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Please read this disclaimer before reading this story. 

DISCLAIMER: In this series, we will be covering stories on Toxic and abusive relationships. This may be a triggering topic for some. This story in particular contains some detailed description of intimate patner violence. Kindly remember to be mindful of your mental wellbeing and that of others when you share this story

My Hubby would criticise everything about me most of the time – the way I walk, talk, and behave. The only time I was “good” was when I was doing what he wanted. Every different opinion I held was taken as disrespect.

In 2021, he brought a girl home, pretending to have brought a housegirl, but she wasn’t a housegirl. She was his girlfriend. She ended up getting pregnant, and I didn’t know, but when I found out about it, Hubby and I had an argument. I told him to leave the house. I needed time to think. I thought back to the very many incidents that had happened and felt that our relationship wasn’t worth pursuing anymore. I told them that I wished them well and that they could stay together. I just wanted to be out of the equation.

Hubby and I had been together for about 11 years at that point and had two children together – a son and a daughter, both under the age of 10. He would come in once in a while to either pick up the kids or drop them off. Sometimes, he could sit in a bit to help them with their homework. I didn’t want to show the children that something was going on at that time, even if Hubby and I were not really staying under the same roof.

One evening, Hubby came in at around 10 pm and was quiet. I didn’t want to confront him, so I just went into the kitchen, cooked, then showered and got into my bed. I wondered what was to do because we were staying in a two-bedroom house then. I was in one room, and the housegirl and our kids were in the other. Suddenly, Hubby came into the room, got into my bed and started touching me. I refused, and he started pushing and kicking me until I fell off the bed.  I took a mattress that was under the bed and decided to sleep on the floor, but he came and attacked me on the floor as well. He banged my head on the closet, and I started bleeding everywhere. I just felt something dripping on me from my head, but because of the shock, I couldn’t feel the pain – I just felt something flowing down my face. When I put on the lights, I realised I had a huge gash on my forehead because I had hit my head on the closet handle.

I remember asking Hubby, “What are you doing? I’ve already set you free. Why are you trying to traumatise me?” He said he would take me to the hospital and I would have to explain to the doctors who hurt me because it wasn’t him. Hubby then kept repeating over and over again how he was going to kill me.

My son heard the commotion from the next room and woke up. When he came into my room, I held onto him. I told myself that what I was doing would traumatise him but that at the end of the day, it would be better than if he ended up losing both his parents – Hubby would kill me and likely end up in jail. My children would have no one. So I held on tight to my son and told myself that he would forgive me for this one incident. Hubby started yelling for our son to go back to bed. I knew that if he went back to bed, I would wind up dead, and he would most likely kill the kids too. So I kept holding on. While holding on to my son, I realised I could call someone. I picked up my phone and called my neighbour. I told her, “I’m badly hurt and need you to take me to the hospital.” I didn’t want to leave the house with Hubby because I didn’t know what would happen to me if I did.  Hubby started shouting at me, asking what I was trying to show our child, but I told him, “You have already done this; we cannot talk about it anymore.” I asked him to stay away from me. 

I put on my sweater, and as I waited for my neighbour downstairs, I kept thinking about how blood was spread everywhere. We were staying in an apartment, and you know,  most of the time when you live in the suburbs, people don’t come to help when they hear someone screaming. When my neighbour finally came, I asked to pass by the police station before going to the hospital. I thought that if I went to get treatment, the police might not believe that I was really attacked. I needed them to see me in the state I was in.

We got to the police station, and I still had blood dripping everywhere. It took me about a year after this incident to wash those clothes. I couldn’t bring myself to reconcile the fact that something had happened that led to me almost losing my life. The police recorded my complaint and issued me with an OB (Occurrence Book) number, then sent me to the hospital because the bleeding was not stopping. They asked me to come back once I had that sorted out. 

I recall having to go to a private hospital because, at that time, public hospitals were on strike. I ended up getting seven stitches. My scalp was visible. I was still with my son through all this time, and we were done at about 2 am.

When we finally got home, we found that Hubby had tried to erase all signs that he had ever been in the house. He had done small things like logging out of his Netflix account, which we were all using as a family and bigger things like wiping the blood that was there. He removed everything of his from the house so that if the police turned up, there was no evidence of his ever being around.

The problem with people like Hubby is that they tend to be so good to people out there that when you talk about the things he does to you, no one believes it. I started gathering evidence. Every time we had an argument, I secretly recorded everything. I would take pictures and other proof every time something happened. I realise now that by the time I was recording all those things, I was really feeling unsafe and knew that maybe one time I may need evidence to prove that Hubby was not the person he said he was. Every time he pushed me or otherwise hurt me, I reported afterwards so that it would be on record. I knew he wasn’t the type of person who would like to be exposed, so my safety was in exposing him. In the past, I tended to keep quiet about these altercations but after the scalp incident and after another experience where he held me at knife-point, I started talking about everything he did. The police had given me emergency numbers to reach out to them on. So Hubby is a bit laidback right now.

Most of the time, I would try to seek help from other people, but it wouldn’t work out.  People saw me as a bother and a burden. I was married to a rich man, so people just could not understand. They’ even ask me with disdain why I was letting the children suffer. So I started relying on myself. 

Unfortunately, I’m not yet completely out of my relationship with Hubby. I can only say that there’s no personal relationship between us now. He is the type of person who likes to take control. He is currently paying for the house I am living in – he has his own room, and I have mine. The most I try to do is to minimise our interactions. I cannot move until the end of the year, and I also know I cannot leave the children behind because he will make sure I never get to see them again. So I have to lay low until I can get the children under my protection because they can also be used as collateral damage. I have also made sure that the caretaker and the chairman of the Estate Welfare the have my permission to intervene if they hear commotion from our house or hear me scream.

The thing about my relationship with Hubby, thinking about it now, is that we were happy in the first year. We were so happy. He used to do things we only see in movies for me – taking me on trips, taking me to big and fancy shops and letting me shop for anything I wanted. I got everything I ever wanted and dreamed of. I can identify it now as love bombing. It was the perfect relationship.  I couldn’t see any flaws, but it turns out everyone else in my life could. My brothers and parents insisted that he was not a good person. They felt that he was trying very hard to show them that he was a good person instead of just being a good person. The signs were there, but I was the only one who couldn’t see them because I was too in love.

Lately, I’ve been trying to date again, but I realize I have so much mental baggage that I need to work on. I get very defensive. Whenever people try to talk to me, I always look for excuses not to talk to them. I have been told I am too harsh. If someone can not work with what I want, I don’t tolerate them because I am so scared of giving someone else control. I am so harsh because I don’t want anyone to try to get to know me; I don’t want to get vulnerable. I get triggered by the thought of letting anyone in.

Sometimes people are so nice to me, and it makes me freak out. When someone is nice to me, I worry that they may be trying to love-bomb me again. So relationships have not been working for me. When I see my friends with men who love them and treat them well, a part of me feels like that’s just a facade.  I don’t think I know what a healthy relationship is right now. All I see when I look at relationships is red flags. Unfortunately, in the world we live in right now, no one is patient enough to see that you have been through a lot and put up with you to the point that you can become secure enough to let them in. So none of my relationships have gotten there. I feel like I don’t know how to do relationships anymore.

The best advice I can give anyone right now is to make sure that they are financially independent when getting into a relationship. It will be your plan B if anything goes wrong. I put up with a lot because I had no employment or other source of income. I come from a poor background, and every time I have tried to go back to them, they tell me I have to go back and persevere. Even the children would be sent back. So I stopped relying on anyone and started taking care of my problems myself. I think I am doing a better job than anyone I went to cry to.

Financial independence is not really the solution, but it will help you like 90%. If I had my own money and could take care of myself, I am sure no woman would put up with what I have. In many cases where these things are happening, you have no family backup. Your partner isolates you from your friends as well. I remember Hubby would always say that he didn’t like so many of my friends, and it’s not that they ever wronged him; he just didn’t want anyone around me. Even when my parents would call me because I needed to go home, he did not let me go. Instead, he bought me airtime and asked that I  call them. He would beat me up and then bembeleza (soothe) me afterwards. His apologies seemed so sincere. It gave me hope that things would change.

Right now, I am back in school, and I have small contracts I do. It has helped me manage to do a few things to take care of myself. With that, I now have a voice and don’t have to endure his abuse. Right now, he knows that even if I leave, I can take care of myself. I have left several times and managed to stay on my own. He is now trying to push back, but I know that even in the other relationship he is in right now, he has already started abusing the girl. It starts with a slap – mine started with a slap – and once they’ve done that and gotten away with it, it worsens.

People like Hubby tend to pick on one person that they isolate from everyone else so no one but them sees these characteristics of his. Now that I am no longer a victim of his, someone else has to get it. It is a cycle, and he will never change, but at least now I know I’m safe. He can keep being whoever he wants.