanent disability. This again increased my fears of leaving as according to records in 2006 there was only one conviction for domestic violence in Sierra Leone.


I however did not give up hopes of a brighter future especially my children because they were
boys and as society believed that abusers grew from violent homes. I simply did not want it to repeat itself in them and give them chances of blaming it on their childhood. In a bid to save them I went to see and NGO within our community. They informed me that there was a bill currently tabled in Parliament referred to as the Gender Acts. Again I had little hopes as I was referred to the Family Support Unit at the Police Station. They gave me a rundown of what ought to be done in terms of ensuring my husband understands his limit in maltreating me. But they did not seem to enthusiastic which again affected my resolve.


I met with several other NGOs and was told about the Gender Act which would soon become law but until that time I cannot do anything was what I was told. The greatest fear for me was social isolation because my husband had very good contacts in society and told them stories of me which obviously were not true but it isolated me. Again I was too ashamed for my status in society to let people know that I had been constantly abused.


The big day finally came the 14
th of June 2007, when the bill was passed in Parliament into law under the certificate of urgency from the President. It represented a milestone in my life. I wept like a baby on that day when I came to realise that finally there was somewhere I could seek redress. But how can I achieve that when even the NGOs in charge of such issues were not working together, each of them had their own views on what the bill said and how to approach it. Better still there was also the aspect of stigmatization in society. My children were my greatest worry, would they not be ostracised in school for having their mother prosecute their father and send him to prison. Or would them be treated as second class citizens in their own country because everyone will be point their finger at them because of the situation they found themselves. The questions became too many to answer and so I waited patiently hoping it will happen in the not too distant future.


Now after two years since the bill was passed in Parliament, I cannot say I have sought redress for the wrongs done to me now for the past ten years. I currently suffer from a permanent disability of having headaches that do not stop as easily when they start. And yet society still stays judgemental towards me. All sorts of comments have been made in different circles. Some believe that it is because of my education that I do not want to stay humble; others believe it is that sexual relations outside the marriage have been distracting me. Others make reference to the fact that other women had seen worse things in their marriages but stayed on. My self esteem was eroded for a while especially with all these comments but after so many years of hard thoughts I am beginning to regain it.


The sad part of it all is that even with the introduction of these bills there are no homes for women of domestic violence that they are allowed to stay until transition. Also people especially family, friends and even neighbour refrain from getting involved believing that it is not their business as they are not affected. There is still a very low percentage of prosecuted cases on Gender Based Violence even with the Act as a toolbox. A lot of out of court settlement seems to be in place even in cases of aggravated viol
ence and it states in the act that the court must prosecute and even when victims does not want to prosecute them.


The Family Support Units at the Police Stations are normally very crowded with several reports as much as up to ten in one day. The victims obtain free medical treatment, a place of safety and free medical report but are these enough for a wounded heart. How long can they keep you in safety, even in terms of the medical the hospital are crowded with patients from all Police Force branches in town? But  more so is the question of can a woman with my status quo be willing to make myself a public spectacle for all to ridicule. Would my children ever forgive me, would society even forgive me above all would I actual seek redress when my husband himself has boasted of being friends to the police.


I told my story not for the reason of telling a story but for you to help me please find a way out of my predicament.

 

Help is needed, please.


© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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