*How does one mourn a friend? Lara’s funeral is on Friday. It’s been a long week for me and I am still confused. My somehow scheduled and organize life has gone berserk, since the day I found the neigbourhood gathered in front of our house. Right in the midst of the confusion, our popular grapevine, the woman beside everybody’s house was able to share the story with much breaking news dexterity “they said she just had her bath and she tripped and fell down their expensive staircase”. That was our popular grapevine side to the story; she was always the first on the scene and no one has ever tried to beat her to it.
But I knew that wasn’t the story, I can bet my life that the story was different. So I rushed to their apartment to ascertain if my friend and only neighbour; the landlord’s wife was truly dead.
I met Tade, the deceased husband in tears. Our eyes met, he looked down to look up again and confirm that my friend had truly died amidst tears and a bout of vigorous head shaking. Lara couldn't be dead; I looked around and my eyes went to where we sat two days ago analyzing the movie we watched about abuse. Lara couldn't be dead, even if she was dead; her death was too cheap. Lara whose face is a picture of every child’s innocence and whose friendship had come to mean a lot to me.
I felt her death was too cheap. With this conclusion I decided to take control of everything amidst my anger, pain, confusion and annoyance at the deceased whose corpse had been taking to the mortuary after the unfortunate incidence. I waited till the mourners left, and took Lara’s children to our flat. I bathe them and as much as I would have loved to be the CIA, I waited till they finished their food. Kishi, the first child played around with his food. I believe that was expected considering the circumstances.
But Simi, just about 5 years old has always been the chatter –box, and she eat and talked at the same time without any idea of what was going on.
After her food and a little Ben Ten Series, I took them to the children’s room to rest. I knew Kishi was attached to his mum and would understand a bit of what had happened so I allowed him to sleep as he was not ready to talk to anybody. So I went to sit beside Simi’s bed and asked quietly “Simi did you see mummy fall”.
She nodded then went on to narrate the event of the day from the time they woke up, I couldn't stop saying “and then what happened” till she got to the news and right before it she yawned. I knew from experience what that meant and intuitively brought out my I-phone and opened to the content which never stopped to amaze her.
And quietly she said. ‘’Daddy slapped and push mummy at the top of the staircase and she hit her head on the wall, mummy tripped and fell down, then she slept.
I felt cold. It was a cheap death, because two month to this event, we both laughed over this possibility and she said Tade was a very good and noble man and would never do such.
His beatings had become a ritual, yet no one knew. Not even us the neighbour, until Lara told me. He was very discreet, very cheerful and conservative; the man who conserve all his energy and aptitude to beating his wife.
They were a wonderful couple, everywhere. He was a wonderful husband as we saw. A good father and a good landlord who at one time I had drawn comparison with, to the amazement of my husband who said he could see beyond his extra cool facade. Tade was an epitome of a good man in every area, yet he was a wife beater.
Is it possible to understand a dangerous situation and yet live with it, by it and for it? That was Lara. She lived with it and died by it. No one can understand why some women don’t leave. Not because they don’t want to, but they believe they just couldn't.
In Lara’s case I believe she had the idea that it was bad to leave her husband. Yet I couldn't understand why it wasn't bad that he was beating her. She was culturally wired to believe that, what she has worked for all these years will go down the drain if she walked out.
Psychotic? Isn't it?
But maybe not psychotic if you believe a lion would cut his claws and run back to your arms crying “please don’t wound me”.
I wonder why some women refuse to see the obvious, yet they could analyse it if it happened to another woman. I also wonder why abuse and violence is constructed to be the fault of the woman. How many times have we seen raw violence from a man to a woman or a woman to a man and we laugh it off as one of life’s occurrences. Or we say “There must be something wrong with her. She must have a tongue as sharp as the devil too.
Women die, lay bruised, and get abused everyday by their partner; because she never walked away nor report the incidence. Not only in marriages but it also happens in relationships. I remember sharing with Lara about my sister who condoned a walk-in and out relationship because she believed she loved the man. Abuse is not necessarily when a man lays his hand on you; abuse is also when he abandons you in a relationship, walk out on you and believe he can walk in again. Even if he holds the magic wand, must he misuse it? Abuse is when he impregnates you and walk out , then come back again to see if it’s has been taking care of so that he can pick up from where he stopped .
It is delirious that at this age of civilization things like this happen. Even your boss with a razor tongue has never seen the back of your hand so why should your wife.
Maybe she could, may she couldn't, maybe she feared to, but all in all there is a fear of the unknown which paralyses whatever action an abused person may want to take, because they are never sure if the abuse would simply end by their walking away.
Lara had a good degree, she knew and must have discussed during her days in the university that she will never condone violence or abuse on women. However, when it came to her, she could not leave. She put her degree aside, and thought more of her social disgrace and alienation until she landed herself in the grave.
One of the things we believe, which is very detrimental to our safety, as women is that we make everything look easy, and our culture and society has dictated some uncouth ideologies about sufferance in marriage , abuse or domestic violence in marriage as a woman’s cross. We are wired to think we should be the perfect woman, mother, and daughter, beautiful and make everything look easy. We try to balance everything, a little pain here a little pain there. Yet it is not simple. Bottling anger, oppression, abuse, and misuse should not be easy.
Yes, Lara had a good degree, but it became worthless the minute it had no voice, because her voice the voice of her knowledge must have told her the expected result. “What if I die?”, she should have asked. He may marry again; even at marriage the children are still orphans because you can never be sure of the treatment meted to them .We are not only orphans by some circumstances but we are also orphans by the choices we make and the ones we refuse to make.
When we talk about crimes committed against the defenseless, domestic violence against women, the children, do we really talk about the impact it has on generation. Every day, women are being mugged on the streets, sexually assaulted, harassed, date-raped, beaten and killed by their partners and for some reasons we accept it. We accept slaps, the bruise, the knife cut, the knife wounds the blow we see on their faces, as the pains of matrimony. Lurking behind the perfect portrait of marital bliss can be a license holder of marital torture and rape.
In my own case I believe telling her to get out was not enough. I should have done better .This is not a guilt trip, but I should have done better. I have never been hit by a man, just like some of us, not because we don’t have a razor sharp tongue or temperament to hurt the devil himself, but because we are just the lucky ones, and because they are the good ones. Even the docile without a razor tongue are still hit, so I deduce it is not a temperament issue. It is worse than that. I have heard stories of the "wonderful-man-beater-chocolate and flower bringer". What is the impact on the children that happened to see all these? Kishi refuse to talk about the death of his mother, Simisola kept asking when mummy will come. But give or take 2 years she may forget about her where about and remember a mother that once cared. Will Kishi take after his father? It is tucked down their memory, will they do it? Won’t they do it? Only God can tell the effect of that which they saw.
Lara , am sorry I didn't go to the police with your story, even though you told me you would deny it .
I am sorry that I didn't involve a higher authority. If I have confronted your husband, wouldn't it have been worse than this. I am sorry.
Despite cries, campaigns, injunctions, laws, violence still continues all around the world. Somewhere, somehow a voice is crying over a recently lost loved one who was murdered and silenced by an intimate partner.
This isn't just women’s issue. Women, children and men have the human right to be safe in their own homes. As Abraham Lincoln once said “The strength of a nation lies in the homes of its people.”
Lara I am sorry he finally killed you, much more am sorry he killed the little angel you carried within you. Her sojourn was just 12 weeks and four days when she snuggled down the abyss of her father’s violence. Adieu Lara.
As we mark yet another day for the elimination of violence against women all over the world, I hope we will be concerned to give more than a little thought to the bruises we have seen, the silent cries we have heard for help around us and help to stop the indiscriminate violence against the defenseless and against women around us.
*This is a social consciousness story by Funmi Akerele. Founder of Pink Ambition