An abused wife's horror story

An abused wife's horror story

'Probably if he cheated the hurt would have been short-lived'

BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS
Senior staff reporter
dunkleywillisa@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

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For most of her adult years she harboured the thought that the worst thing a man could do to a woman was cheat on her. But that changed when she found herself trapped in an abusive marriage and was eventually forced out of her marital home by her “charming” husband during the height of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“I thought to myself, he was a faithful person and I didn't have the horror stories I heard my other friends with, but I have come to realise that is not it. Probably if he cheated [the hurt] would have been short-lived. But this was a lifestyle. I was subjected to a lot of insults, humiliation, disparaging words were spoken about me that no man should ever say about their wife,” the woman, who is one of several accessing legal representation through human rights group Jamaicans For Justice (JFJ), told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.

She is one of several women who JFJ earlier this month said have sought assistance from its lawyers, as they have been booted from their homes by their partners and have resorted to using legal channels to retain some dignity.

According to JFJ at the time, it was handling some 25 such “active cases”. Additionally, it said 173 people had downloaded editable versions of the application form for protection orders under the Domestic Violence Act, while 163 downloaded its template for the affidavits of support needed by the court.

Yesterday, the mother of two, who is a university graduate and professional, said her experience with her spouse of 13 years had left her painfully aware that physical battering was no less painful than emotional abuse, the latter of which she experienced more.

“Every night I came home we would argue. Every weekend I would cry because of the nasty words this man was using. He would accuse me of cheating, he would say I am 'easy'. I would go in the bathroom [to get away from him] and he would try and push the door down,” she said.

Pretty soon all her neighbours were privy to the ugly fights which took place in front of their two young children. That he constantly told her to leave added further to her distress as she had poured resources into the home they shared.

“I invested heavily, even though legally my name was not on the documents, due to the fact that I was assured that at a later date that would change; that didn't happen,” she told the Observer.

Friends and family, when she shared her hell, told her to “try to be quiet and not respond” to the ravings of her husband.

“I explored the possibility of leaving, but I said I wouldn't because I would lose all I invested and because of the negative impact on the children,” she told the Observer wryly.

She did, however, leave twice, and even started legal proceedings against him, only to be wooed back by him. Things, however, came to a head in July this year, she said, when he gave her the ultimatum.

“He told me I needed to be out by September. He gave me a date to be out. He said, 'If you want peace of mind you know what to do.' I left before September; I left in August,” she told the Observer.

He ensured that she left without a item of furniture — only their two children and her clothing.

“I sacrificed a lot for him when he was doing his master's degree. I have supported him over the years. The last promotion he got I saw it [advertised] and told him about it and helped him complete the application,” she said.

Now on her own, she struggles to maintain their children from her own resources.

“It's not easy,” she said. “He doesn't support the children. He wanted to give me $7,500 per month for both the children; he had an agreement that he wanted me to sign off on and I refused.”

Now she says she is seeking legal advice as to how to proceed in the court and will be taking steps to divorce her tormentor, who still “sends tons of text messages” berating her in every possible way.

“I left, I left him with everything; it was my home, I was very happy there with the exception of him. I am starting all over. I will be moving on for my own dignity. Emotional abuse is as bad as the physical, or even worse. My short-term memory has deteriorated badly,” she said, noting that she has had to seek medical attention because of her emotional state, and was even made to do an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) because of other complaints.

According to the the Inter-American Development Bank/UN Women 2016 Women's Health Survey, intimate partner violence — physical and sexual — affects more than one in four women (27.8 per cent). The women who are most vulnerable to intimate partner violence are those under 30 years, pregnant women, and those with lower levels of education (one in three women), while nearly one in five women with high levels of education are affected.

The study said nearly half the young women (45 per cent) who enter live-in relationships with a man while below the age of 19 are affected by intimate partner violence. Further, one in four women (25.2 per cent) has experienced physical violence by a male partner, and 7.7 per cent have been sexually abused by their male partner.

Jamaica has ratified several gender-related international instruments which forbid gender-based violence. The country, however, has the second highest rate of femicides in the world, according to United Nations data from 2019.

The Jamaica Constabulary Force reports the average murder rate for women as 13 per 100,000 — higher than the 10 murders per 100,000 threshold for epidemics established by the World Health Organization.

According to the survey, most survivors of intimate partner violence disclose their experiences to close family members or friends, rather than the police or a social service agency. Only 32 per cent of those who sought help turned to the police, while 11 per cent turned to the health care system and five per cent resorted to the courts.

Today is being recognised as International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.


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