The following story was submitted with a request of anonymity.
I am a mother of five. I was married very young and had my firstborn a few days before my 18th birthday.
Growing up, I was very quiet, but my dad was very abusive. My dad would beat up my mum, and I would stand in the middle, and my dad would pick me up and throw me to the far end. My dad would take really good care of us besides him being abusive, and we were very scared of him.
I got married very early. The guy had robbed me of my virginity, and I fell pregnant. My parents took me to the guy’s place, and I stayed there for a while. Life was very bad. There was not enough food for us and my baby. I tried selling products to earn a living. I ended up leaving the marriage.
I then stayed with an uncle, and we did not get along so well, so I ended up staying alone. While I was staying alone, this guy I knew forced himself on me but I did not tell anyone.
Later, I met my second husband. We did some tests, and I was found to be HIV-positive. My husband was negative. We started dating, and we could not be separated. I continued my studies, and he was paying for me.
This guy had a weakness for women. I would catch him with so many women. My heart would tell me to stay away from him, but things just happened so fast. My first pregnancy with him was so bad because he was never there for me. I was so miserable. I had four kids in my second marriage.
I felt neglected and unloved. As someone who was new to the city, I had no friends or relatives around me, so I was taken advantage of. I was in a marriage alone. My husband would go out weekends and come back Monday or Tuesday. Even when he came, I would not spend time with him because he would come at midnight and leave early morning.
I remember one day being beaten by him as he said he saw grease on the pavement, which meant there was a car that came when he was not around. He said I was bringing boyfriends when he was not around. That was painful for me.
One time I had a broken arm. I was sexually, emotionally and physically abused. I even tried to take my life three times. l felt unloved, and l ended up hating myself. He abused me sexually because every day, he wanted to sleep with me. I remember one time he tore my panties for me just to sleep with him.
I was always drained with stress, and I lost confidence in myself. I would create drama when I would see him with his baby mama. I once opened the door of a moving car and threw myself out because I felt I had nothing to live for. I had bruises but there were no oncoming cars, so I was left with bruises to nurse. My Christmases were so horrible because we never went out as a family. I was always indoors, and unfortunately, my mother is late, so I had no one to comfort me.
l always wanted to leave my marriage, but I never had anything to start up my life with. He never gave me any money or even gave me the opportunity to buy my own groceries. I stayed in that marriage but wanted to leave. I tried to leave him, but I would find myself back together with him.
In the end, I found myself staying with another woman in one house. He had brought another woman to our home whom he had kids with. It stressed me so much and affected me even health-wise. I always had high blood pressure, and I was reinfected with HIV because he never wanted to use any protection.
I discovered that he and the other woman were using me. He would lie to me that he no longer loved the other woman but loved me. The other woman fell pregnant, and I was really upset and depressed because we never got along. I stayed with my bag packed for one year as I always tried to leave. I was an angry person. I was always crying, and I never had time to be close to my children.
One day, I told myself that enough was enough. I could not take it anymore, and I left with my kids. I rented a one-room with just our clothes. It is now two years since I left, and I started my business with zero cents. I started to learn to love myself first and do me.
Currently, I am in a two-bedroomed house. I do not have much, but I am at peace and I’m very happy. I learnt to be independent. It was hard, but here I am now. I now have time for my children and myself. I now sell baby clothes and shoes which I buy from Turkey, China and South Africa. I have moved on with my life, and even though I am HIV-positive, I have learnt to love myself and be happy again.
Advice I can give to other women is that:
- As parents, we should not abandon our children even after they make mistakes. Let us encourage them and support them to try again in life because I never had any support from my dad. He gave up on me because I had a baby at a young age.
- Learn to be independent no matter how comfortable you are. Build your life. Have things that you call yours. I was stuck in a marriage for 17 years because I had nothing.
- Never stay in a marriage with all sorts of abuse. It is not worth it. You can lose your life and leave the kids suffering and have health challenges.
- If you feel like you no longer want to be married to your spouse, you would rather leave than have extramarital affairs. Leave with dignity and self-respect.