Thursday, October 10, 2013

8. Why I Kept Going Back To 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.

You've read the part where I tried to leave and my own mother threw me out? The thing about this whole abusive relationship thing is that the pain that's felt the most isn't the one from all the blows and punches. It's the one in the heart. I can not put into words the gut-wrenching, heart-rending,nerve-splitting anguish that comes with the knowledge that your tormentor is the same person who swore in front of hundreds of witnesses to "Love and cherish".

There are no words to describe the dismal darkness that just descends on your world like a thick,wet blanket,threatening to choke out the very essence of your existence. You have two choices: sink or swim. And it is not often that women in these situations get the opportunity or the strength to swim. Because it's not only your man that you have to stand up to/against:

- There's the police who are VERY reluctant to get involved in these matters. - AND the sad judicial system who offer little to no protection to these battered women and what little norms/laws that are in existence are almost NEVER enforced. - AND society which not only condones these heinous acts but actually encourage them.

You have no idea how many seemingly respectable people that said things like "Are you Obasanjo's daughter that makes you think you shouldn't be beaten?" (this was from my MIL) or " You are his property now so it's his prerogative to do with you as he wishes.". Or "Stop doing the things that will make him beat you now".

AND the church which should be a place of refuge but turns out to be the most unwelcoming , judgmental place of all. I've been preached at , told that if my walk with God was perfect then none of those things would be present in my family, that the Bible says to be submissive so I should try being MORE submissive and given a list of verses to read.

I'm not discounting His power but at the time, I needed a practical coping mechanism and thought that seeking counsel from those ordained by Him to "watch over his flock" was a good idea. Instead I was told to "pray away" my issues.

AND the most demoralizing of all is family and friends. A lot of parents do not want to be smeared by the shame of divorce in their family so much so that they don't face the reality that their daughters could be killed by their spouses/ (which usually ends up being the case). I recently had my husband's childhood friend call me and try to convince me that my husband was an angel and I must have done something to him to have him beat me to a pulp.

When I insisted and asked him if he thought it was ok for his friend to touch me, his reply was " If you had a househelp whom you've warned repeatedly to dry the bathroom floor and she keeps on disobeying you, wouldn't you beat her?" I was stunned into silence. I had been reduced to the level of "housegirl " by my husband to all who knew me. I had lost every shred of dignity just because I was in love with someone.

So,when these women run to the people who should offer protection unquestioningly ,they usually get admonishments and are returned back to their "homes". A lot of times , I hear people ask these women derisively , "But why do you go back? You must enjoy it abi?"

Well, there's your answer. It's important to know that women in these situation have self-esteem/self-worth issues from these intimate attacks and need at the very least, a hand to hold on to as they get the courage to walk away.

Plus, Nigeria is, for the most part Patri-lineal (to the best of my knowledge) so rather than risk losing custody of kids, they stay so they are close to the only ones who give them some measure of comfort. So, when you live in an unforgiving society such as ours with zero-support system, your options are pretty slim and you go back to the only one that will have you back!

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.

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


  1. Don't they have FIDA in Nigeria? They do a really great job of providing refuge, justice and provide income generating projects for victims of domestic violence, child abuse, sexual abuse etc who come to them for help.

  2. I'm happy that Oma was able to get out of this situation. A lot of people tend to victim blame in our society and tend to be derisive instead of compassionate. There are several factors that come to play in every different DV situation and it is not always easy to walk away pre-marriage or after marriage. I think the onus is actually on people around the victims to save them but all too often, these people fail them.

  3. I have to confess that the more DV stories I read or hear, and unfortunately they are not many, the more I grow and realize I had been part of the problem before. When cousins and girlfriends told me of verbal abuse or slaps and stuffs, I always say, bear it, pray, it will be better. I'm now learning how to listen and counsel if that's what they want, and assure them that I can be there if they want to leave.

  4. You are very right. The time for offering peoplepplatitudes is over. Abused women are in real dire situations, and telling someone to pray isn't helpful - surely they already must. We need to stand up and offer a shoulder, lend a hand, a place to stay, stare down their husbands for them, anything...


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