Tuesday, October 8, 2013

4. My Attempts to Leave or Separate From My Abusive Husband - One Woman's Domestic Violence Story

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My name is Omalinze Okonkwo. I am a 33 year old Nigerian woman, who fled to the US to get away from a violently abusive husband/marriage. It had been hell, pretty much from day one of our 10 year marriage, with lots of hospitalizations and two separations in between. And it was ALL forms of abuse, from physical to emotional to psychological to mental to financial. This is the story of how I left, it was not and has not been easy, but I'm glad I'm free.

I’d previously moved out twice over the years, both times following hospitalizations as a result of severe beatings. The first time in December, 2007, I moved to another Local Government Area in Lagos. This was at my uncle’s home as my father had refused to let me stay with him because the family name would be ruined and he’d rather attend my funeral, than have divorced daughter. Moreover, according to him, the bible is against divorce.

I had to take my son out of his preschool to another closer to me. I was there for a few months, picking up extra shifts as a Customer Service Rep to be able to afford basic stuff for my son like diapers and food. But even there, I wasn’t safe. He would sit outside in his car for hours either at work or at my uncle's home. I had to get my cousin to drive me once or twice so he backed off. He had seized my car and only released it when my huge cousin who lived abroad and was visiting Nigeria asked him to give it back.

And little did we know that he had cut the brakes of my Toyota Camry. He sent his mechanic to come park it at Festac and I didn’t drive it for a few days because I was a new driver and didn’t know my way around from Festac so I would take buses/cabs/okadas. And unfortunately for me, the first day I drove it was the day, I had my son and was on my way to work. As I drove down the winding bridge trying to connect to Orile, the car sped down uncontrollably.

I pumped and pumped my brakes as I prayed and prayed and cried and cried. It was really early, like 4:30 am because I tend to get lost a lot and generally just like to leave about 2 hours earlier than the required 6 am. So, because of the time, there were few cars on the highway . And the fact that I can barely see at night heightened my fear. Miraculously, I got all the way to my office at Orile-Iganmu without running into anyone or anything and the car having lost a little momentum on flat ground, was brought to a halt only at my office gate. I rolled the car into the compound and sat, shaking like a leaf till early light when people started coming.

I tried to call and email him about the car, hoping it was a mistake but he called me all sorts of shocking names, saying , he will still get me some other way. I told this to the case-worker, Dr Sanya at the Surulere LGA Welfare who was supposed to be mediating our case. It was only when I caught them one morning ,exchanging hugs with Dr Sanya saying, Thank You for the other day” with my husband replying, “There’s more where that came from” that I knew he had once again bought him off. I was well and truly sunk. So, when my uncle and my father summoned me to tell me that my “holiday” was over and I needed to “stop all this nonsense and go back and be a good wife and save the family name.”

The second time, in Dec 2011, I decided to move all the way to Abuja. I’d hoped he’d be too busy to come there. This time, I didn’t tell my parents right away that I’d left. I gave them the impression that I was just visiting for Christmas. Eventually, my inlaws had told my parents that I ran away . So, my mom who was at the Abuja home at the time, had told me that I was welcome to stay out the Christmas but that I had to go back and try to make it work.

When I tried to explain to her that my life was in danger, her heartbreaking response was that “ There has never been a divorce in our clan. So, your father and I would rather keep it that way even if it meansattending your funeral . Moreover, as long as he pays the kids school fees, then he is pretty much a model husband. Close your eyes to everything else and try not to do things that would earn you a beating.”

When I refused to go, my mother got upset and violent , slapping me and shoving me out and feverishly throwing all our bags out in the streets, screaming “This is exactly why your husband beats you.” “You are stubborn and disobedient and frankly, I think you deserve everything because of the shame you bring to us. Please, go to your husband’s house. There is no room for you here.” ”You are not the first woman and you will not be the last that her husband beats. If I lived through it so will you.”

I was sobbing and wailing “What of my children? Are you also going to throw them out?”
Her response, “ They ,like you , are their father’s property . Take them back to him.”
And she slams the door.
My kids and I sit huddled out in the drizzling rain and my son, wide-eyed, asked me , “Mommy, is it because Im naughty that Maa-Maa is upset?” I weakly reassure him that it was not the case.
“Mommy, why does no one love us anymore?”
“I love you, baby!” I whisper fiercely and hugging them to my tear-soaked chest. “And God loves you. That is all that matters!”
I try to call my brother in Canada to let me stay at his Abuja apartment and after a few moments of silence, he says he’d get back to me. And that was the last, I heard from him on that.

When I saw that the kids were cold and hungry , I knocked and begged my mom to please let us stay a few more months till the school term runs out. She would hear nothing of it and after numerous calls to my uncle and siblings and father, I told her I would have to call her fellow politicians to see if they’d house us for a while. Then she grudgingly agreed.

In the meantime, I had to deal with violent phone-calls from my husband and he even showed up at the family home a few times. He would whisper to me “See? I will kill you and your family will do nothing about it.”

He would also threaten to have me bombed and people would think it was Boko Haram, which had just started attacks that same period. And my daughter’s school was in one of the churches (Dunamis International ,Garki) rumored to be on the list to be bombed next so I was terrified daily. And I knew it was true. He had the means and connections to commit murder and get away with it. And as no one had at the time figured out their target, I was naturally afraid.

So, between him and my parents making life painful for me and the kids and the terrorist situation in Abuja, I fearfully moved back to Lagos around Easter, 2012. But, of course, I had to go back to the village to be judged by the clan and was humiliated again for days and the kids taken from me before I was grudgingly allowed back to my marital home.

1. How I Got the Courage to Leave
2. How I Met my Abusive Husband
3. A Fatal Kind of Attraction
4. My Attempts to Leave or Separate
5. The Beginning of The Nightmare
6. How I Became A Different Person as an Abused Woman
7. The Red Flags I Overlooked Before my Abusive Marriage
8. Why I Kept Going Back To My Abusive Husband
9. When I Decided That I Will Not Die But Live
10. It Was Tough, But I Was Finally Able to Leave

Myne's note - October is Domestic Violence awareness month and Oma thinks this was a great time to share her story and reach out to other women for support and also to encourage others to speak out or take action. Names, Dates and Places have been changed to protect Oma and her children.

Over the next few days, you'll read more of Oma's story. Oma is currently in need of help, financial and otherwise and if you're able to, please contact me at myne@mynewhitman.com. We're trying to work as quickly as possible for the safety of Oma and her ability to keep her children.


  1. If I didn't know that stuff like this truly happens, I would have said this is fiction.
    I can't imagine telling my child that I would rather attend her funeral. It's hard to walk away from an abusive relationship when you don't have the support of your family.

  2. AH, even her MUM?!

  3. Funny while reading this, Don Moen's 'He never sleeps, He never slumbers' began playing in the background, and memories of me as a little girl watching my mum get beat up by my dad starts flooding in. *sobs*

    I'm so sorry for what you had to go through. Happy that you had the courage and grace to get out...alive!

    I don't think I can do this. Marriage. Kids. I just couldn't.

  4. Mum physically & emotionally abused till she cut off one of dad's finger while protecting herself before it stopped, Aunt emotionally abused by her good christian deacon husband, Neighbour beaten to a pulp that she miscarriages because she won't allow her husband practice his muslim rights of having more than one wife, Me? sexually violated @ 8 years old. And pple wonder why I am a cold hearted bitch.

    Although I am in a place of forgiveness & open to getting married but that future is cloudy..


    1. I pray God heals you and sends a man that will change your views on marriage.Not all men are horrible or like the ones you experienced as a child.

  5. I really don't understand how even her parents were so against her. So image is better than the life of a child you carried and nutured to adulthood? Jesu!

  6. Am weeping!Why this wickedness?Even her(your) parents,this is unbelievable!Goshhh!

    1. what a big shame on her parents part.Tufiakwa for "saving face"

  7. I'm getting goosebumps just reading all this. It's shocking to think that things like these really happen. And she sounds like she's from a well off family but they can't even support her, and would rather bury their daughter. So sad.
    I hope she's able to stay away from this monster forever.

  8. Inspiring story there. What occurred after? Take care!

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