Life sometimes reminds me of the Samaritan woman who encountered Jesus at the well in John 4. At face value, I suppose she was well poised and put together. Yet beneath all the flamboyance and beauty, Jesus uncovered a secret, a wound and an issue that held her bound. Jesus discloses that even though she looks all poised and put together, she’s had four husbands and now on to the next one.
This hit home for me. I wanted to get married at 21 years; I never wanted to move from one man to another, until I met life.
If there is one thing that most women, if not every woman, grows up with is the desire for marriage. From a young age society and family instils in us the art of womanhood. We grow up playing house; I’m the mommy, the housekeeper and also take care of my husband and children, as my ‘husband’ comes home with the groceries and money at the end of the day. On the other hand, Cinderella and Barbie also instils in me the idea and picture that I am a princess; a prize that ought to be won and chased and maintained- financially!
Look the part
The cartoons also indirectly instil in me the idea that I’m a weak vessel that can’t put much or bring much to the table, except to keep the house together, not forgetting to look the ‘price’: slim body, trimmed waist, long hair, nails and lashes (even if they are naturally not mine) and ‘glowing’, light skinned; and I got to keep updated because that supposedly attracts and keeps a man.
Meanwhile I grow up and realize that it’s a pipe dream. Reality dictates otherwise and a girl child is left confused and stuck between what playhouse and cartoons had sold her and the reality life is presenting her with.
Like I said, I was that little girl that had innocently prayed to the Almighty God that I wanted to be married at 21 years. But alas, life happened!
The dysfunction of my own family
Even though the media was selling me and a lot of other girls this perfect picture of relationships and marriage, I was trapped in the dysfunction of my own family.
My parents divorced when I was six years old. I never got exposed to their marriage ordeals, but it was said to be an abusive one. My mama had a beauty-gap on her teeth like mine, but my dad had beaten her up and knocked them off. So she had to live with a gap of about four missing front teeth. I never knew my mama with all her teeth intact, I grew up to find her with missing teeth. So even though I never got exposed to their abusive encounters, I lived to see the results of those encounters.
As for my sister, who had seen those episodes because she was older, ten years later she still couldn’t tell what she saw without hysterically breaking down. In fact, she has never been able to tell the story because she would just break down at the thought of it.
Meanwhile mama was bitter, angry, hurt, and broken and still a wounded and bleeding woman. She would narrate her abusive encounters with my dad, and you could still tell the freshness of her pain as if it just happened yesterday.
I continued to grow up and see my other close relatives follow the same pattern of abusive relationships and I swore to myself that I will never allow a man touch me or raise his hand or his voice against me. Until life happened to me!
The thing about this kind of abuse is that it doesn’t come out rough, it creeps in subtly and the victim will never realize it until they are in too deep. It starts off with manipulative subtle emotional tendencies that kill you softly. This emotional, manipulative, narcissistic behaviour and treatment by the abuser starts killing the victims voice; it silences your opinions and makes them look unintelligent and stupid, it slowly kills your self esteem until you as the victim feel incapable, not good enough, not woman enough but ‘he’ is everything and is always right. Only his voice, opinions, feelings and decisions matter because he is ‘the man’.
Once it has crippled you emotionally, it escalates to physical abuse where you as the victim even justify why it happened and defend him and even apologize. The day it sinks in the situation you are in, is the day you tell yourself ‘where will I go if I leave. I’m staying for the sake of my children’. I do not have financial support or family support because sometimes the abuser even manipulatively alienated you from your family, friends or any support system you had. So by the time you consider leaving you notice that you do not have anyone you can cry out to for help.
The victim is then left with self condemnation, self pity and the most dangerous place to be as a woman in this state is finding yourself, in spite of the amount of abuse you have been subjected to, saying ‘but I love him’.
The depth of domestic violence leaves the victim beaten and feeling defeated, however you can come out of it.
The courage to walk out
What it took for me to come out of an abusive relationship was my son. I looked at him one day after the usual attacks and said to myself, “I never want my son to see his parents fighting, her mother strangled and if my son ever have to learn a swearing word it shouldn’t be from his dad.” That gave me the courage to walk out without looking back.
It is up until the victim has this kind of switch on her bulb that triggers the ‘enough is enough’ conscious.
Restored by Jesus
When the Samaritan woman encountered Jesus, He touched where it hurt the most, the area she needed help. When she admitted to Jesus her situation that ‘yes I need help, yes I am so broken in that area’ Jesus delivered her to a point where scripture states that she put down her bucket and went back to the village to testify of her redemption. This bucket can represent our burdens; the domestic violence a woman and man sometimes has gone through.
I have known Jesus to deliver in this area. It took an encounter with Jesus for the Samaritan woman to know her worth, her value and get her purpose restored. That restoration brought back life so much that she found her purpose and fulfilled her assignment of evangelism.
It took a Jesus encounter for me to know this kind of restoration. I was so broken, told so many times that I am not woman enough and I am not enough so much that I started believing it.
Christians aren’t excluded
You may be going through this and you are a Christian and wondering what kind of encounter I am talking about when you go to church everyday yet go back the same. Yes, domestic violence and abuse does not happen in secular society only, it is very rampant in the church and sometimes covered up in leadership positions, titles and tongues.
Might I remind you that the Samaritan woman was a believer too. She knew all the religious acronyms and activities so much that she wanted to debate with Jesus about some religious jargons; until Jesus hit where it hurt the most, a place where she was hiding with religious vocabulary yet dying inside.
Don’t we all do that sometimes, hiding behind religion, church activities and spirituality yet dying inside and not dealing with the real issues?
Domestic violence on the increase
Domestic violence has increased rapidly since the Covid-19 outbreak. Yet something can be done about it. I admit it is not easy to finally walk away from it or just admit that the situation you are in is dysfunctional, abusive and you need help but you can still come out of it.
A redeemed man
The Bible speaks about a Proverbs 31 woman and a saying goes; while everyone is busy building and empowering woman, who is empowering men for these strong women. But remember that God described a functional man in Genesis 2; a man who was whole, had a relationship and fellowship with God and given a garden (responsibility, ministry and assignment) to tend to and then was put to sleep for a helper to be made for him.
So men also ought to assume back their Genesis 2 position so that they can be healed, whole, equipped and protectors they were created to be so that they can be able to handle the Proverbs 31 woman.
If you are a victim
Might I place a demand upon the victims or woman who are in this predicament, please place the burden of finding help upon yourself, not another person. Yes the society, church or family structure can be there to help you, but they come in to meet you half way. It is your responsibility to walk out and not for anybody to fish you out. No one will be able to help you if you do not want help or you resist help. It is upon you to say ‘I need help’ and actually accept help when offered.
The church structure and the government have so many initiatives that are created to help victims of gender based violence, please reach out to them.
I understand the stigma associated with gender based violence, it is embarrassing most times to admit that you need help, mostly because of the societal pressure that it is the woman’s responsibility to save the marriage, but when it is all said and done, it rests upon you to get out of an abusive relationship or marriage.