Gender-based violence is a menace that has left millions of people torn and broken, filling them with doubt about ever finding a true and loving relationship again. On the other hand, we have survivors who escaped by the skin of their teeth, recovered and found love again. This is one such story of a woman who declared one day that enough was enough.
Caroline Gulubani grew up in Bulawayo and has two younger siblings who live in Victoria Falls. They later relocated to the resort town of Victoria Falls, which is where she attended school. It was after completing secondary school that she met her first husband. She narrated to The Weight She Carries what transpired in her first marriage. This is her story:
I met my first husband just after school. I was 16 at the time. Everything was fine between us. We had our first two children and then later decided to relocate to South Africa for greener pastures, leaving behind our children with my parents in Victoria Falls. In South Africa, we had two more children.
Things changed in South Africa. He developed a drinking problem that led to him being abusive, mostly physically. And what made everything worse is that he would go out drinking with his own mother and leave me behind with the children since I do not take alcohol.
At the bars and taverns, he engaged in extramarital affairs, which his mother knew about and did absolutely nothing to stop her son from what he was doing. It was very painful and difficult to deal with. He would vent out his frustration on me after having brawls with either his other women or the men at the bars he went to.
At first, I thought I was to blame for everything that was happening because the slightest incident would trigger him into fits of rage and he would beat me up [really badly]. He would apologize the next day, and I thought maybe things [would] get better, but it only got worse each time.
After our fifth child, I remember a time when he vanished for a week. There was absolutely no communication from him. I was working, so I managed to fend for my children during that time. At this point, we were practically leading separate lives yet living in the same house.
The final straw was when one of the days, he came home drunk and, as usual, picked a fight with me for no reason. He beat me up so much that my face was disfigured. I ran out to seek help from the neighbours, but no one could help me, and so I returned home and found that he had left. I locked the door and slept. When I woke up the next day, I made the decision that I would not continue living like that or else I was going to die since he had already declared that he would never allow me to leave him and the children but that I would rather die.
My plan was to pack up before I left for work and then come and collect my bags and leave for Zimbabwe that very day. As I was packing, he walked in on me and realised what I was doing and confronted me about it. I tried to lie about what I was doing because if I had told him I was leaving, he would have stopped me.
As I left for work, he followed me and began assaulting me along one of the major highways. My bag was thrown on the ground and the clothes strewn everywhere. As he continued beating me, one of the vehicles stopped and the lady driving it pulled my children and I into the vehicle and offered to take me to my destination, which was work.
After work, I went straight to the police station and opened a case against him. It was not a difficult case because my face told the whole story. He was arrested and I took that opportunity to finally pack and head home to Zimbabwe. A court date was set, but because I was already on the road, I could not attend, so the case was dismissed.
After I left, he attacked me on social media. He said all sorts of terrible things, both online and to my relatives and in-laws, but I did not care because I was out of his life and that was all that mattered to me.
During the years of abuse, I could not tell anyone. I suffered in silence in those ten years. I was scared of how my father would react because he was already helping me care for my other children back home. It was amazing how after a fight, my mother would always call to check on me, but I still kept silent.
After I left my first husband and returned home, I stayed awhile then went back to South Africa to look for work in order for me to help my parents with my children. That’s when I met my current husband. We have a son together. To be honest, I regret not leaving sooner because now I am at peace. He neither takes alcohol nor smokes; he attends church. I am happy now.
To someone out there going through abuse, please ask God for the courage to leave because the end result can only be death; if not death, the children are affected. During that time, I could tell that my fifth-born was affected mentally by what was going on.
One thing I know is that you can never fail to move on with your life and fend for your children at the same time. The process is a painful one, but for the sake of peace of mind, it is necessary.
God works in amazing ways because my current husband accepted me with five children! God makes a way for absolutely everything.
I recently reached out to my ex-husband, informing him about one of our kids. He asked for forgiveness and I told him that I had forgiven him a long time ago. What is left is for him to take care of the children since he hadn’t done anything for them since I left him.
Caroline’s wedding is set for 2021.