norma_adrian_dv_survivorThis is the first in a series of interviews with domestic violence survivors in recognition of a one-month focus campaign targeting domestic abuse which Red Thread and its networks recently launched; the groups are calling for an end to the brutal maiming and killing of women in the country.

Norma Adrian believed she was weak and with this misconception, she lived for eight years cowering in fear at the hands of an abusive husband who beat her almost every day without fail. The days he did not hit her were those when he was sober and she recalled that they were few.

Norma finds it difficult to recall exactly when the beatings started, but it was soon after she had moved in with him and he decided she would be the breadwinner. A school dropout due to financial struggles in her family, she lived by the saying “a husband is like God”, well at least that was what her family made her believe and she did for many years.

The slaps, cuffs, beat-downs and knife-point assaults she suffered for eight years stripped her of her dignity and reduced her to a woman who was helpless and fearful and believed she had no options. Silently she wept inside the humble home they shared praying for a way out and an end to the physical assaults, she eventually decided to run away from everything including three young children.

She is a scarred woman literally and figuratively. The countless marks on her body appear tattooed on as if placed there purposefully. She has no real understanding of what it means to trust a man, but if it has anything to do with having him talk to her as if he owns her then she admits to being clueless about the word.

She feels as if the system has also let her down; the resentment she feels towards the authorities for failing to follow up on her reports is equal to what she feels, at times for her family. The family which Norma said encouraged her to hang onto the relationship because it meant security, and she remembers even now the words of her mother when she ran away from her home seeking shelter; her mother said women had to learn how to forgive. Call her a conservative woman and mother since she obeyed her husband throughout the union until she day she fled. She told her survival story with an angry look on her face because “it brought back ugly memories”. She continued saying, “I woulda been a dead woman if I de stay with da man. Sometimes we woman want to leave, we want to go, but family is always there telling us not to run and to go back home. Is kill they want dem men kill we,” Norma said, her voice rising. Her pain and anger is visible and even now she fears for her life. Norma has been separated from her abuser for eight years but he lives in her village.

Police refused to act

Her ex-husband was brazen enough to beat her at the bus park a stone’s throw away from the Human Services Ministry just after she had left a meeting with a welfare officer. No one went to her assistance. She said he told people she was deranged and he continued hitting her publicly for about fifteen minutes.  She said justice was just a word to her because she never got any after years of reporting the abuse to the police. One night she slept at a police station after running away from home, but was told that she had to seek help at a shelter because the station could not keep her there longer than the night. Norma said she was not expecting the station to offer her long-term accommodation, she wanted the police to pick up her husband, but it never happened. “I never get justice. I wanted them to pick he up and let we go to de court and hear what de magistrate had to say, but it never happen,” she stated. During the Christmas season one year she went to report the abuse and the officers told her to return in January. “Can you believe dem telling me to come back wha if he de kill me before then?” the woman asked. She sneaked out one night and never looked back; her only regret was that the children could not go with her and she eventually lost them to her husband.

“The closer I get to he and these children he could do me anything,” she said. The children know where she is and she would see them occasionally. She knows that they are well and takes comfort in that. However, she is concerned that they are not attending school regularly and she has also found out that the oldest child is hanging out at a corner shop in the village, drinking with his father.

Go back

She said family tried persuading her to go back home saying he would change, but she said no. She is adamant that returning is not the answer saying people should not tell women to go back. She identified family support and support from the authorities as being part a crucial part of the response, adding that many women need that support to move on and get out of abusive relationships.

The relationship, she recalled, was a dream in the early months. She was 23 years old when they met and he seemed liked the ideal partner. He showed her love and respect and appeared hard-working and also had professed to be a non-smoker and drinker, but six months into the common-law union he changed. He quit his job and was at home sitting around all day doing nothing while she worked two jobs as a domestic. She believed that he was going to find work but the months turned into years and they had three children; Norma was the sole breadwinner the whole time. She fears her ex-husband because he has threatened to end her life. He has moved on and she has too but she said he is still interested in hurting her; she can feel it. She was awarded a plot of land a few years ago and it happened to be in the same area where he got land and when she pointed this out to the ministry the people there said it was out of their hands. She was forced to accept the land, but in the one year she has been in the village she has only seen him once. Norma stays indoors and hardly goes out. She has joined a Domestic Violence Self-Help group and is sharing her experience with other women. She said the group has strengthened her and has made her a better woman. “I have changed and though I still have some fear I am in control of my life now, no one is there beating me either,” she said.

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