Every once in a while you come across a person’s life story that could break your heart. I really don’t think it is unique to this country or this continent. I guess, though, that living here just means the stories I’ve collected over my years from people I admire and “constantly pray for” (even if I am agnostic) all have the African theme to them.
Very recently I came across such a story. One that when I hear it I want to take it on and help to resolve it myself. My career choice though has taught me the lesson to stay as detached as possible, to do what I can and move on, to try not think about it outside of conversations with that person. It still makes me sad though, frustrated and hurt for her.
This woman’s story is not for me to tell. Not today at least. But I have to write a bit about it. Basically, a woman not from this country is here, working legally. She has children. And she has one bastard abusing husband.
He ensures that he is financially one step ahead of her, physically a few steps ahead of her, and mentally & emotionally he knows how to hold her back, to hold her down.
His threats to their children, to her, to himself must leave her feeling helpless. His physical actions must break her - of drunkenly terrorising or hitting her, of demanding the ownership of her car, of tearing up her passport so she is trapped in a country not her own, and from a country that holds her support systems of family, friends and legal rights.
She internalises the pain and the blame. She watches her children suffer, and as a mother she is caught in the guilt of not having the physical, financial or legal power to remove them from such a situation instantly.
Abuse does not smack you immediately. It sneaks up on you and creeps into your normal life, until your normal life is filled with small actions & thoughts that crush you, but feel so “standard”. One day you turn around and realise something is not right, but if it’s been so normal for so long, then what is that flashing light that’s not right!?!
To open up to me must mean she realises she needs to react. But it is not as simple as up and leaving. Where does she go with little money, with few legal rights, with no car or house, with children to provide for, with a job to keep, and a man she knows will track her down.
I have known this woman for awhile now. Never would I have dreamed she was caught in such a nightmare. When I offhandly told her she “can talk to me anytime”, never did I dream what she would tell me in our casual setting.
Now I am caught thinking “how do I help but not become involved”. There are systems in this country that exist for such stories – free legal aid (based at RAU apparently, so one of my lawyer friends let me know after I mailed him for help), POWA and….well, I am searching out the rest.
Just thought I’d share a story that made me hurt today.