“I wanted to die,…. I remember one time going to the harbour bridge at about three one morning with every intention of jumping over and this policeman pulled me over and he sat in the car and just talked to me. Then I went home. I’d go to work and try to convince everyone including myself that I was happy.”
The words of a mother who finally got the strength to leave her abusive partner. The road is still rough but it is one that she now finds joy walking on as it is free of abuse and her children are no longer witnessing that constantly. She is an educated, beautiful accomplished woman who at one time actually thought she deserved nothing better than a husband who pummeled her whenever he felt like it.
With tears rolling down her cheeks and sometimes in anger she spoke to me anonymously as she tried in her own words to answer that persistent question: Why do women stay in abusive relationships? That question is being asked again with the recent deaths of two women at the hands of men they thought loved them.
The murder of Reona Payne by former decorated Captain of the Guyana Defence Force Orwain Sandy was particularly violent as he was said to have pumped over ten bullets into Payne even as she fled from him.
But Payne has been killed over and over again on social media, especially on Facebook, by many who believe she deserved it and that she drove her paramour to such action. It is sickening that these comments come from women who are dissecting this woman’s life, casting blame and besmirching her character as they seek to excuse Sandy’s horrific actions.
“When I read these comments I wanna scream, ‘People!’ Because I know it could have been me. It’s not black and white,” the woman telling me her story said.
“Our relationship was violent before we got married,” she added.
I had asked her how many long the abuse lasted.
“So [it lasted] for about ten years.
“The first time, I think I cursed at him… I had a way of saying things that I knew would hurt him and he slapped me, so I hit back because no one was going to hit me and get away with it. That ended in me getting a good beating. And I was mad but then when my passion cooled, and my body didn’t hurt I concluded that it was all my fault,” she said quietly.
“And at the time there was another woman in the picture so if I left she would ‘win’. Isn’t that stupid?” she asked.
She did not expect an answer and I gave none.
“And if I’m honest I’d have to admit that my mom’s relationship with my father messed me up. I was afraid of not being the one he chose so I apologized and that kind of thing kept happening. We’d fight and I’d end up apologizing. Marriage made it worse,”
She paused, and I took the opportunity to ask if her mother was physically abused by her father.
“No. My father had two women at the same time and in the end, he chose his other family. So, I didn’t want that to be me,” she said, the hurt from that experience evident in her eyes.
“And why stay? It’s like I said before… when it was good it was so good,” she said as if reading my mind.
“But it got to a point where him hitting me was normal. When I realized that fighting back only made it worse,” she added.
I asked about the good she had mentioned.
“The good was the perfect family moments,” she answered.
“A girl’s dream,” I commented.
“My dream,” she rejoined.
I told her I think that is the dream of many women, even me, and she just moved on without answering. I wondered about that for a bit, but I also made no further comment on it.
“I used to think that I was crazy that it all had to be my fault because he had so many friends who thought the world of him and his family always sided with him,” she continued.
“The whole thing made me crazy too because I’d stay up waiting for him, knowing that he was with some woman, knowing how a confrontation would end and still confronting him.
“He told me I was nothing, that I was a cross to his life. Accused me of sleeping around and I’d just try to prove him wrong.
“And there were so many other women that I thought I had to be the problem. Why else would they want him?”
She answered her question with bitter laughter. “And if I left who would want me?”
I asked her why she felt no one would have wanted her, after all she is young, beautiful and educated.
“During the good times we would talk, and he’d tell me how guys thought. So, I knew that if I were single men would probably want me yes, but not for a serious relationship.” She obviously believed him.
“We were separated for a long time. I went back because it was hard raising the children alone. He was making good money and I was struggling so I thought I could handle the cheating. So many other women do, so all I have to do is stay quiet and my children would have a better life.
“I like having my children in private school and allowing them to have extra-curricular activities, but I could not afford these on my own. And I also liked getting my hair done every week and being able to buy nice things. He actually told me that I couldn’t have my cake and eat it too.”
I asked her what he meant.
“Well I couldn’t have the nice family, live in the nice house etc and have a faithful, loving husband,” she answered.
“And we have talked after our divorce and he told me that the reason he did those things was because I let him. I made it okay. So, I take responsibility for my part in it all,” she said.
I asked her about her responsibility.
“There were things I did that contributed to our life being so turbulent. I’d lock him out of the house. I threw his clothes out, I broke his phones. In my own misguided way I thought this was me taking a stand and being strong,” she answered.
“Then there were times I went to the police station to make a report and they’d ask if I fought back and if I said yes, they would say then we have to charge you too,” she continued.
She stopped speaking and I was about to ask if it still hurt that much when the tears started to flow down her cheeks.
“I thought I was over all of this,” she said, crying. “The first time my ex and I separated life was hard and so I went back but the last time I told people and I had help and so it was a little better.
“Sometimes we stay because we honestly don’t see a better way.”
I asked her what she wanted to say to the sisters who are staying.
“I’d say give the people around you some credit. They care more than you realize. I’d say no one can help you out of a situation unless they know the situation. I’d say in a year or two you’ll look back on what’s happening, and you won’t understand why you didn’t leave sooner. It might be a cliché, but it does get better with time. And there isn’t a soul on earth who can make you do right by you. That’s all on you.
“In my case, divorcing my ex was the greatest gift I could have given him and me.”
“Did it make you free or save your lives?” I asked.
“I think it saved our lives,” she answered.
“So, it still hurts but you are in a better place?” I asked.
“Oh, I am on my way to a better place,” she said with a smile.
“But I don’t think I have forgiven myself yet,” she said.
“I haven’t forgiven myself for staying because none of my reasons for staying seem legitimate enough,” she said reflectively.
“My children witnessed a lot of what was happening now they have a life without all that pain and drama. You know when someone develops Stockholm syndrome or was brainwashed they have to go through a process to be normal again? That’s where I think I am. It’s taking longer than I thought it would but I’m getting there.
“It has been over two years since the last time my ex hit me and that was after being regularly hit for about ten years. Yes, I’m lucky. My experience just left me with a crooked finger and some emotional scars. So many others aren’t here anymore or had it so much worse.
“If there’s any way you can bring out the fact that violence in a relationship is not normal, it would be good,” she said.
The conversation was over, and she was back to continuing that journey to a better place.