Meg’s Story

The scars you can’t see are the hardest to heal – Gecko & Fly

thumb_233241_420_630_0_0_portraitI felt guilty.  Guilty because I’m not sorry that he’s gone.  He passed away a month ago from a second stroke.  It happened while I was at the grocery store.  When I got home, there was an ambulance and police cars in front.  Our grand-daughter had called 911.

I feel guilty because I’m not sorry that he’s dead.  Does that make me a heartless person?  It isn’t that I didn’t love him.  The sad thing is that I did.  Even though he didn’t love me, I loved him.  As a teenager, I used to read about unrequited love.  I never thought it would happen to me.  We met in college.  I developed a huge crush on him but he had eyes for my older sister, Elaine but she ended up marrying another boy.  On a rebound, Albert dated me and then married me soon after we discovered that I was pregnant.  We didn’t go on a honeymoon and I had to quit my job as a nurse.

I didn’t know that it was abuse because he didn’t hit me.  If he hit me, I would have left.  No, I didn’t get slapped or punched or shoved or anything like that.  Instead, I got talked down to at home when we were alone or in front of company.  I was embarrassed in public.  I could feel people staring at us and caught the pitying glances of both men and women.  I didn’t want their pity.  I didn’t want them to notice me.  I wanted to be invisible.  I wanted the floor to open up and swallow me.  I wanted to be somewhere else.  More often than not, I wanted to be someone else.  I resented my sister Elaine because she had the marriage I wanted.  Her husband, Larry treated her like a queen.  I resented her because I knew that my husband would have preferred to marry her instead of me.  More than once, he said to me, “I married the wrong sister.”

He treated me with contempt.  I could see the disgust and dislike on his face when he looked at me.  And I often wondered why.  Why did he have such an aversion towards me?  I wasn’t ugly.  I was a good person.  I was a good wife to him and a good mother to our kids yet nothing I did seem to please him.  He disrespected me in front of our kids, embarrassed me in front of friends and family and in public and he became very controlling.  He controlled whom I talked to, where I went, my money and allowance.  He made decisions without consulting me, telling me that he was the breadwinner and the man of the house so he was the one was going to make all of the decisions.  I was Anglican but he wanted our kids to be Catholic.  He chose their schools.  I had no say in the matter.

Whenever he got upset, he called me names or criticized my cooking or the way I kept the house or did the laundry or ironing.  After a while nothing I did was good enough.  As the years went by, our marriage relationship was in a dismal state and I was glad when our kids moved out.  I didn’t want them to be subjected to my abuse anymore.  I should have left Albert after the kids moved out but I didn’t.  You see, he suffered a stroke and after spending a week in intensive care, he was moved to a care home to aid his recuperation.  Afterwards, he moved back home and I took care of him.  In spite of everything, I was still his wife.  I did it out more out of obligation than love.

Things didn’t improve as I had foolishly hoped.  He became even more controlling and demanding.  He demanded that I handed over all bank statements, receipts.  He timed my trips and forbade me from non-essential ones.  He belittled me.  He continued to criticize my cooking, housekeeping and appearance.  He accused me of lying about my whereabouts and of cheating on him.  No matter how much I denied it, he refused to believe me.  And he called me a good for nothing liar and cheat.  He even accused me of getting pregnant on purpose so that he had to marry me.  No, he didn’t hit me but his words were more painful and lasting than physical bruises.

If it weren’t for my faith, I would have given up a long time ago.  I kept telling myself that there had to be a light at the end of the tunnel and that God never gave us more than we could handle.  Things couldn’t continue the way they were going.  There had to be an end to this nightmare.  There had to be.  This wasn’t God’s idea of a marriage.  Marriage was a loving partnership between a man and a woman.  Woman was made from a rib from the man’s side which meant that she was his equal not someone he could treat like a doormat.  She too was created in God’s image.  They were supposed to be one–complimenting each other.  One wasn’t more superior than the other.

There were times when I wished I had never met Albert but then I think about our sons.  They are terrific, godly men and wonderful husbands and fathers.  I thank God for them everyday.  They had urged me to leave their father before he had the stroke and I wish I had.

Anyway, my marriage came to an abrupt end when Albert suffered another stroke and died a day later.  When I got home from the grocery store, I saw the ambulance and police cars out front.  I was numb as I watched the paramedics put him into the back of the ambulance.  There were tears on my face but I don’t know if they were tears of grief and sorrow.  My grand-daughter and I followed in my car.  We went to the hospital.  She stayed with me until the evening when her father picked her up.  I spent the night in the hospital.  Early the next morning, they came and told me that Albert was dead.  I called Andrew, our elder son and asked him to tell the rest of the family.  I went home, showered and changed and returned to the hospital.  I asked my daughter-in-law, Sandy to contact the same funeral home where my father’s service was held.

The weeks following were busy with funeral arrangements and other matters.  I was thankful when it the funeral service was behind me.  I wanted to return to some normalcy in my life.  I decided to sell the house because it was too big for one person and it was filled with a lot of painful memories for me.  I moved into a low-rise condo building in a nice neighborhood with a park nearby.  Weeks after moving there, I decided to join the Foster Grandparent Program so that I could help children who have been abused or neglected.  It feels good to bring love and comfort to someone else.

My life is finally what I always wanted it to be.  I’m a widow.  I don’t plan on ever getting married again.  I tried it once and it didn’t work out.  Now, I will just enjoy being a mother and grandmother and being a mentor.  I believe that I’m where God wants me to be right now.  I have recently written a book with the help of Greta, my daughter-in-law who happens to be a best selling author, called, Abuse By Any Other Name, about my experience as an older woman of domestic abuse and the idea that it isn’t really abuse if there isn’t any physical violence.  I want women to know that abuse happens to older women too and that it isn’t okay to stay in a marriage because he isn’t hitting you.  There are other types of abuse.

One of my favorite quotes is:  Don’t let your loyalty become slavery. If they don’t appreciate what you bring to the table, then let them eat alone.  I let my loyalty to my husband blind me to my reality.  Don’t make the same mistake I did.  Don’t wait until one of you dies.

Meg’s story is fiction but there are older women like her who are victims of domestic abuse.  According to The Guardian, more than 10% of women killed by a partner or ex-partner are aged 66 or over but they are the group least likely to leave their abuser and seek help.   For older women, domestic abuse often isn’t physical.  There is emotional, verbal and financial abuse.

Jess Stonefield, a contributing writer outlines the following ways in which older women can take back their power and begin to recognize — and fight — signs of domestic abuse in their lives:

Get real. Familiarize yourself with modern definitions of abuse and be honest with yourself about whether there is abuse in your marriage or partnership. Note the ways it has impacted your life. Name it. Acknowledge it. Allow yourself to grieve the parts of your life you have lost to it.

Speak up. Find a counselor or support group where you can share your story and find empowerment from others who have experienced and overcomesimilar challenges.

Define your options. It’s possible that you don’t feel comfortable choosing divorce or living on your own in this season of your life due to physical or financial limitations. You still have options. For instance, an assisted living community could provide the safety and shelter you need to recover your physical or emotional health. Women’s shelters, Adult Protective Services (APS) or friends and family may also offer short-term solutions. Make a list of possibilities and talk to a trusted friend about which might be best for you.

Get your finances in order. One of the main reasons older women choose to stay in abusive relationships is financial dependence. Many spent a large part of their lives in the role of homemaker and may have no financial savings of their own. Check out these tips for preparing financially before leaving your partner.

Be your own advocate. Repeat this sentence: “I deserve better.” Know that your voice matters. If a health care professional, member of law enforcement or even a son or daughter minimizes the abuse happening in your marriage, do not acquiesce. Be your own best advocate and refuse to take any less than you deserve: a safe, happy life and relationship.

Don’t be the forgotten victims of domestic violence.  Take action.  Protect yourself.

Sources:  The Guardian; Next Avenue; National Institute on Aging; Senior Corps; Gecko & Fly Quotes

Sex Selection Abortion

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Sex selection abortion is the practice of terminating a pregnancy based upon the predicted sex of the infant. The selective abortion of female fetuses is most common in areas where cultural norms value male children over female children, especially in parts of East Asia and South Asia (particularly in countries such as People’s Republic of China, India and Pakistan), as well as in the Caucasus, and Western Balkans (Wikipedia).  It is also practised in the UK and the US.   According to reproductive campaigners, there is no evidence that sex selective abortion is a problem in the UK.  And there is no data to indicate that it’s been done in the US.  However, the procedure is happening in Canada.

It is rarely openly discussed and difficult to prove, but new research suggests that some couples in Canada are practising prenatal sex selection, aborting female fetuses out of a preference for male children. Two related studies, published on Monday in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal), found a higher-than-expected ratio of boys to girls born to immigrants from India over the past two decades, which researchers linked to preceding abortions. This gender imbalance was particularly striking among families that already had two daughters.”

Politicians and activists have argued for legal limits on abortion to deter sex-selection. banning the disclosure of the sex of a fetus until 30 weeks, when abortions are performed only in rare circumstances. But such measures are difficult to enforce and, some argue, unjustifiably sweeping, while others note that identifying and targeting specific groups for practising sex selection is discriminatory – The Globe and Mail

Although sex selection abortion is banned in Canada and there are policies against sex-selective abortions and against the use of medical testing solely for identifying a fetus’s sex, there are parents and doctors who argue that expectant parents have the right to know.  Shree Mulay, associate dean and professor of community health and humanities at Memorial University of Newfoundland heard accounts from social workers who have had women ask for the sex of their fetuses, only to later learn that they terminated the pregnancy after finding out.  Mulay, a specialist in immigrant women’s health suspects that women may not necessarily be the ones seeking sex-selective abortion, but may be acting under family pressure.  The responsibility of taking care of elderly parents fell on the son.

Not everyone is opposed to sex selective abortion.  Professor Wendy Savage, a member of Senior doctors’ union believes that sex selection abortions should be allowed at any stage, citing that it’s a woman’s right to decide because she’s the one taking the risks.  She believes that forcing women to give birth to a child of a sex they do not want to have “is not going to be good for the eventual child, and it’s not going to be good for [the mother’s] mental health.”

“As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t matter why any woman wants to end her pregnancy. If it’s to select for sex, that’s her choice.  But what about when a pregnant woman lives in a society that gives her real and considerable reason to fear having a girl? The kind of society where dowry systems mean an inconveniently gendered child could bankrupt a family, or one where a livid patriarch deprived of a male heir could turn his fury on both mother and daughter? In those situations, a woman wouldn’t just be justified in seeking sex selective abortion; she’d be thoroughly rational to do so.  Ultimately, if you believe strongly that girls have as much right to be born as boys, then you should also believe that women have the right to decide what happens within the bounds of their own bodies” (Sarah Dunn, Opinion, The Guardian).

The problem with sex selective abortions is that there will be an access of the preferred gender as in the evidence which found that there was an unnatural excess of boys in 12 countries since the 1970s, when sex-selective abortions started becoming available.  Girls who can be of great value to society are being aborted.  What can be done about this?  According to Shree Mulay, “…traditions have to be challenged.” She also iterated that to be effective, efforts to change attitudes that favour sons over daughters must come from within the immigrant groups themselves.

Amrita Mishra, project director of the Indo-Canadian Women’s Association in Edmonton, believes major factor in this issue are the existing legal loopholes which allow anyone to use abortion for infant sex selection.  “I see Canada as enabling as such practices. And I refuse to have this turn into an Indian issue that’s been imported like vegetables or fruit into Canada.”  She is of the opinion that a law against sex-selective abortion would send a powerful message to anyone considering the practice.

In China, there are new rules to prevent sex selective abortions.  However, there is concern among citizens and activists over state control and women’s rights.  According to the Globe and Mail article, “the Jiangxi province issued guidelines last week stipulating that women more than 14 weeks pregnant must have signed approval from three medical professionals confirming an abortion is medically necessary before any procedure. The measures are meant to help prevent sex-selective abortions, which are illegal in China. The sex of a child is often discernible after 14 weeks.”  However, this raises fears that the woman’s womb will be monitored, that the reproductive rights of a woman in the country are taken for a joke and that their reproductive functions are tightly controlled by the state.

Lu Pin, founder of Feminist Voices, a blog on gender issues said that people were worried that “the government will go from lifting restrictions, to encouraging reproduction, to imposing restrictions on abortion and restricting people’s own decisions.”  She also stated that many Chinese women, who had chosen not to have a second child despite the new policies, were fearful that strict social policies will be introduced.

The crack down on sex selective abortions  in the various provinces in China is as a result the number of abortions of female fetuses which resulted in massive gender imbalance of 30 million more men than women.  More provinces will follow Jiangxi’s lead in imposing restrictions on abortions after 14 weeks.   However, despite the concerns of some over these provincial changes, Cai Yong, an associate professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, doubts that China would go as far as barring abortions to encourage women to have more children. “Certainly China is capable and has a history of doing that kind of thing but whether it will go all the way to ban abortion … I think that’s a little too far.”

Sex selective abortion is wrong and should be banned or criminalized.  Girls should be celebrated as well as boys.  If you feel the same way I do, The Population Research Institute encourages you to:

Take action against the sex selective abortion.  Life is precious, regardless of gender.

Sewing for a Better Future

Seven Wells is “a faith-based development organization raising up a generation who will transform Africa.”

In 2005, they started a sewing school for mothers.  The women attend Monday to Friday for 9 months with the goal that at the end they have a trade.  About 300 of them have graduated and are now self-sufficient and able to afford the basic necessities of life.  This helps them to feel good about themselves because they can take care of their families.  They have a purpose in life now.

This December 10 to 12 women are graduating and Seven Wells is hoping to provide each one with her own sewing machine so she can start her own business.  This is where you come.  The cost of a sewing machine is approximately $150, but you can donate any amount you would like to empower these women, making it possible for them to have a better future.  Not only will you have the satisfaction of knowing that you have helped a woman take care of her family but if you donate $50 or more you will receive a special gift sewn by these women mailed to you.

Help to make a difference in a woman’s life in Rwanda by making it possible for her to have her own sewing machine.  If you would like to make a donation visit here or if you would like to learn more about Seven Wells and the work they do, visit here.  These women are sewing for a better future.  Let’s do what we can to help them.

Sherry’s Story

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I want to tell somebody but who will believe me?  Who will believe that the man who uses me for a punching bag is one of New York’s finest?  I’m just a former exotic dancer who had the misfortune of getting hooked up with the wrong man.  I guess I was flattered by the attentions of a veteran cop whose face has been plastered in the newspapers numerous times for his exemplary work, cleaning up crime and cracking down on drug dealers.  He has had the most arrest records and commendations than anyone else on the force.  He is a hero in the communities, feared by the criminal element and admired by his colleagues.

Yeah, who would believe that this man of the law was beating me up?  When we first met, I thought he was a real decent guy.  He used to come and watch me dance.  One night after I finished my number and was at the back of the club about to smoke a cigarette, he joined me.  He lit my cigarette and asked me my name.  I told him.  He didn’t introduce himself.  He didn’t need to.  I knew who he was.  To tell you the truth, I was surprised that he was talking to me.  There were other dancers that I thought were more up his alley.

“What are you doing here at a strip club?” I asked him.

He lit his cigarette, took a few drags before he answered.  “I’m off-duty,” he said.  “So, what’s fine looking woman like you doing in a joint like this?”

I shrugged.  “To make money.  Besides, I like to dance.”

“Do you have a man?”

I shook my head.

“How much money do you make?”

“There’s a man who comes in every night and he pays me $2000 to dance for him and then we would spend the  rest of the time talking.”

“Is that the man I saw dressed in the expensive suit and wearing a hat?  He reminded me of JR Ewing.”

“Yes, that’s him.”

“He’s married, isn’t he?”

“Yes.”

“I bet his wife doesn’t know what he’s been up to.”

I finished my cigarette.  “I’d better be getting back.”  I turned to leave when he caught hold of my arm.

“How about you dancing for me this time?”

“Sure.  Whatever you want.”

“And afterwards, we go back to my place.”

“Sure.”  We went back into the club.  I danced for him and then we drove to his place.

He lived in a nice neighborhood.  After his wife died and their kids moved out, he Tiriansold the house and moved into a penthouse apartment facing the Hudson River.  I stood at the window looking out.  He fixed the drinks and brought mine over to me.  In person, he was a very attractive man.  He looked younger than 55.  His hair was dark with touches of grey at the sides.  His brown eyes met mine.  For a long time, neither of us say anything.  In the background, soft jazz played.  And then, he suggested,  “Let’s go over to the sofa where it’s more comfortable.”

I followed him over to the sofa and we sat down.  We talked for a while and then he took my glass and set it on the coffee table next to his.  While he placed on hand on my thigh, he leaned over and began to kiss me.  I didn’t resist.  I was attracted to him.  The kisses became wild and passionate and we ended up having sex on the sofa.  After I got dressed, I was going to phone for a taxi but he insisted in giving me a lift home.

He dropped me home and there weren’t any plans to see each other again.  I was disappointed but then I asked myself, What did you expect?  He’s a cop and you’re a stripper.

I didn’t see him for a while and then one night, he showed up at the club.  He saw me with the rich married man.  I was sitting on his lap, talking to him.  After he left, my cop friend came over to me and told me to meet him outside for a smoke.  I got dressed and went outside.  He was waiting for me.  I walked up to him and was about to say something when he grabbed me roughly by the shoulders.  “You’re quitting your job right now.”

“But I need the money,” I protested.

He struck me hard across the face.  “You heard me.  You’re quitting.  Now, let’s go.”  He gripped my wrist tightly and dragged me behind him to the parking lot where his car was parked.  He opened the door and shoved me in.  I cringed when he slammed the door.  I sat in the passenger seat, holding my face, shocked as we drove off.

We went to my place and as I stood there, still in shock, he said, “Sherry, honey, I’m sorry I hit you.  It’s just that the thought of you dancing for other men drives me crazy.  I’m sorry.  I promise I won’t hit you again.  Forgive me?”

I nodded.  “Yes, I forgive you.”  He looked and sounded so sincere.  I wanted to believe that he would never hit me again.

He pulled me roughly against him and began to kiss me.  I kissed him back.  We ended up in bed.  He spent the night and left early the next morning.  I went to the club and told the manager that I quit.  He was understandably livid, especially since he knew that one of his best customers was the rich man who always asked for me.  I had no idea what I was going to do now that I was working at the club.

My cop had it all figured out.  Several weeks later, he asked me to marry him.  It didn’t seem to bother him what other people would think of him marrying a former stripper.  We got married and I moved in with him.  I wanted to find another job but he refused to let me.  So, I became a housewife.  I felt like a prisoner in our home.  I couldn’t go anywhere without him.  If I needed to go to the supermarket, he took me on Saturdays.  If I needed to go to the salon, he took me.  I don’t know how he managed to get away from work just so he could take me where I needed to go.  I guess when you’ve been with the force as long as he has, you can pretty much do whatever you liked.

We stopped going to the policeman’s ball because he felt that I was too friendly with the younger officers.  Two years ago, after we got home from the ball, he beat me because he said I was flirting with the desk sergeant, a young Nigerian man.  It wasn’t true of course, but my husband was blinded by rage and jealousy.  I was black and blue and had a black eye.  Once when I was in really bad shape, he took me to the Emergency but never left me alone with the nurse who tended to me.  And he answered all of the questions and as soon as the examination was over, we were out of there.

We went home and I was laid up in bed for a few days in bed.  He took care of me.  He apologized for what he had done and brought me flowers.  He told me that he loved me so much it drove him crazy to think that I would leave him for another man.  And as usual, he promised that he would stop hitting me and get help.  I stopped believing him.  I stopped hoping.

We hardly had company over and when we did, I had to wear long sleeves to cover the bruises on my arms.  There were times when I could hardly move because I ached all over.  During the day, it was a struggle to do the chores and I was always so exhausted.  At night, I lay there in bed, long after we had sex, staring up at the ceiling, wishing I could just go to sleep and never wake up.

We didn’t have any children because he didn’t want to have any.  He already had two from his previous marriage.  “Besides, I want you all to myself,” he said and then, he would take me into the bedroom and have rough sex with me.  Sometimes, he liked to pretend that I was under arrest so that he could hand-cuff me to the bedpost while we were having sex.  There were other kinky things that he liked to do to me  and wanted me to do to him.  I went along with it because I loved him and he was my husband.  He told me that he never  wanted to do these things with his first wife but he wanted to do them with me because I was beautiful and exciting.  I brought out the animal in him, he said.  And he was like a wild animal in bed.   Sometimes it was thrilling and other times it was terrifying.

Then he started to blame me for the abuse.  “I never hit my first wife.  In fact, I never hit a woman in my life until I met you.  You make me do it.  There’s something about you that drives me so wild with jealousy that I lose control and I hit you.  Do you think I like hitting a woman?  It’s your fault that I do it.  I love you so much it makes me go crazy just thinking of you with another man.  I swear if you ever leave me, I’ll find you and kill you.”

I began to hate him and wish that something bad would happen to him but I always felt guilty afterwards.  I couldn’t go on the computer because he was afraid that I would go into those chat-rooms and pick up men.  I had the Bible which my grandmother had given to me a long time ago when I was finished with the household chores, I sat down and read it.  It gave me comfort.  I quit smoking.  I began to pray every night when he was sleeping.  I asked God to help me.  I claimed His promise, “For I know the plans that I have for you, says the Lord, plans for peace and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

My help came through a neighbor who was out of sugar and she came by to borrow some from me.  After we exchanged pleasantries, she followed me into the kitchen.  As I reached up in the cupboard for the bag of sugar, the sleeves of my shirt moved back and the bruises on my arm were exposed.  As I closed the door and turned to face her, I saw her staring at me.  Her expression was grave.  “How did you get those bruises on your arm?” she asked.

“I bumped into stuff,” I lied.

“I’ve seen bruises like those before and I know that they are not from bumping into walls or doors or from falls.  He’s beating you, isn’t he?”

“Please, I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Sherry, you need help.  It will not get better.  It will only get worse.  Do you have family or friends you can go to?”

“I have family and friends but I’m too ashamed.  And who will believe me?  He’s a cop.”

“I’ve known women whose abusive husbands are cops, doctors, professors and even judges.  And I’m sure someone in your family will believe you, especially when they see the bruises.  If you prefer, I can take you to a shelter where they will take care of you.  All you have to do is pack what you need and I will drive you there myself.”

“All right,” I said.  Maybe this was God answering my prayer.  I got what I needed and I walked out of the apartment.  I didn’t leave a note or anything.  When my husband came home that evening, he would find me gone.  My neighbor and I went to different shelters but I was turned away because they were full.  As I tried to figure out what to do next, I remembered Lucy.  Lucy still worked as a waitress at the strip club where I used to work.  She and I were good friends.  I let her stay at my place when she walked out on her cheating boyfriend.  She always told me that if I ever needed anything, not to hesitate to call on her.

I couldn’t remember her phone number off hand so I called the club and asked Bill, the bartender for it.  He seemed happy to hear from me.  It was he who got me the job at the club.  I called Lucy and she told me to go right on over.  My neighbor dropped me.  She hugged me and said, “Take care of yourself.  When you’re ready, get help.”

I thanked her and watched her drive away before I went into the apartment building.  Lucy was standing at door when I showed up and she hugged me tightly.  “It’s so good to see you,” she said.  “Ever since you got married, you’ve been a stranger.  Come in and tell me everything.”

We went over to the sofa and sat down.  I told her everything and showed her the purple marks on my arms.  “I had to leave him,” I said.

“Yes, you did.  The brute.  He thinks because he’s a cop, he’s above the law.  The first thing you do is to report him.  He belongs behind bars.”

“Who will believe me?  I’m accusing my husband who is an exemplary cop of abuse.  No, going to the police is a bad idea.”

“All right.  We won’t go to the police.  You don’t have to make any decisions right now.  You’re welcome to stay here for a long as you need to.  Whatever you decide to do, you have my support.  Are you hungry?  I’ll fix you something before I head off to the club.  When I’m gone, please make yourself at home.  Call me if you need anything.”  She got up from the sofa and went into the kitchen to fix me some supper.  I wasn’t hungry but I forced myself to eat.

“I should be home around 2.  I have a spare room.  You can put your things in there.  See you later.”  She hugged me and then she was gone.

It was a nice, modest apartment and quiet.  It was in the heart of Soho.  After I finished eating, I washed the plate and went into the living-room to watch some television.  I rested my head against the back of the sofa.  I must have dozed off because when I opened my eyes the room was dark.  I got up and turned on the floor lamp beside the window.  I stood looking out at the street below when I heard the key turn in the lock.  I glanced at the clock above the fireplace.  It was ten-thirty.  Lucy said that she would be home by 2.  Perhaps, she decided to check on me or she wasn’t feeling well.

I called out to her but there wasn’t any answer.  Puzzled, I started for the foyer when I froze in horror.  My husband stood there.  Fear and panic gripped me.  “What are you doing here?”

He came into the living-room.  “To take you home, my Love.”

“How–how did you know I was here?”

“A little birdie told me.”

“You’re lying.  Lucy wouldn’t have told you that I was here.”  And I knew it couldn’t have been my neighbor who brought me here either.

“Who said anything about Lucy?”

Then it hit me.  It was Bill who told him where I was.  He was the only one beside Lucy who knew I was here and I had begged him not to tell anyone that I had called.  He had promised to keep his mouth shut but somehow, my husband had gotten him to talk.  “Where–where did you get the key?  Did you steal it from Lucy’s bag?”

He laughed.  “Of course not.  I showed the landlord my badge and told her that I had a warrant to search this apartment.   If she had bothered to check she would have seen that the paper I showed her was the lease for my apartment.  Now, get your things, we’re going home.”

I backed away from him, shaking my head.  “I’m not going anywhere with you.  I want a divorce.”

His expression darkened and he grabbed me by the shoulders, shaking me.  “You’re crazy if you think I’m going to let you divorce me so that you can run to another man,” he muttered through clenched teeth.  “I would kill you first.”

Although this wasn’t the first time he threatened to kill me if I left him, I was really frightened because of the look in his eyes.  I felt as if I were staring into the eyes of the devil himself.  I wanted to run for my life.  I shoved hard against his chest and managed to get free.  I headed for the door but he grabbed me back the hair and dragged me back into the living room.  He shoved me face down on the floor and raped me.

When he was finished, he stood up.  I lay there for a while, trembling and crying.  Then, I slowly got to my knees.  My back was turned to him.  He yanked me to my feet.  “Clean yourself up and get your things because you’re coming with me.”

“I’m not going anywhere with you.  You raped me.”

“How can you call it rape when I took what is lawfully and rightfully mine?” He demanded.

I was shaking so much that I could hardly stand.  “You’ve beat me and raped me for the last time.  I’m going to file for a divorce and get a restraining order put on you.”

“Over my dead body.  You’re my wife, Sherry and the only thing that’s going to separate us is death.”

Then, I saw him pull out his gun and point it at me.  I screamed and then everything went black.

When I came to I was lying in a hospital bed.  I learned that the bullet caught me in the shoulder because I had moved.  If I hadn’t it would have gone straight into my heart.  My husband shot me and then he shot himself.  The police were called to the apartment when a neighbor reported hearing two gun shots.  The landlord told the police that my husband had shown up and told her that he had a search warrant for Lucy’s apartment.  The landlord believed him because she knew who he was.

I told the police about the years of abuse I had suffered at the hands of a man whom they had respected.  When they asked me why I hadn’t reported him, I told them that I didn’t think that they would have believed me.  After I was discharged from the hospital, I stayed with Lucy and went for counseling and psychotherapy which really helped me.  A couple months later, I decided that I had had enough of New York.  I sold my condo, packed up and left for Lisbon, Portugal.  Years ago at the strip club where I worked, I met a visitor from Lisbon.  He was a very nice man who gave me $1,000 each time I danced for him during the three weeks he was there.  I always promised myself that if I were to go and settle anywhere in Europe it would be Lisbon.

Lucy and I are in touch.  She is dating a guy she met on the tube.  I told her to bring him to Lisbon the next time she visited.  I’m not dating at the moment.  After being in an abusive marriage, I’m not ready for another relationship.  The men in Lisbon are very attractive but I want to remain single for a while.  I’m working at a boutique and love it.  I have become a member of an English speaking church where the members are like family.

I love living in Lisbon.  Sometimes, I wish that I had come here when I first thought about it and then I wouldn’t have met my husband or been a victim of domestic violence.  Then, I tell myself to forget about the what ifs and be thankful that I’m still alive.  My life could have easily ended that night in Lucy’s apartment if it had not been for the grace of God.   I was a victim of domestic violence and now I’m a survivor.  I have survived to tell my story.  Other women have not been so lucky.  I think about them often and that’s why I want to join in the fight against domestic violence.

There are times when I meet couples who are still madly in love with each other after thirty or more years of marriage and I’m filled with a heavy sadness.  That could have been my husband and me.  I sometimes ask myself why couldn’t he have loved me the way the Bible says a man should love his wife?  And I wanted to love him the way the Bible says I should but how could I respect a man who beat and violated me?  How could I submit to his violent and controlling ways?  He claimed he loved me but his love was was cruel, selfish, demanding, easily provoked and abusive.   I believe that if he really loved me he would have gotten the help he needed and our marriage would have survived.

Today, I’m speaking fluent Portuguese and am a volunteer at a Domestic abuse treatment center here in Lisbon.   God spared my life and I want to use it to help women who are going through the same thing I did.  It is my earnest prayer that one day very, very soon, domestic violence will be eradicated.  Marriage between a man and woman who love each other the way the Bible teaches could be a very beautiful thing.  Love shouldn’t hurt.  It shouldn’t kill either.

March 7, 2019 was a national day of mourning for victims of domestic violence in Lisbon.  Portugal’s Cabinet went out into the street to observe a minute of silence as part of a day of national mourning it decreed for victims of domestic violence.  According to police, 12 women have died this year in domestic violence incidents — the highest number over the same period in 10 years.  On the eve of International Women’s Day, Prime Minister Antonio Costa said in a tweet that domestic violence is “a collective challenge” for society as a whole – National Post

Sherry’s story, though it is fiction, it is the reality for many women.  Some have survived domestic violence and others have not.  There are resources for women who are in abusive relationships and for the abusers as well.  Here is a list:

Victims of abuse often feel guilty as if they have done something to provoke their abuser or that they somehow deserve the abuse they receive. Abusers are often skillful at making their victims feel responsible. But no one deserves to be abused by another, and abusers are responsible for their own choices and actions – Bible Info

Join the fight against domestic violence.  If you are a victim, please seek help as soon as possible.  Your life depends on it.  Be a survivor not another statistic.  If you suspect that someone you know is in an abusive marriage or relationship, please reach out to that person.  October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  Take action today for the many women who feel trapped in the vicious cycle of abuse and feel that there is no way out for them.  Domestic violence affects all of us.

Sources:  Huff Post; Bible Gateway; Bible GatewayTVO

Folani’s Story

photo-1553394951-efd4b4aadd2bMy name is Folani.  At the age of 16, I was forced to marry the man who raped me so that I wouldn’t bring shame on my family.  He wanted to marry me but after I rejected him, he raped me.  I told my my mother what he had done to me and she insisted that if he still wanted to marry me that I should consent.  “No other man is going to want you,” she told me.  “Be grateful if Mr. Adebayo still does.”

“But, Mama, he raped me.”

“And whose fault is that?”

I couldn’t believe how unfeeling and uncaring she was.  I wished my father were still alive.  He would have had Mr. Adebayo arrested and charged.  I wished I had older brothers who would make Mr. Adebayo pay for what he did to me.  I wouldn’t want them to kill him, of course.  There are other ways to make a person pay for what they have done without taking their life.

I got no sympathy from my mother or my step-father and when Mr. Adebayo asked their permission to marry me, they consented.  I know he wanted to marry me because he wanted to avoid punishment and prosecution.  He was a government official and he had his “reputation” to think about.  I had no choice but to go along with this.  I had brought my family into disrepute and the only way to preserve my family name and avoid a life of sexual shame was to marry the man who raped me.  This was the only way to prevent the social stigma of pre-marital sex.

The night before the wedding, I cried bitterly.  I didn’t want to marry this man.  I didn’t want to stop going to school.  I had dreams of becoming a doctor but now those dreams were squashed.  I lay in my bed curled up, wishing I could die.  Death would be better than the future.

I married Mr. Adebayo and we lived in his big house on the hill.  He was abusive to me, demanding his rights as my husband.  He struck me when he tried to touch me and I pulled away.  Night after night, I was raped.  I became pregnant but I miscarried because of repeated domestic violence.  Just when I didn’t think I could take any more of the physical and sexual abuse, my husband suddenly died.  I could have run away and left him there in the floor but I called the police.

It turned out that he died from cardiac arrest.  After the funeral, his sister and mother threw me out of the house.  I didn’t return home to my mother and step-father.  I went to my paternal grandmother who let me stay with her.  When I told her all that had happened to me, she cried and prayed over me.

While I stayed with her, she read the Bible to me and told me about God and Jesus.  I listened.  I missed going to school but my grandmother couldn’t afford to send me.  One night, I got down on my knees and asked God to help me.  I couldn’t give up my dream of becoming a doctor one day.  The next day, someone from Camfed came to my grandmother’s house.  They had heard about my situation through its network of former students who had been supported through their education program.  The charity offered to pay my school fees, and provides books, uniforms and sanitary protection.  As my grandmother and I listened, I knew that God had answered my prayers.  Thanks for Camfed has enabled more than two million girls like me to go to school has made my dream of becoming a doctor a reality.

After I graduated from school, I went on to university.  I chose to live on campus but visited my grandmother every weekend.  I thank her for telling me about God and I thank God for coming through for me.  I wish I had run away from home and gone to live with my grandmother instead of marrying Mr. Adebayo but I was afraid that I would bring shame on her.

When I told her this, she reached for my hand and gently squeezed it.  “You wouldn’t have brought any shame to me, Folani child.  What happened to you wasn’t your fault.  A wicked and evil man violated you and to avoid what was due him, he, your mother and step-father forced you to marry him.  You’re free of him now that he’s dead and you are free to live the life God has planned for you.  Now you can become a doctor–the first in your community and family.  Your father would be very proud of you.”

With tears in my eyes, I hugged her tightly.  “Kutenda, Ambuya.”

Folani’s story is fiction but there are true stories of girls who have been forced into marriages because of poverty, economic hardships, difficult circumstances and protection from sexual violence.  Advocates for rape-marriage laws argue that they shield the victim and her family from the shame of rape.  This isn’t true.  This law benefits the rapist and the girl’s family.  The girl has no say in the matter and is forced to marry the man who violated her.  She is forced to drop out of school and forsake her future which only education could make possible and be in a marriage which more often than not is abusive.

I urge you to help Camfed which is changing the lives of girls through education; Girls Not Brides, a global partnership of more than 1300 civil society organisations committed to ending child marriage and enabling girls to fulfil their potential; Girl UP which believes that Girls are powerful. Girls have limitless potential. Girls can change the world. And yet in certain places around the world, girls continue to lack access to opportunities; CARE which is working towards gender equality, women’s empowerment, champions among men and boys, and an end to violence against women and Forward, the African women-led organisation working to end violence against women and girls.

Marriage is a choice not something to be coerced into.  Education not marriage should be a girl’s priority.  Marriage is between an adult man and woman not between an adult and a child.  And girls who are raped should be protected by the law and their families and not forced to marry their rapists to save him persecution and jail time or to safe the family face.  Rape is a crime and should be treated as such.

Take action to help girls like Gloria, who was forced into marriage at 12 and a widow twice by the time she was 17, to have an education and a future.  Help them to fulfill their dreams.

Sources:  Wikipedia; UN Women; BBC News; UNFPA

Janco’s Story (Part Two)

kult_model_Geoffrey_Camus_209688Five years have passed since I took Nata to the shelter for street children.  A lot has happened within that time.  I’m still handing out tracts but now I’m a Youth leader in my church.  My Mother is back home and she hasn’t touch a drink since she checked into the Drug and Alcohol Rehab Centre.  She is working part-time at a bookstore.

My brother Jacquan is out of prison, a completely changed person.  After my first visit to him, he read the tract I left and was curious to learn more about God and this Jesus who would die for him.  I took other tracts on my next visit and then I learned that the Prison Ministries department had a programme with the prison where my brother was.  Volunteers visited the prisoners, mentor them and study the Bible with them.

Jacquan accepted Christ as his Savior and when he left the prison he was baptized in our church.  Mama and I were there.  He got a job working in the warehouse of a distribution company while studying to become a pastor, believe it or not.  It goes to show you that with God nothing is impossible.  In his free time, he shares his story and the Gospel with kids living on the streets, prostitutes and drug dealers.  Some of them listen and invite him to go again while others curse and threaten him.  He also visits the prison where he had spent ten years of his life to mentor, pray and study the Bible with the inmates.  I never thought I would ever be proud of my big brother but I am.  He was dealing drugs and now he sharing the Gospel.  He was a prisoner and now he’s going to be a preacher.  All he needed was a second chance and God gave it to him.  Now he could spend the rest of his life doing good.

Nata stayed at the shelter until she graduated from high school.  I was there for the ceremony.  She didn’t return home but went to live with a cousin and her family.  While she was at the shelter, I visited her as promised and was relieved to see that she was happy there.  She is going to Wits University now and studying Computer Science.  Good for her because this has been a male dominated field of study all over the world and Africa needs more women computer scientists.

I am no longer working at the grocery store.  I got a job as a Social Media Coordinator at a Christian organization and love every minute of it.  And my work as Youth Leader keeps me busy.  I look forward to teaching Sabbath School, worship, fellowship, our weekly meetings, outreach and recreational outings.  I am in charge of a terrific group of young people.  I learn as much from them as they learn from me.  Tomorrow, is Youth Ministry Day and I have invited Nata to come.  The youth are in charge of entire day’s programme.  I am nervous and excited.  The only thing I am responsible for is introducing the speaker who is none other than my brother, Jacquan.  My best buddy, Gidea offered to do the special music.  He has an incredible voice.  After the service there will be a fellowship meal which I’m sure everyone is looking forward to.

Right now, I’m meeting with the group participating in the service in my flat.  We are going over the details and making sure that everything is in order.  Lesedi has bravely volunteered to teach Sabbath School.  I have no doubt that she will do an outstanding job.  She has the making of a leader.  I am considering making her my Sabbath School Superintendent.  One of these days, I will discuss it with her.

After the meeting is over, I pray and then they leave.  The flat seems very quiet now that they are gone.  I head back into the living-room and turn on the television.  I was about to watch 3ABN when my doorbell rings.  Did one of the youth forget something?  I hurry to the door and look through the keyhole.  It’s Nata.  I quickly open the door.

She stares up at me.  She’s wearing a black top and denim skirt and a red scarf on her head.  “Hi,” she said.  nata

“Hi,” I reply, wondering what brings her to my neck of the woods.  I lean against the door.  I can’t get over how pretty she is.  “I wasn’t expecting to see you until tomorrow.  Have you come to tell me in person that you can’t come?”

She shook her head.  “No, I will be there.  I just came by to thank you in person for being so kind to me and to ask you if you would study the Bible with me.  We don’t have to do it now or here.”

My face brightened.  “Sure, I would be more than happy to study the Bible with you.  We can do so on Sunday in the park just around the corner from here.  Tomorrow when I see you we can decide when and where we will meet.”

She nodded.  “All right.  Thanks, Janco.  I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Have you been in touch with your parents at all since you left home?”

She shook her head.  “No.”

“Nata, at some point you need to face them and deal with the issues you have with them.”

She lowered her eyes.  “I’m not ready to do that yet.”

“Okay,” I said.  I didn’t want to push her.  “It’s best to do it when you’re ready.  It’s getting dark, you’d better head home now.  Do you have far to go?”

“No.  My cousin is a twenty minute bus ride from here.”

“Would you like me to walk you to the bus stop and wait with you until the bus comes?”

She raised her eyes to look at me.  “You don’t have to,” she said quietly.

“Wait here,” I said as I leaned away from the door.  I went inside, turned off the television, grabbed my keys and went back.  I closed and locked the door.  “Let’s go.”

We walked to the bus stop and waited for the bus.  There were a couple of other people waiting there.  “Do you still live alone?” she asked.

“Yes.”

“So, you’re not married then?  I don’t see a wedding ring on your finger but I know that most Seventh-day Adventists don’t wear jewelry.”

“No, I’m not married.”

“What about a girlfriend?”

“No, I don’t have a girlfriend.” I was about to ask her if she had a boyfriend but just then the bus arrived.  Lousy timing.  “See you tomorrow, Nata.”

“Good night, Janco.”  She smiled up at me before she turned and joined the small line to board the bus.

I saw her sat beside the window and look out.  She waved as the bus pulled away.  I watched it until it disappeared before I returned to my place.  I was looking forward to seeing her tomorrow.

Saturday came and I was up and about early, anxious to get the day started.  I had a light breakfast, showered and put on a new suit.  Yesterday I had gotten a haircut.  I looked sharp.  I smiled at my reflection before I grabbed my Bible, wallet and keys and left the apartment.  It was a beautiful, sunny day.  I put the top down on my car and enjoyed the half-hour ride to church.  Already, the parking lot was filling up.

As I made my way from the parking lot to the front entrance of the church, I was greeted by church members and visitors.  I spent some time chatting with people before I went down into the basement and into one of the rooms to meet with the youth and have prayer with them.  At the back of my mind I was hoping that Nata would come.

Everything went exceptionally well.  I was so proud of my youth group and the special music by Gidea was a sermon in itself.  And speaking of sermons, Jacquan’s message, Set Free, brought tears to my eyes and I saw other people dabbing their eyes.  At the end of the service, many people came up to me and told me how much they enjoyed the program.  I was very pleased and I shared the positive feedback with everyone who participated.  I hugged Jacquan and told him that I was very proud of him.  When we parted, we were both in tears.  My mother came and whisked him away.  As I was about to leave the reception area and head down to the fellowship hall to have something to eat, I saw Nata.  My heart leapt in my chest.  I was so happy to see her.  I went over to her.

“You came,” I said.  She was wearing a yellow jacket over a floral dress with splashes of yellow in it.  For the first time since I knew her, she wasn’t wearing the red shawl on her head.

“I told you I would,” she said.  “And I’m happy I did.  I was truly blessed.”

“I’m thrilled to hear that.  Are you going to stay and have something to eat and meet some of the youth?”

She nodded.  “Sure.  You look very handsome in your suit.”

I smiled.  “Thank you.  And you look very pretty.  Let’s head on down now.”

We went downstairs to the fellowship hall which was buzzing with lively conversation.  It settled down when the pastor announced that he was going to say a prayer.  He offered thanks and a blessing of the meal and then people were helping themselves to the different delicious looking and smelling dishes.  Nata was in front of me in the line.  After we finished helping ourselves to the food, we found a couple of seats and sat down.  For several minutes we were alone.

“In case you’re wondering, I don’t have a boyfriend,” she said suddenly, startling me.

I felt my face get hot.  “That’s good to know,” I managed to say after a while.

She smiled.  “So, there’s no reason why you and I can’t go out with each other.”

“No, there isn’t.  Are you free this evening?”

“Yes.”

“We can go bowling and then have pizza afterwards.”

“That sounds great.”

Just then several youth joined us.  I introduced Nata to them.  We had a great time, socializing.  By the time we were ready to go our separate ways, Nata had been invited to our next outdoor activity and to attend church the following week.  I dropped her home and I told her that I would be back at six-thirty to take her bowling.

Our first date was a blast and it led to other dates.  We have been dating for almost a year and today we are riding in a cable car to the top of Table Mountain where I will propose to Nata.  I’m nervous and excited but I have no doubt that this is God’s will for my life.  The Lord has opened His hand and poured out so many blessings on my life.  I am so thankful to Him for His love and goodness not only to me but to my family and Nata.  True to my promise, I studied the Bible with her.  Two months ago, she answered the altar call and accepted Christ.  Now she is a baptized member of my church.  Yes, God is good.  He has turned so many lives around.

Sources:  Crossroad Prison MinistriesUPMI; SDA Church; The Conversation

For Better or For Worse

Man looking through window bw

“How long are you going to continue looking out that window?  She’s not coming back.  Sooner or later you must accept that.”

He didn’t answer.  Her words cut to the core but he refused to believe that Brittany was gone forever.

“She got tired of waiting and decided that it’s time to move on.  Can’t say that I blame her.  I too would get tired of waiting for a man to make up his mind.”

“Marriage isn’t something you take lightly or rush into,” he replied, sounding a tad defensive and resentful.  “I wanted to be sure before I took that step.”

“And are you sure now?”

“Yes!  I’m ready to take that step with Brittany.”

“Well, as they say, too late, too late shall be the cry.”

His mouth tightened in annoyance.  If she had nothing good or helpful to say, he wish she would keep silent.  “Are you going to be much longer?” he asked.  He wanted to be alone to wallow in his pain and misery.

She looked at him.  “Trying to get rid of me, are you?  Well, I’ll be gone in ten minutes.”

Good.  He turned away to look out of the window again.  Any minute, he hoped to see her walking up the street and hear the key turn in the lock.  He had imagined and dreamed of it so many times.  She had to come back.  The night she walked out of the flat and out of his life was still raw and fresh in his mind.  The place felt empty, lonely and dark without her.  He missed her lying in the bed next to him and always fell asleep hugging her pillow.

They had been together for five years and they had been happy years until the subject of marriage came up.  She wanted to get married but he wasn’t ready.  He had seen too many marriages fall apart.  Love wasn’t a guarantee for a lasting marriage.  He had seen couples who loved each other split up.  Was it unreasonable for him to be cautious?  Was it foolish of him to want to wait until he was ready and willing to make that final commitment?

As much as he was in love with Brittany, he was going to let her pressure him into getting married before he was good and ready.  He didn’t regret that decision but he missed her so much that it hurt.  It had been weeks since she walked out but it felt like years.  Yet, hope continued to burn in his heart.  One of these days, she would return and he would be there, waiting for her.

“Well, I’m off now.  Your supper is in the oven, nice and hot.  Your laundry’s done.  I’ll see you in two weeks.  I’m going to visit my daughter in Manchester.”

“Have a safe trip, Hannah.”

“Thank you.  You take care of yourself.  And stop moping about the place.  There are plenty of women out there.”

“I know but there’s only one woman for me.”

“Aye.  Well, I hope for your sake that she’s worth the trouble.  Good afternoon.”

“Good afternoon.”  He got up and saw her to the door.  He reached over and kissed her on the cheek, smiling as she got red in the face.  He watched her walk down the hallway and turn the corner before he closed the door.  He returned to the window.

It was around half-past seven when he decided to get up and have his supper while it was still warm.  As he headed toward the kitchen, he heard the key turn in the lock.  He froze, his heart pounding.  He stood there and watched as the door slowly opened and Brittany step into the foyer.  She closed the door and locked it before turning to face him.  She stood there, watching him.  Beside her were two pieces of luggage.

For several minutes they just stared at each other.  The only sound was the ticking of the clock on the wall.  Then, he was standing in front of her, his eyes restless on her upturned face.  “You came back,” he muttered. 

“Yes.  It was a mistake for me to leave.  I’m sorry.”

“It hurt when you walked out on me.”

“I’m sorry…”

“I was hoping that you would come back.  I’ve missed you so much.”

“I’ve missed you too.  That’s why I came back.”

He moved closer.  “It’s-it’s good to have you back, Brittany.  My life and this place are so empty and miserable without you.  Please promise me that you won’t leave me again.”

“I promise.  And I’m willing to leave our relationship as it is.  If you don’t want to get married, that’s all right with me.”

He pulled her into his arms and hugged her tightly.  “Oh, Brittany…”

She put her arms around his waist.  “I love you, Cedric.”

“And I love you, Brittany.”  He lowered his head and kissed her with passion and longing.  It had been so long since he had held her in his arms or told her that he loved her.  It was like the bright sunshine after a storm.

Several minutes later, he took her hand and led her to their bedroom where they made up for lost time.  Afterwards, they shared the supper Hannah had left for him and it was while they were relaxing on the sofa watching a movie, that he told her that he was ready for marriage.  “I meant it when I said that I was fine with our relationship the way it is.”

“I know you did and I love you for it but I’m ready to take the plunge with you.”

“For better or for worse.”

“Yes.  We’ve been through the worse.  It can only get better from here on.”

She smiled and gently squeezed his hand.  “I believe so too.”

Marriage does not guarantee you will be together forever, it’s only paper. It takes love, respect, trust, understanding, friendship and faith in your relationship to make it last Marriage.com

This was written for the Ragtag Daily Prompts for today’s word, Continue.  If you’re interested in participating, click HERE for more information.