Last night around 8:30 pm, after I had cleaned up and ready to settle in on my bed to read my latest book. I was in the midst of clearing my mind of all the day’s chaos and there, I heard it.
First I thought my mind was hallucinating some but after two seconds, I heard it again. A shrill cry that cut through the night. Loud. A scream of pain. I was startled because in a neighborhood like ours, not much happens apart from people that walk past going somewhere and coming from somewhere. Kids playing in compounds, stamping grass that takes a several mounds of water to grow again. And maybe some music from far away wafting on the wind. By this time, a quiet has usually settled on the area.
“WaaLaaalaa……. Munyambe(help me)… There it was again, this time asking for help. Speaking of alarm. The screams went on that doors starting banging, people were opening up to see what the trouble was this starry night.
I rushed out my nest, getting a hold of my set of house keys, turning on the lights in the sitting room and then to the kitchen before I recklessly stumble onto anything. I head for the door, turn the keys and unlock the metallic giant. I round the house to the place where the noise is now getting louder and closer, I notice everyone is rushing there too, kids, men, women and I head too.. Well at least now you know how curiosity killed the cat.
I reach to find a man roughly handling another man, I tell my mind to pay attention, “lwaki okubba omukazi bwotyo? (why do you beat a woman like that? The man asking held a stick, thick and possibly as high as my shoulders (yes it was that long and big even) stripped of its bark, shimmering white like it had been glazed with egg white. Further revelation told the story of the man in wrong having used the stick on the woman.
“Can you imagine that woman just gave birth two weeks back and the man is beating her like a child?”.. Reply I got when I asked for detail. I see the woman she has now stood up and is restless, she laments “that man beats me day and night. Today he pounced on me seemingly because he suspected I had put “edagala” (witchcraft) in his food. He has beaten me all swollen. I touch her to allay comfort because well everyone is shouting at the man who is boasting to have beaten her. He continues in his deep voice with the women who have gathered to express their bitterness—some holding stones. Some suggest for Mama Police to be called so he is arrested for this physical assault. The woman I am soothing-the victim adopts the idea and gets her phone that has its torch lighting and amidst tears shouts “yes, I am calling mama police” she says so loud she wants him to hear her threat like maybe it should scare him, give her an edge of fierceness and defense. I keep soothing her, I realize she is bony and the little flesh on her body is swollen.. Her upper back, her lower back.. All swollen.
She narrates he started beating her in the presence of her kids. The young boys who have gathered in their teens are caught up with the moment, they keep saying no actually praising the man, mocking her and then saying “abadde azanya, if it were me, I would beat her to pulp… yes if you are wondering whether what you read was right,, I shall affirm it again…. They were boys in their teenage years…. Say 12 or even younger!!
The man tells the one in wrong “you never beat a woman, there is nothing you can never talk through” but what I collect from the chaos of everyone shouting is it is not the first time this man is beating his wife. He interjects the good advice and shouts “agende, nze namukoowa”—meaning let her leave, I got tired of her”. I want to help, but I don’t know how to so I keep soothing her. I look around, my heart is breaking so I look up from where I came and slowly climb back to where my father’s house stands.
I truly don’t know what happened. I don’t know how the night was spent or how calm made its way among the people gathered. I don’t know what time everyone dispersed back to their homes? I don’t know whether mama police was called. I don’t truly know.
Back in the house, in my room, I wondered what would have become of the woman had she not screamed. We have bullies dressed in the facade of loving husbands to the public eyes; Yes domestic violence is still much alive behind closed doors. Some victims may not have the courage to shout out for help whereas some may but then what happens once everyone that gathered to speak ill of the matter disappears? What happens to the woman who has no source of employment but has to endure physical violence because even if she left, she knows not where money or food or shelter for her children shall appear from?
Many women become emaciated and succumb to death because of the way their husbands are disrespecting them in all forms available. Should we blame the women for enduring this hurt? What happens to the arrogant husband that has the guts to lung out at his woman in the presence of their children or even a concerned crowd? What happens to the nation if young boys as old as 10 think the man should have done better at the beating? Should have boxed like Rambo and jet Li throwing upper hooks and round kicks? What happens to the children that watch this ordeal unfold? Watch their mother scream helpless to the various blows administered by their father? Stick to body with reckless abandon? What happens if we just stare? Stare because we are hopeless; because even if we entrust the authorities with our problems, it will just be another case stashed in one too many files?