Ovena Braithwaite has led a turbulent life in the last two years. Her reputed husband had disappeared suddenly leaving her heavily pregnant and with two small children in a roofless shack; then for one year she was a battered woman after she started a new relationship.
Braithwaite at 25 is now about to start over once again as a single parent with just one child. Sewing and her new baby girl are the joys of her life now. She laughed as she talked about two-month-old Monique and her attempts to make a skirt. “I could do sewing but when I go on the machine is the problem. Me and the machine does fight,” she confessed. Her life is “fine” she said, sitting with Monique in a chair in her Yarrowkabra home.
It was just under two years ago when Stabroek News first found Braithwaite in a little shack she called home; the roof had been blown off by strong winds. Earlier in 2008, her reputed husband, Clive Mariano had also disappeared and has not been seen since, leaving her to care alone for three children. After her story was published in this newspaper, there was an outpouring of support and a new home was built for a grateful Braithwaite.
Her three eldest children are now in the process of being adopted and she is glad that they will be given opportunities she never had. “I feel so happy that they in a home, that they don’t have to worry about mommy so much,” she said. She misses them but calls them when she has money and they talk. She has met the woman who is adopting the children and likes her. The woman has a child, Braithwaite pointed out, and “she know what is a mother love”. She is also glad that the children will be together and out of the situation they were in when she “was afraid of everything”.
Just about a year ago, Braitwaite was a battered woman.
“She tek somebody who nearly kill her,” a neighbor said.
She forgave him every time he hit her believing he would change. She protected him from police. He left, returned and she accepted him. He always hit her again.
It was fine at first, Braithwaite said. She added that the abuse started when the man, who she said smoked cigarettes and ganja, could not locate the items. “He start to trouble me and tell me that I got to find it back for he and whole night he keep on rowing about it,” she recounted. She said he began beating her one afternoon last year, when he asked where she was going and she said the toilet. “I din know what he was studying and he come downstairs and throw me down, knock me up and do me all kind of thing,” she added.
The abuse continued with him accusing her of having someone else. The man also kept asking her then-two-year-old son “all kind of things” about her. The beatings continued and on one occasion, she slept at a cellular phone tower “because he threaten me and telling me he gon kill me”. Neighbours heard the screams and the fights and saw the black and blue eyes, swollen face, hands and feet.
The police and welfare division were called. Braithwaite begged for the man. She told police she had fallen and knocked her face and the police were forced to let him go because, despite a neighbour telling them what had happened, Braithwaite stuck to her story. “I was sorry for him when I see the police hold his hand behind his back and he din realize what he do,” she says. On two occasions, the man moved out but she took him back.
After many beatings, a neighbour took Braithwaite to the welfare division again and there photos were taken of her battered face and she was placed at Help and Shelter’s refuge for battered women, along with the children. She spent about a month there and received counselling, but then left with the children. However, given the abusive situation the children were facing, the department took them away. They were later placed at the home of a relative of the woman adopting them.
Briathwaite said she stayed with the man because she was pregnant. “When I come back from Help and Shelter, I told him I was having a child and he was so happy,” she said. He promised to change but this was not forthcoming. Braithwaite said on one occasion he pelted her with a small bench and it was only because the bedroom door was open and blocked the bench that she was not hit.
“I don’t know what does bother his head,” she said. Within a month of her return home, she recounted, he beat her and when she went to the creek he followed her with a piece of wood and struck her again. But her sister had followed them upon hearing of the beating, and, with a camera phone, snapped photos of the man beating Braithwaite with the wood. The matter was reported to the police and Braithwaite, her hands and feet swollen, was taken to the hospital for a medical.
For the first time, the man was taken to court and pleaded guilty “with explanation”. He claimed it was only a little stick that he beat her with. But the magistrate sentenced him to a year in jail. Braithwaite said he was beating her after accusing her of having someone else. The man will be released this month.
Braithwaite said he had destroyed a number of items in the home. She said that when he comes out of prison, she will tell him to stay away. “I don’t have nothing against him but it is his ways that he have. I don’t like how he’s behaving,” she said. She said she was very happy with her baby.
As to being able to care for herself and the baby, she said that she receives occasional help from her mother, sister and the man’s mother. She does not have a job at present but would like one when Monique is little older. Braithwaite said she did a course in tie-dyeing through the Venezuelan Institute. She is also practicing her sewing but confessed she and the machine “fight”.
“I wan learn to do sewing really,” she said as she proudly showed off her attempt at making a skirt.
She spoke of her child and sewing with a smile, excitement evident on her face, readying herself for a new start.