Over the past many years, I have made it a point that I am actively involved in the international campaign against violence on women and children.
I have given my time through radio, television, plays and speeches just so I can be one of the many people who speak out against the aggression that some women and children have to endure.
A part of me did it because it was part of my vocation to do so; another part was because I am personally fully committed to the cause but there is another reason that up until recently, I was not willing to accept; it is because I have been abused that I feel so strongly about these special ‘16 Days’.
I will also readily admit that I know why I was abused…I brought it upon myself, I called it, I pushed all the men who were violent on me to do so, I provoked them and that’s why they would beat me up. Or maybe, just maybe, I attract the same kind of men.
I have a vague memory of when I was about 4 years old and for whatever reason I was at a Jazz club late at night with my mother. My father, who had never married my mother, was also there, livid at the fact that this woman had brought out his tot to a night club. A shouting match ensued between the two; my mother was defiant because she had to go it alone while he was carrying on with his life; my father was disgusted by her irresponsibility.
The expletives kept rolling, especially from my mother. I don’t quite remember at what point it happened that my mother threw the first chair at him, she did and she missed. She quickly picked up the second chair which hit my father on the head. He charged at her. There was commotion. A scuffle. Screaming.
Then someone picked me up and a little while later my mother came sobbing and took me home.
I do not know what effect this episode had on me, if any.
When I was 18 years old, I dated a quiet boy who seemingly adored me. I liked him a lot but every time there was a misunderstanding between us, I would hurl insults at him. I would tell him that ‘I made him’ and that without me he would never amount to anything.
The insults and the disrespect continued and each time, he would not say anything back to me. When words didn’t move him, I became physical and threw in a few slaps. He would hold me down but would not hit me back.
It took only one day for him to snap; I was at it again, screaming at him and slapping him all over when he gave me a stinging slap across the face. It was unexpected; it hurt and it marked the beginning of many to come. I didn’t leave him; I had set the tone of the relationship. We broke up after 3 years and many bruises later.
My next boyfriend had to deal with being called a loser and constantly had to ward off books and stuff being thrown at him. He understood me, he would say. He said he knew that deep down inside, I had ‘issues’ and that’s what made me behave strangely sometimes. He would hold me and tell me it would be okay. Unfortunately, that was not enough to stop me from hitting and swearing at him. When he could not take it any longer, he choked me and told me that if I ever laid a hand on him he would kill me.
The ‘game’ began.
Then there was the one who stopped me from attending lessons at University because, as punishment for all the wrong I had done, I would be locked in his room the whole day while he was at work. Sometimes this would go on for consecutive days.
I had told him that I was more educated than he was and that he would forever remain a struggling musician. You see, for some unexplainable reason, I seemed to get a kick from making the men in my life feel small and when they didn’t react I would hit them.
The last straw was when I met one who was not going to take any of it. He was there to put it all in for all the others before him.
I started my usual stunts and, in return, I saw blood, lots of it. He pulled out my hair (there’s a patch up to this day), he banged my head several times against a steel bar, he kicked my face in. He wanted me dead and he said so.
I have heard people say any form of violence can never be justified but in my heart of hearts I know that there is a strong possibility that if I had not goaded these men I may not have been a statistic. Ever since I stopped behaving in the manner I did, I have not had an encounter.
I am not in any way suggesting that women are to blame for the abuse they receive but there are instances where we do instigate the actions and if we are to fight this war, we first need to change what we can about ourselves.
I also strongly believe that the altercation I saw between my parents when I was 4 years old may have contributed to how I handled my relationships, but I will leave that to the experts.