There are many things I have believed all my life. Like If it rains while still sunny, monkeys and hyenas are getting married in a beautiful jungle wedding. If you cross the outstretched legs of your elders as they warm around the fireplace, you will never give birth. They are truths I held dear until I grew up and realized my clan and their clans played me. I however hold grudges against my elder sister Immaculate. That lassie told me that I have large-sized feet because I hated washing them. Who lies to their baby sisters like that? I am yet to execute a revenge.
I have been enlisting the services of the committee of experts in my head for most of my adulting and they are yet to give me a befitting course of action. I called her out to my whole family in the last get together. I wanted them to realize that behind that calm demeanor lay a not-so-immaculate wicked heart. They did not. They all burst out in peals of laughter that would put excited teenagers to shame. Labelled her creative. She even told dad that she had said so to help me love water because for most part of my childhood, bathing and I were sworn enemies.
I will tell ogre stories to her children you wait and see. They will hear it from me.
When dating and love and the whatnots of restless hearts came in, we were told that there are certain calibers of men that treated their women well. We were not taught to find them or to be found by them on the basis of their characters, no. We were to base this elusive gold through tribes, sub tribes, clans and race.
Stereotypes were painted in our hearts and agile minds that a man was indeed as good as their surname or lack thereof. Coupled with happily-ever-after-infused telenovelas, the reality of pain and pleasure of love was lost on us.
I had been mulling over how untrue all these things have been when I knocked on the Duty Room’s door to meet Mildred*. Mildred is a nurse in my new work station. It was New Year’s Day and normal people were either making resolutions or having their time with families. Nursing is not a job that allows anyone to be normal. We were therefore being on duty.
I had spent the New Year’s Eve at a street party and there ensued a stampede which saw my ankle half sprained. I wanted Mildred to please take my shift as I went home to cool my heels down.
That is when I saw her. Her milky white skin was flushed on both cheeks. Her lower eyelids colored in tiny dark streaks of the mascara she wore. Her lips smudged and minute traces of purple lipstick clung on. Her eyes, though winning at a smile were worn out like a tired headline. Verdict; she has been crying. In comes Catherine, deducer of the obvious and master of apparent observations.
Tenderly placing the stethoscope I held in my hand on the table, I asked Mildred what was happening. She ignored me and went back to furiously write a letter she was engrossed on. I felt pity for that piece of paper because the strength with which she wrote made me conclude, again that that paper had hurt her.
After realizing I was not going anywhere, she looked at me and said, “Catherine I can’t take your shift because I must go home to see my children before something happens to them.”
She said it with such a finality that my curiosity was piqued. She opened up.
Mildred has been living with her partner and father of her children for the past five years. He has been beating the living lights out of her as well as being an emotional, sexual and the in-betweens abuser. He is the most charismatic man to the rest of the world but a jerk at home. He makes her go on diets to be plump or slim depending on his present fantasy. This man had been arrested and charged over five times in the period they stayed together due to battery in its different forms. Restraining orders had been broken time and again. Twice he has been in remand but Mildred went and bailed him out. You read that right. He beat her, got arrested, she bails him out. That has been the cycle she had been through.
Why you ask? Because of the same reason every victim defends their abusers –control.
She showed me copies of doctor’s assessments after she was sexually abused by this same guy. She hoped, with time, that she will make herself good enough for him but in the meantime she wanted time off to go be with her children. She was drafting a letter, therefore, to the manager asking for an emergency leave.
I was perplexed. Not because she had bailed him out but because she is a White woman in a White country which is thousand degrees up on the civilization thermometer. With coercive control being a crime in this country of the Queen, I was appalled by the presence of such inhumane treatment and silenced intimate partner violence. Gobsmacked because my truth of White men treat women betterthan my African brothers was shattered right there in my eyes.
My truth that White men only mistreat Black women was ripped at the centre. She showed me scars on her back from whips this man has used on her when he felt that she needed ‘disciplining.’ A cold chill that had nothing to do with the wintry weather outside made its way down my back.
That first day of 2020 taught me how tasteless and utterly colorless violence against intimate partners is. I went back to the many taunts from a few friends that I am better off marrying a Mzungu as they treat people well. How ignorant that statement is.
Treating your partner right, respecting them, wishing them well has nothing to do with race. Take that and run with it. Race is what we see on the outside. Perhaps the westernization of most of our television love stories has made us assume that the rain of abuse only pours in Africa. N to the O.
Violence is a torrential storm sweeping across all colors, shapes and forms. Violence knows not your surname. Abuse does not respect melanin or lack of it. At this juncture, Mildred is just another sister girl going through the patches I have had to go through. Mildred is a girl held mentally captive by her abuser just like many victims are. She is a girl not taught and not able to be taught by her current system, how to value herself and move out of a potentially fatal situation. I cry for her. Not because he will be back in her life but because she will let him in.
She is a girl whose story stings my heart in different new ways. It is not about where one comes from ethnically speaking. This is all about one’s virtues as a level-headed human being. An evil person is evil whether they come deeply spiced and tenderly marinated from an island in the Caribbean or Canada. A good person is good whether Taiwanese or Togolese. Goodness and evil transverse the globe in varying shades of melanin. It is your happy day to accept this plain truth. Actually, use this as your New Year’s entrance song. Wrap it on your elegant neck. Cuddle it to sleep. That, #TeamPhoenix is all the motivation speech I will throw at you this year. No promises though. Ha ha.
I no longer wonder why victims stick with their abusers. The element of control by the perpetrators is played with surgical precision. Abuse, essentially, is not so much the physical as the mental hemisphere from which it emanates. Violence is about control. The battery, insults and assaults serve to buttress the emotional and mental regime of captivity.
There must be something more than the physical walking out of an abusive relationship. If not there, one tends to keep stumbling over the same outgrowths of misery then blame it on life being thoroughly unfair to them.
Like Mark Manson I pose, how special do you think you are that life suddenly decides to focus on making you sad all the time?
#TeamPhoenix, Tweni tweni has not even had a cuppa tea so here is my Beautiful New Year Wishes to you!