He hit you, now what?

(Originally published in 2007 on zimdaily.com)
He hit you, now what?
Let me start by saying that this is one of the hardest topics I’ve ever had to write about. In wanting to empower my sisters out there who are abused (and I realize a few brothers too), I walk a tight line in not wanting to come out as a bitter victim or a man basher etc. I am attempting to be as impartial as I possibly can be. If I fail, well….
I’m aware of the fact that there are some men out there who are also in relationships with women who abuse them. Anyone who watches African movies and is familiar with the characters that Patience Ozokor portrays knows that women can assume the rule of the abuser just as well as a man. However, I am focusing on the abuse directed at women by the men in their lives.
I receive a lot of mail from people all over the world chiming in about my column and giving their opinions and sometimes they just want to share their own experiences. In the last 2 weeks, I received 3 emails from ladies who were discussing their experience with domestic abuse. I started to think about the Rihanna and Chris Brown incident and how that forced a lot of people to re-examine the relationships they were in. My best friend is a victim of domestic abuse and so is my cousin and several other young ladies I know either personally or through acquaintances. I’m sure we all know someone who’s been at the receiving end of domestic abuse; be it your mother, sister, aunty, friend or acquaintance.
The first and only time it happened to me was unbelievable and even now as I sit here in the dark with my laptop and try to meet my deadline, I realize the pain is as fresh as it was the day it happened. It was like an out of body experience. I remember vividly like it was yesterday. You know what they say: You never forget your first-Whatever that first is. The argument was over something so small that even to break it down to you would be a waste of time.
At first he slapped me so hard across my face and I remember looking at him in just utter disbelief. This was the man that professed his love and he had just hit me? This same man who was ready to do the whole buying of the mother’s cow (mombe yehumai)!
Before I knew it, he had pushed me from the bed and a barrage of slaps rained on me as I tried to cover my face. I went into a fetal position, and I’m not sure why, but I suppose this is one of those instinctual survival things we are all equipped with. At this point I was crying and yelling so loud and it seemed the louder I got, the harder he hit me.
I figured if I calmed him down, maybe he would stop. So in true “abused woman” fashion, I started apologizing for “upsetting” him and “pushing” him too far. I said I would never do it again. I suppose in a way it worked because he paused and he looked at me dead in the face and he said,”You made me do this; I have never done this before”. Yeah right! He was sounding more like a prodigy of Ike Turner. So anyway, this session lasted about 35 minutes and I finally managed to run into the bathroom and lock myself in there and call my cousin who lived a few houses down from his.
So here’s where I really got upset. This all happened while I was in Zimbabwe so being a believer in the justice system (**insert joke and punch line here**), we went to the police station. In true Zimbabwean style, I gave them a ride to the scene of the “alleged” battery (this according to the Officer in Charge, as if I would make stuff like this up). It would be remise of me if I also didn’t say that this was after they had asked me the Oh so “relevant” question, ”Ko, sisi, manga maita sei,?”, Oh sister, what had you done?” Naturally, it was the woman’s fault for provoking the man. Tsk!
So, the officers, AK47’s in tow, (yes our police carry AK47’s everywhere), squeezed into my little car as we headed to the house. When we got there, they asked him a few questions and then they cuffed him and took him to the police station. His cousin drove them all. I was quickly dismissed when we got to the station and they said being that it was late at night, they would detain him for the night till morning. Let me not bore you with details but bottom line is I later found out that he supposedly paid a “fine” of $25US and he was let go 30 minutes after I left!
I was so traumatized by what happened to me and I vowed I would never talk to him again. What I didn’t count for was what experts on domestic abuse call the “honeymoon phase”. This is where he promises to never hit you again, he doesn’t know what came over him, he buys flowers, he tells you the world makes no sense without you and you actually believe that he will never hit you again and you settle back into a “calm” phase.
Like most women who are victims of abuse, I romanticized the whole thing in my head and I wanted to fix things between us and fix him too. I told myself that next time when I saw that he was getting too upset I would back off and I wouldn’t ask about certain things that would “trigger” him.
What kind of life is that where you have to sensor yourself and not express your true emotions because you are afraid he will hit you if you say the wrong thing?
I reached out to my aunt who preached the good gospel to me and I also did a lot of reading on domestic abuse. The general consensus according to all experts on this issue is, if he hits you once, HE WILL HIT YOU AGAIN AND AGAIN! It’s a fact! The more I read about other women and I understood what it was that had happened to me, I regained a portion of willpower and strength to break up with him. This was a month after the hitting.
This may sound shallow to most people, but the thing that made me know I could never go back to him was my layered vintage designer skirt. The day of the hitting, I was sitting on the bed and as he was dragging me on the floor he was pulling so hard on my skirt which I simply adored that it got torn beyond repair. Anyone who knows me can attest to my love for all things designer. So suffice it to say, that every time I saw the ripped up skirt, even though I had decided I forgave him, the anger in me built back up and I just couldn’t live with that anger. So for the next person, the reason you may decide to leave a man that hits you may be more sensible, but for me it came down to being with a man who had torn my beloved skirt. Sounds shallow I know, but whatever your reason, bottom line is you need to get out of an abusive relationship!
The truth is, as relates to this column; I don’t know how to write it without being honest. I’m not a professional writer. This certainly wasn’t what I went to school for but writing is cathartic for me and it has the same cleansing effect that Catholics perhaps find in going to confessional. I realize the public nature of this column but I hope that in sharing parts of myself, I’m helping at least one person out there. The day I stop wanting to be honest, is the day I will stop writing on this column.
To someone who is being hit, I say to you be strong and know that it’s not about you but about the person hitting you. It is NOT your fault. Experts say that violent behavior is an abuser’s choice and it’s a sign of weakness. Most men who hit women will almost never get into a fight with other men.
Statistics also show that more women are injured or killed by physical abuse than by automobile accidents, muggings, and rapes combined. In 50-70% of cases where one parent is abusing the other, the children are being abused as well. It is believed that three out of five children have witnessed their mother being assaulted. Do not expose your children to this type of environment as later in life they may be abusers too or they will seek out partners that will abuse them.
I realize that it may be hard for you to reach out, but seek solace if you can in a women’s support group, church or even online support rooms. If you do want to get out of an abusive relationship (which I hope you do), I know it may be difficult. If he’s the breadwinner, you may be ridden with concerns about where to go, how to survive, what you will give your kids etc. Most experts say you should plan your escape.
Start by saving money secretly if you can, reach out to family members and friends who you know will protect you and keep your plans a secret. Funny thing about abusers is they never want to let go of you and yet they inflict so much pain on you.
If you know someone who is in that situation, please be supportive. Also ladies, be aware of the early signs of abuse. I know most of us women get off on the idea that if he is possessive and somewhat controlling then he “loves” us. We think it’s cute that he wants to know our hour to hour updates, and he “controls” who we talk to and how we dress etc. What we fail to realize is that this is normally the grooming period and what was “cute” in the beginning will sooner or later turn into full blown abuse. This type of abuse and misogyny needs to be nipped in the bud and if they can’t treat women with respect, then they have no business being with one.
I pray that you free yourself of the guilt and the “shame” associated with being abused. The whole notion that you must have done something wrong to warrant him being pushed to hitting you. Men who hit are cowards who seek to assert their “manhood” by pounding on women .As the strong women that you are, tap into that strength that God only gave to females and protect yourselves and your kids if you’ve so been blessed. Stay strong and be empowered! Relationships are not easy, we all acknowledge that, but hitting is NEVER okay.
To quote the great Dolly Parton, “I wish you joy and I wish you happiness, but above all I wish you love”. Loves certainly doesn’t wack you across your face, kick you in the ribs and make you feel small. Rise up women and say no to domestic abuse. Be strong, always.
Be blessed