Hello friends, hope your mid-week is coming along well. Following a number of online posts I have read of women in abusive relationships, I have seen it necessary to run a series of articles telling the stories of women who have lived through intimate partner violence, in the hope that their stories can help another woman. Today, I share Valerie’s story, and the lessons that we can pick from it.
When growing up, Valerie M. had big plans for her future. She would be married by 27 years and at 30 years, she would retire from work to travel around the world with her husband and their two children. Valerie’s parents gave her a solid foundation and set her on the path to a great future. She attended Loreto Msongari School for her primary education before moving to Braeside High School for her O’ levels. At the age of 20 years, Valerie had graduated from the United States International University (USIU) with a degree in hotel and restaurant management. She was intelligent, bright, smart, and was confident that by 30 years, she would have achieved it all.
But today, Valerie is a 32-year-old single mother, unemployed and separated from her husband. Life did not pan out exactly as she had planned. So what happened?
“It all began when I left Kenya for Malaysia to study for my MBA degree in 2008. In January 2009, I met my prince charming –a Nigerian man through mutual friends. We hit it off immediately. Four months later, we were engaged and in August 2009, we both came to Kenya where he met my family. The wedding, to be held in Nigeria, was planned for December that year.
Two weeks before our wedding, my mother, aunts, uncles and close relatives traveled to Nigeria, as it was important for them to familiarize themselves with my future family. But things started going wrong soon after. My family said there was ‘something wrong’ with my fiancé and his family. Their future in-laws had given them a cold reception, and had completely ignored them for the two weeks they were there. My relatives further observed that my fiancé and his family were treating me more like a maid than a wife-to-be. Their strong instincts told them he wasn’t the man for me. But I ignored them.
Determined to stop our nuptials, just two days to the wedding, my family deceived me and before I knew what was happening, I was on a plane back to Nairobi! This made me very angry. But I worked out a plan. Nothing was going to stop me from marrying my love.
Immediately I arrived in Nairobi, I secretly got in touch with my fiancé and asked him to send me a ticket back to Nigeria. In five days, I was back in Nigeria without my family’s knowledge. Two weeks later, we held our wedding. Only six people witnessed our nuptials –me, my husband, his two brothers, a sister-in-law and the officiating pastor. I admit that I was however sad that none of my family or friends was present for my big day, especially my mother. But I had made my choice.
My new husband and I then returned to Malaysia where I continued with my studies. I wholeheartedly embraced my role as a wife, determined to make my marriage work. My parents had divorced when I was young and I didn’t want the same thing to happen to me so I purposed to make my marriage work, no matter what.
But my marriage didn’t start out as I expected. No matter how hard I tried, nothing pleased my husband. I am a good cook but yet my husband always complained about the meals I prepared. I kept the house clean and neat, but he always said it was untidy. I found myself constantly apologizing for one thing or another. Because I was determined to be a good wife, I stopped going to school so that I could focus on my marriage and work on everything I was doing that seemed to upset my husband.
Meanwhile, he had asked me to disclose to him passwords to all my emails, social media accounts, PIN numbers and bank accounts. Any money I made, he asked me to surrender to him, which I did. I didn’t mind doing so because I thought I was being an obedient wife. I didn’t want to do anything that would look rebellious to him. Interestingly, he never shared any details of his accounts or passwords with me.
For the first six months of my marriage, I never communicated with any member of my family. Due to the acrimonious manner they had left Nigeria, my husband forbade me from communicating with them because of their ‘bad behaviour’. He told me to instead focus on him and our marriage.
But as the months wore on, I began feeling trapped. My husband was always unhappy with me. No matter how hard I tried, I could never please him. We were in Malaysia and I had no friends or family around me. I felt isolated. It was also around the time I fell pregnant. One day, I decided to call my younger brother and as we talked, my husband walked into the room. He suddenly descended on me with kicks and blows, accusing me of cheating on him. I was four months pregnant then. He beat me up like a dog.
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