“The best gift life can ever give you is sister who understands you, feels your pain and takes the journey with you.”
I have always admired their relationship. It’s genuine and pure. Two women who found each other and have never looked back. I learnt from them that finding a friend who understands you and feels your pain is the greatest gift you can ever get from life.
Annabelle has three lovely girls and one boy while Sarah has five children, one girl and four boys. I met Sarah one day at the police station when she walked in to report her husband for physically assaulting her. What stood out for me was her eye. Her left eye was so swollen and red that you would think she had only one eye.
She was a tall slim and very brown lady and so the bruises on her neck and back were so visible. I remember looking at her and chills running through my body. I could not help the tears from rolling down my eyes. The police officer didn’t seem to mind her, for them she was lucky to be alive. They had more pressing issues on their hands.
When Annabelle walked in that day, I remember I cried when I saw the love she had for her friend. She held Sarah in her arms and allowed her to weep. These women did not say anything to each other for almost five minutes. Annabelle held her friend so tight as tears rolled down her eyes, she allowed her friend to release the pain and anger. At that moment everything else in the police station just stopped for me as I watched and admired these two women. People walked past them like they didn’t matter and they didn’t care what others thought as they consoled each other. After a while Annabelle realized I was sitting opposite them and she called me.
She had called me earlier for some legal advice for a friend who was in a very abusive marriage. She introduced me to her friend Sarah. I asked them if we could find a better place to sit and discuss because the police station was busy and there was no privacy but most of all, the women police officers were not compassionate and were quite rude to Sarah. We needed a neutral place to sit and talk freely.
We went to a nearby café and let Sarah eat something before we could talk about what happened. As Sarah ate, Annabelle and I talked about the good times of our childhood and laughed so hard we almost forgot that Sarah was not in a good place to laugh. Sarah then narrated the events of the previous night.
Sarah stated that she was driving home when she saw her husband drive past her with another woman in the car. Without thinking she turned and followed them and parked right behind him. She got out of the car to confirm what she had seen and this is when all hell broke loose. Her husband out of embarrassment got out of the car and started beating her. He tried to strangle her but she fought so hard and ran back to the car and drove off. So frightened she drove straight to the police station and spent the night since it was rather late and most of the police officers were asleep.
She told me that this was not the first time he was being violent. He keeps beating her and trying to strangle her even in front of the children. Whenever she reports to the police he bribes the officer and the matter is not followed up. He has told her that he is tired of her and wants her to leave his house. When they got married, he had asked her to stay at home and look after the home and the children. She was in love and wanted the marriage to work so she sacrificed her life for her marriage and children. Ten years down the road she is rewarded with violence and abuse on a daily basis. Her in laws have asked her to leave the home because they claim that she would rather leave than have their son arrested and imprisoned for murder. Sarah is an only child and she grew up with her mother who passed away before she got married. She has never been close with her father’s relatives. Her only family is Annabelle.
Listening to Sarah made me realize that we take many things for granted. Our lives are never perfect and we should always be grateful for being alive and being able to sleep peacefully. Annabelle asked if I could give them a lift to her place so Sarah could shower and have some rest. I gladly agreed and we left and drove to Annabelle’s home.
Annabelle is a business woman and she lives in a small two bedroom house that she is renting for her and her children. She was never legally married to her husband and after the kids, when the husbands business started flourishing he married a fresh graduate from Makerere University. She found out the day of the wedding when she received pictures on her phone. He never returned home and changed his numbers. She was kicked out of the house with her children. Her in laws turned a deaf ear to her pleas and that is when she realized that she was on her own. She is grateful to her brother and sister who quickly came to her rescue and helped her get back to her feet. But mostly she is grateful to her friend Sarah who never left her side through this trying moment. As she told me her story, she couldn’t help but get emotional.
As Sarah took off her blouse before she entered the bathroom you could see the years of abuse embedded on her back and neck. The sadness on her face painted a picture of her life, told a story of the psychological trauma and physical abuse that she had been subjected to but more from the tears that rolled down her swollen cheek, was a story of the pain she felt for her children. As a mother and a fellow woman she didn’t have to tell me what she was going through. I could feel her pain and what hurt me the most is I could not take away her pain, I could help by listening and giving all the legal advice and helping with the documentation and court appearances. But that can never take away the years and pain of abuse.
I kept thinking of my own children and I could not stop the tears. As mothers our hearts beat every day for our children. Whatever we do is for them. We are always scared of what would happen to them when we are gone and out of this world.
Sarah took her time in the shower and we knew she needed time to let out as much pain as she could. Annabelle made me tea and showed me pictures of her children. She told me her kids give her a reason to wake up every day. They help her with house work and are very appreciative for the life that they have. She struggles with school fees and rent but she is entirely grateful for her family and friends. She says at the end of the month she receives money on her phone and bank account from various people who know her story and want to be there for her. Even without asking her friends reach out to her, people she has not talked to in years are somehow reaching out to her and she is grateful. And she truly believes that we live among Angels.
She promised her friend that she will always be there for her no matter what and she would go the ends of this earth to make sure that she is happy and safe. If this is not friendship, then I don’t know what is. These women met way back in school and have kept their friendship ties so strong they have become more than sisters. Their friendship always reminds me of my friends in primary school. We lost touch when we took different paths in secondary school. I always regret why I never kept in touch but life happened.
When Sarah came out of the bathroom, she wanted to call home and check on the kids. Annabelle gave her a phone to call and her daughter immediately picked up the phone and kept asking her where she was. She claimed that her father told them that Sarah wanted to have him imprisoned and so he left home very early in the morning. She managed to talk to all of them and her heart was settled a bit that they were well. Annabelle had prepared a very delicious meal that we could not resist. After she ate she lay on the coach and fell asleep. I helped Annabelle clear the dishes and we struggled with all the issues in Sarah’s life. “What now” is something that kept popping in my head. For an educated women who sacrificed her last 15 years for her husband and family, no savings in the bank, no property in her name, where does she start in life? If she decided to leave, what happens to her children? If she leaves with her children, will her husband pay the fees and up keep. Could she forgive herself for leaving without her children?
We discussed all the legal options but how far is the law going to help her with her healing. How long with the legal process take before she starts living her life. It doesn’t happen in a day, and with this continuous violence will she still be alive when the legal battle is over. All we could do is discuss all the legalities as we wait for Sarah to wake and make her decision.
As we fight to end domestic violence, are we (#Istandwithher) there for our sisters and friends. Do we put ourselves in their shoes and try to understand what they are going through. I learnt from Annabelle and Sarah that sometimes you need you friend to just be there for you. Someone to just hold you and believe in you. Are we there for other women, are we being judgmental towards our sisters, are we pulling our sisters down instead of lifting them up. We might not be able to arrest and punish all the men who mistreat and physically abuse women, but what are you doing for these women. Do you have empathy for them? If you have that one friends who understands how you are wired, celebrate her.
In life, we might cry behind closed doors but if you have someone who can cry with you then you are truly blessed. #Istandwithher