Guest Feature: Crushed

This is the first (of hopefully many) feature by a guest writer. It’s also the first short story published on this site.

Trigger Warnings: Abuse, Depression, Suicide, Gender-Based Violence

CRUSHED

My name is Hatago. I am the third born of 6 children in our family. I was a very shy boy my knees would go weak when I wanted to approach a girl that I was attracted to. [laughs] I studied engineering at the University of Namibia and I am self-employed. On paper, that sounds like I should be confident and have no problem talking to girls I fancy. But my reality is very different from what I look like on paper. Finding the girl of my dreams was not an easy task for me. Being shy has held me back in so many ways and I had a tendency of giving up, even before trying. But life carried on and as I was getting older, I felt that it was time that I looked for someone to settle with. So, the real search for my life partner started two summers ago.


I will never forget the beautiful, sunny day, on which I first met the love of my life. There was so much going through my head but behind all the noisy thought, I hear a silent voice tell me “she’s the one”. I felt like I was in a dream. One reads about it; hears about it; wishes for it and here it was. I was meeting my soulmate and I could almost immediately envision my future with her, I could see our life together.


Love is a very beautiful thing and I could see it in the eyes of my Anna. She was everything I dreamt of and more. She was kind and gentle and honestly, she treated me like a king. She did things like preparing dinner for me, she made sure my clothes were clean with a fresh smell of fabric softener.
As an entrepreneur, it was very difficult for me to take her out on dates often, especially weekdays and spend quality time with her because of the busy work schedule. We would spend most of our time together at my place and sometimes she would sleep over, which I obviously enjoyed. However, I made sure that our “off days” were spent well and that every moment together was special. Our relationship was like peaches and cream, there was lots of romance and I could not wait to get home just to be with her, because she made me feel loved and wanted. She felt like home to me.


I decided to register a company for her, as I noticed the passion, she had for serving the community; especially with making sure women felt and looked beautiful by braiding their hair and doing their nails. We opened a beauty salon, where she managed the business and I oversaw the overall operations. Two years into our relationship I decided to propose to her; “Will you marry me?”
No matter how long one tries to prepare themselves, or how hard these words are to rehearsed in your head, they are very difficult to actually speak. I was so scared and even though I thought and hoped she would say yes, I couldn’t know for sure. I decided to take her on a date in the comfort of our apartment. I made dinner while she was at work. While working on dinner and trying to picture how the evening would work out, I found myself full of emotion, fear, panic but mainly excitement.
As she entered the front door, I blindfolded her and took her by the hand, walked her to the table and sat her down. She was not sure what was about to happen and kept asking me questions but I would not answer. I helped her out of her coat, removed her high heels and laid a single rose on the plate as I placed it in front of her and asked her if she was ready for supper.


As she removed the blindfold, she found me on one knee and I asked her, “Anna, will you marry me?” She stared at me in shock and then shouted “Yes! Yes, yes of course I will”. Joy filled my heart and overtook my body I moved closer and we kissed knowing that our next chapter in our lives had finally begun.

Planning for the wedding was not as daunting as we had thought it might be and things could not have been more magical, all the way up to our honeymoon. I thought life would remain this perfect.
Conception came easy for us; a lovely baby girl was born. We decided to name her Hoatadi, meaning, “ours”. Oh, how the birth of our firstborn affected me. I love my daughter; she was so beautiful and adorable. Everything had been going so well for us. I was able to provide well for my family and made good money. What more could anyone ask for? As far as I was concerned, everything was going perfectly.


One Sunday our home’s atmosphere became charged and was filled with a new weariness which we had not experienced. It took me by surprise and all I could do was stare at my wife in amazement, over breakfast dishes, as she snapped at me. She became enraged when I told her that I am working on a big and very important building project for a shopping mall. I was sharing and trying let her know that there would be times in the near future where I would be coming home late. I wanted her to be prepared to see less of me, while reassuring her that nothing suspicious was going on.
It was a rainy day. Wet days like this had always been special in Namibia, being a very dry country, and the rain would also bring joy to our hearts. I did not know nor could I have ever imagined, what would lie in store for my family. I had been fortunate to form part of the new project but it had, unfortunately, required the teams to start putting in long hours. This resulted in many evenings where I got home late. My wife, understandably, had been calling me out of worry. However, in a rush I had accidentally left my phone in the office whilst being at the construction site. The fact that I did not pick up the phone and she had left numerous messages, made her furious. I what happened to her and I apologized. I had hoped that the prewarning I’d given her, would have been considerate and that she would be understanding.


My wife was aware that I was busy working on a major project but that did not quiet her anger when I got home late from work. At times I would feel so helpless because to provide for your family and also to participate in the requirements of your job was not always an easy load to balance. Her anger had always been relayed in words as her demeanor towards me grew cold and almost unloving. One Saturday morning, whilst enjoying breakfast, things turned for the worst.
I actually cannot believe how our love had gone from the most treasured aspect of my life to where we were now. Insults now formed part of the daily rituals at home. I became even more worried when she started using profane language towards me in front of our daughter. What truly stunned me maybe even paralyzed me at times was that I did not understand her behavior towards me; it was not like I was cheating on her or hitting her or even deserting the home. I made sure that my communication with her was open and transparent. I would tell her about anything that I was doing or planning that would impact our home around all areas of our lives.


I thought of all possibilities that could improve matters. I even went to the extent of giving her my ATM card, so that she can buy anything if needed while I was away at work and check that I was not spending money outside the home. But the insults would not stop. Amidst all of this, I was still truly proud of her, as her business was thriving.


Weekends, which I once looked forward to, turned in to dark times in our home. On Sunday morning when I returned from a work trip, I came home and she refused to look at me. I was taken aback and thought” what is happening”? But she was aloof and cold and pushed me away when I reached out to kiss her. “My love what is going on?” I asked, and the next moment without warning I saw her hand come towards me and hand reached me in the form of a slap across my face. She pushed me against the wall. I was stunned.


Growing up, my mom and dad were ardent in raising boys to never raise a hand towards a woman. In my 33 years of life, I would not have known how quickly some of the teachings from my childhood could even go out the window so quickly. One reads about it and hears of these things and then you decide what position you will take if ever this should happen to you and never in my life did, I ever decide that I would need to defend myself against a woman who would raise her hand toward me. I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would find myself in such complexities.
That morning that is what I did – Angry, shocked and humiliated, I pushed her away with a strong shove of my hand on her shoulders and she fell to the floor. I stood there, thinking about what I had just done. I was hurt that our exchanges with each other had escalated to this. In that moment, seeing her on the floor, I knew that I could never do that again. Not even to “defend myself”. What felt like seconds later, I heard her calling the police saying that I assaulted her and just like that I was locked up for a week – no questions asked, no investigations no fanfare – put behind bars. I never saw any of this coming. I tried so many times and ways explaining to the police but it did not help, I was locked up for gender-based violence.


It was a very traumatic experience for me and to add injury to insult, the day of the court hearing my wife decided not to pitch up; I was released on bail. I drove home in a daze still trying to fathom how this all went so skew and what I could do to possibly rescue the mess we found ourselves in. It came to my mind that the best thing to do was to apologize in order to restore peace and for us to live in harmony, and that’s what I did.

Sadly, this turning point in our home had marked us and we could not find a way to bring our joy back into our home, the peace had seeped away and nothing seem to help. I was at wits end. I was devastated. My wife would spend our money and when I asked her about it, she would scream at me and hit me. Because she realized that I never retaliated since that first night, the physical abuse had become more and more.


While I was getting ready for work on a Monday morning, she managed to get a hold of my earlobe and bit a portion of it off. I felt sharp pain and then the blood drop down my neck. I sat on the bed, defeated, lost, humiliated and in pain. I put my hands over my face to hide my tears. This was the final straw for me.


Having no idea how we could rise above this as a couple, I decided to turn to the police and open a case against my wife. At the police station, I was not taken seriously. The police officers mocked and humiliated me. “So, you get beaten by your wife/ Big man like you?” They asked over and over again, as they laughed. Here I was, trying to come to terms with the actions of my wife; the possible crumbling of my home and now the glasses that I viewed society and justice to play a fair and decent role the latter was now also marred.


I felt so hopeless and I felt like I could not tell my friends or family, because they would mock me too. As boys in our society and especially where it starts in our homes I was raised as a boy, I was told that “you are a boy and boys don’t cry”. That upbringing a limited me from showing and sharing my emotions with anyone. I still loved my wife and I was determined to make my marriage work. In a way, I was glad the police didn’t take me seriously because in the end, I left without making a case.
I went home and decided to keep trying to work on our marriage. My attempts to make love were greeted with hurtful works and a cold shoulder. Eventually, I had to come to terms of how cold she had become towards me. The only time she would talk was when she insulted me, get into my face or screamed and yelled at me. I found myself obeying whatever she said because it was the only way to keep the peace. She had control of our money and she would spend it recklessly. It wasn’t long until we were struggling financially.

I had scars on my face from all the fights and would always deny when my colleagues and friends asked if I was fighting and gave excuses of “I fell or had and accident”. The abuse got out of hand and I started taking tranquilizers as a mechanism of coping with the emotional impact. I was crushed and eventually, I became suicidal. For some reason, leaving my marriage never seemed like an option to be. One day, I saw an SMS from my wife and before I even finished reading it, I put the phone down on the table jumped out of the fifth-floor window from my office building. I’m not sure how I survived, but I did.


As a part of my recovery, I was referred to a psychologist for counselling. It took a great deal of unpacking the months of torment and hiding and facing the cruel truth where our home had landed into. I eventually decided to report the matter to the gender-based violence office. I had to muster up all the courage and strength to act on this decision and both my wife and I were called in. They interviewed and interrogated us in the hope that they could get to the bottom of it all in view of helping us back to recovery but my wife refused to cooperate or undergo any counselling. She said if I just stopped cheating, everything would be fine. I have never, once, even so much as flirted with another woman, since I met my wife. I eventually filed for divorce which was eventually finalized with not much hassle, which I was very grateful for.


I don’t even know if my wife became overwhelmed in becoming a business owner, wife and a mother. I don’t know anything about postpartum depression or difficulties and I often wonder if this possibly played a role in our marriage ending the way it did.

Note from Author
Shame is linked to a men’s well documented reluctance to seek help for gender-based violence. They often feel belittled and the police are often not helpful. The justice system in general, is not helpful to male victims of intimate partner abuse and may even exacerbate the situation. Men are often not understood and at worse not believed. Men go through a lot of abuse. Men just like women are also victims of gender violence. Gender Based Violence against men is largely invisible, unrecognized and trivialized, as men hardly report it because of shame. If an abused man seeks help as a victim of domestic violence, the majority of society will see it as a laughable situation. Society chooses not to believe the man and this creates the feeling of guilt and shame in the male victim. The way in which society looks at gender images of men and women are passed down from generation to generation. This has had a severe negative effect on the existence of male victims of domestic violence in our society. Female victims of domestic violence are increasingly treated by society with sympathy and support, while male victims are treated with disbelief. Society’s view on domestic violence has been reinforced by the media’s coverage of the issues surrounding domestic violence, portraying females as the only victims and males as the abusers. Response by society at large is a major concern for men’s rights.

Biography
My name is Fransiska Isaacks, I was born and raised in Windhoek and completed my primary school at the Ecumenical Community School #Koichas, Vaalgras, from where I moved to the St, Joseph’s R.C High School Dobra. I graduated from high school in 2005 and pursued my studies in Agricultural Management at the former Polytechnic of Namibia which I did not complete due to unforeseen circumstances. I was doing odd jobs and as I journeyed through life was granted a job opportunity by Air Namibia in 2011 till date. I am a mother of one girl and three boys. I am very passionate about natural hair care and do a bit of writing every now and then.

Author: Fransiska Isaacks
Facebook: Fransiska Isaacks | Instagram: shireen513
Editor: Ndapewoshali Ndahafa Ashipala
Facebook: ndapewoshali Ndahafa Ashipala | IG: @ndapewoshali_a | Twitter: @ndapewoshali_a
References:
1. Intimate partner abuse of men by Emily Tilbrook, Alfred Allan and Greg Dear; 2010
2. Jones Musune: University of Zambia 2015

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