Domestic violence in our society is very recurrent and makes many people suffer. However, these people are sometimes unaware that they are victims and therefore do not think to seek help. Let’s read Assita’s story which illustrates the vicious circle of domestic violence, a circle from which it seems impossible to escape.
“Zaksooba* just gave me two more beautiful beaded loincloths and gold jewelry. I will wear them next week to the market. All the women will tell me Assita what a beautiful loincloth! Assita you are beautiful! Assita you shine! Assita you are really blooming! I will throw thanks and furtive smiles at them, fleeing their gaze so that they do not perceive the inner pain I am experiencing. The week before, Zaksooba had beaten me severely for a reason I still don’t know, after calling me names and telling me what a useless, worthless and incapable woman I was. It wasn’t the first time this had happened. Yes, there was a first time.
The first time I suffered domestic violence
It was 5 years ago. I remember it like it was yesterday. That day, he came back from service and found me still in the kitchen. It was my first day of work and I couldn’t finish the kitchen before he arrived. Then he said in a threatening tone: “in the next five minutes I want to see my meal on the table” and left. Of course he came back and found the table still empty because the meal was not ready. He joined me in the kitchen and beat me severely. I had cried and quickly wiped my tears when the children came to the kitchen. That night my husband went out again and didn’t come home until the next morning to get ready for work. He didn’t say a word to me. As for me, I had spent the whole night wondering if I would be able to combine my professional life with my life as a housewife. I was thinking of resigning from my job in order to concentrate on my family life. And that’s what I finally did.
The following week, my husband bought me a new car. He didn’t explicitly tell me that he was doing it to make up for it, but that was the clearest indication of it. I was happy, I told myself that I had made the right choice to give up my job to devote myself to my family. I also told myself that my husband deeply regretted his action and that it would never happen again. He had become very attentive and receptive to my requests.
I did not hesitate to advise my friends to be more focused on the life of a housewife to maintain peaceful and friendly homes because I thought I held the secret of family happiness.
They all envied me and often came to me with their marital problems to which I found no other solution than to tell them to submit to their husbands and to respond correctly to their desires. Little did I know that the beating I had received a few weeks earlier would not be the last.
The second, the third, the nth time
Soon it became a habit for my husband to lay hands on me or to say humiliating things to me. Yes, he had a second, third and nth time. Each time I suffered a lot, but I justified my husband’s behavior by recognizing that I should have done this better or behaved better in relation to that. And then he never failed to give me a few small gifts or gestures of attention to show me how sorry he was. This reassured me and gave me hope that he wanted our relationship to work properly. I was not aware of the routine in which I was navigating. Deep down, I was suffering a lot.
Leaving is not an option
Of course I thought about leaving, but I didn’t have the courage or the means. I wondered what the women I advised all day long to be exemplary wives and live a good family life would think. And the children, what would become of them? There was also my mother, to whom I had once whispered the idea of leaving and who immediately retorted that if I wanted to shame her, I could do so; the message was clear: leaving is not an option.”
And yet it is necessary to seek help when one suffers from the acts of violence of a partner whatever their forms. These acts of violence can be physical, verbal, psychological, economic, sexual or administrative. Help and support should be sought mainly from competent people or organizations working in the field of human rights.
*Zaksooba: head of the family in Moré language.
Note: This blog can be of your interest: The power dynamics of contraception.
About the author: Sirina Sompingda Ouedraogo is a feminist with a passion for sexual and reproductive health. She is a medical student based in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.
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