Ojú l’ak`an fi nsori (The crab uses its sensitive eyes to stay alive) – Yoruba proverb
Enough already! I just read the story of Omodolapo Yetunde Jagha (nee Olotu), a devout Christian wife who recently died of cancer in the Dublin, Ireland. Her story and letter to the public include accounts of her pastor husband’s infidelity, domestic violence, and religious dragooning. But the most grievous of his heinous crimes was to coerce her to “fast and pray” for her healing rather than seek medical attention in her fight against cancer! While I can’t confirm the veracity of her story, it is all too familiar. In February, I read a similar story about a lady who was beaten to death by her abusive husband. Prior to her death, she had been counseled by her pastor, parents, and well-wishers to remain in her matrimonial home and to endure the abuse. Like Yetunde, she died from abuse.
While I can go into a treatise on how the church is failing abused women, sending them to early graves instead of providing a refuge, it is not my purpose in this piece. For sure, it is no secret that many who parade themselves as pastors today are nothing but glorified thugs and hustlers. It is also a fact that many denominations demand little or no accountability from those they place on pulpits in their parishes, focusing instead on remuneration and empire building. Ipso facto, we cannot rely on religious pundits whether big and small to protect the victimized. Thus, my purpose in this piece is to EMPOWER THE VICTIMIZED!
By their fruits, (NOT by their professions), ye shall know them says the good book. Too often, we don’t take these words seriously. When a person borrows without repayment (see my article, Of Liars, Borrowers, and Thieves), lies habitually, and generally bullies those around him, HE IS A THUG. He may tell you, he is a man of God, an excellent husband, or wonderful father; those titles are merely a figment of his imagination. He is a thug and should be treated as such. When you don’t treat such men as they behave, you get tragedies like Yetunde’s. For instance, when she once got a restraining order against him, she was advised to drop it. Yet, a restraining order is only the beginning of a survival plan against thugs, bullies, and hustlers.
I got married mid-1997 and by March 1999, my husband was expressing the symptoms of manic-depression. In his manic stage, he would stand upstairs in our high ceiled home and yell curses down at me holding our three month old baby. This would go on for about three days then he would hit a depression and go around moping about how sorry he was. Having never experienced abuse, I had no clue what was going on in my marriage. I mean, an average disagreement would turn into a shoutfest – him shouting and me locking myself in a closet till he was done because he’d told me I could not leave the house during an argument. Eventually, things got to a head and we involved his friends who advised me that there was something horribly wrong with their friend. I stood my ground and made him go seek medical attention but he refused to accept the diagnosis of bipolar disorder. So the war began.
For five years, we lived the bipolar roller coaster of highs (mental and emotional abuse) and lows (remorse and sadness). Initially, there were periods of tranquility between episodes but after he lost his job, the frequency and gravity of outbreaks went haywire. The first time I considered leaving, my pastor counseled me against it and the church began to work harder at monitoring him. I took out restraining orders, changed my child’s daycare and the locks to the door till things appeared better. Then came the day, rather the night, that determined the fate of my marriage. We had gone to church in separate cars and he’d returned home before us. When I drove into the garage with my two girls and their nanny, he was waiting. As soon as we went indoors, I heard a banging noise from the garage. I found him hitting my car with a hammer. I asked, “What’s the matter?” He replied, “hand me your keys or I will smash this car to bits.” Now, I was in a quandary because if I turned over my keys, I would be stranded and unable to leave the house yet I could not watch my car being smashed to bits. So, I made a split second decision to get into the car and head back to church which was seven minutes away.
Unfortunately for me, he followed me in his car and tried to run me off the road (you know, like in the movies). Once, he passed my car and threw the hammer through my window. The side glass shattered. Then he butted my car as I tried to avoid his. Thank God, I live to tell this tale. Nobody needed to convince me to LIVE, FOR GOD’S SAKE! Hmm, that could also be written as LEAVE, FOR GOD’S SAKE. But I would never forget the words of a sane pastor who advised, “I have met your parents and I would not like to be the person to give them the bad news of your demise. Do what is best for your children.”
So, how did I survive? Obviously, by the grace of God, but also by a lot of quick thinking and strategizing. I still have the quick wit to disappear in the blinking of an eye, along with my kids if I sense danger, lol). And I must credit my pastors who were supportive and forward thinking. I didn’t get many statements like, “Stay with him, you know he means well” or “A wise woman builds her home.” Instead, I got sound strategies and when those failed, quiet resignation to the unavoidable. BUT, I still have some advice to share with those who are not as fortunate to have good people around them. So here goes:
- Don’t participate in your own abuse! The word of God says, “You are wonderfully and fearfully made” (Psalm 139: 14), don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. Daily, or even hourly, use affirmations to boost your self-esteem because the first battleground is your mind. You win or lose the war first in your mind! If your abusive spouse can convince you that you are worthless, you will justify his abuse and lie down and take whatever crap he dishes out. Don’t beg, don’t cajole, don’t ask others to plead on your behalf; instead call him out for the abuser he is.
- Once, you have settled it in your mind that you don’t deserve abuse (and nobody does); decide what to do about it. And you have options. You can (a) decide to live your life to the full despite and within the abuse; (b) separate yourself from the abuse/r; or (c) seek punishment for the abuser; or a combination of any and others.
- Protect your own. Make sure your children are not subject to abuse. It is still somewhat your choice as an adult to enable an abuser but do not let your choice ruin the lives of your dependents. If you don’t leave because of yourself, live because of your children. Hmm…
- Network with reasonable others. My mother says, “Two cooperating heads are better than one.” In other words, find people who will provide solutions to move you out of the abuse into bliss not those who would encourage you to keep on suffering. If they lack proposals, engage the disposal (Note: you are going to lose many ‘friends’). And if your environment is totally lacking of sane, forward-thinking individuals, turn to Google and find solutions for yourself.
- BE ALERT! Keep your senses sharp so you can skip town when your abuser gets too dangerous to live with. Tips for a quick getaway: 1. Have a separate bank account to keep money or tie it at the end of your wrapper. 2. Know the location of the closest domestic violence shelter or the home of a non-mutual, trusted friend. 3. Have a plan to evacuate your children from home or school at short notice. 4. Always have gas in your car and an overnight bag in the trunk. 5. Do whatever it takes to stay alive.
- Plan not to die young. Get medical attention when you need it! Pray on your way to the hospital and fast when you get there, but GO, GET MEDICAL ATTENTION! It is deception to expect someone’s prayers that didn’t heal a headache to somehow tackle the big C. “Let us not be lying.”
In conclusion, do everything you can to LIVE! Remember Abigail who strategized to stay alive rather than die with her fool husband. And do it for God’s sake because He doesn’t want you to perish, etcetera. After all, He allocated to you at least four score years.
NB: Singles, read my article, Beware an Insecure Man.