9 Nigerians Talk About Witnessing Abuse In Their Parents Marriage

August 24, 2021

The effects of an abusive marriage on the children should be spoken about more. To grow up in a home where domestic violence occurs frequently leaves a scar that takes long to heal or never heal at all. In this article, 9 Nigerians talk about witnessing abuse in their parents marriage, and how they feel about it.

TW: Domestic Violence, Abuse.

Image used for illustrative purposes. Source: Office On Women’s Health.

*Lydia.

Growing up, I witnessed a lot of domestic violence between my parents. They got separated just last year and we, their children, are very happy because it’s something that has been going on for over twenty-six years. The abuse was not a one way thing; it was mutual. My mum would hit my dad, and my dad would hit her too, and my mum would take out the frustration on us, the children, especially me.

They had a misunderstanding when I was eight. My mother took the boiling ring on the table and hit him with it. He ended up with a broken rib. I still have nightmares about it. The fights were about random things. When I was a child, it was about him not coming home on time from his job as a doctor, or about his family’s interference in their marriage. When I grew older, it became about infidelity and sex. Sometimes even, it was about her beating and yelling at us. In these cases, he would try to interfere and it would end up as their own fight. Once, they had a very big fight, and the house almost burnt down. After that, my mother packed her things and left. But then, they still ended up together.

Everywhere we went to, every compound we lived in, people knew about the fights. Even when we built our own house, the stigma of their fight hung around us. It was a very shameful thing to witness. Eventually, they separated. I guess they’d both had enough, but we all knew the marriage ended a long time ago and we kept begging them to go their separate ways before they kill each other.

I am happy they are no longer together. We have peace now. My siblings are okay with it, and no one is calling us to judge anything or mediate between two parties. But even then, I feel a mix of sadness, resentment, and love. I am sad that they wasted three decades of their lives fighting each other instead of just moving on. I love them, but I resent them for ruining my childhood and making me hate marriage, because witnessing what went on in their marriage changed my view of it completely. I hope to be married someday, but I worry that something might go wrong.

Priye.

With my parents, it’s more emotional abuse and manipulation plus gaslighting. My father says things and when you talk about it weeks later, he’ll deny blatantly. It’s a family of six. Five people are telling you that you said something and you deny it. Once, he beat my sister with a broom. My mother tried to beg, but he didn’t even care that someone was there. My younger brother held him back and he turned on him, finished the broom on his body and went away. He never spoke about that incident, never acknowledged my mother. Once, he did something and my mum asked him. Asked, not confronted. And he told her she talks like a senseless person. Another time, he told her that he only intended to have one child but she kept on getting pregnant at will, as though the act was not something they both willingly participated in. There was this time my mum purged overnight. They stay in the same room, yet my father lied that he never heard her go to the toilet.

He married her when she was twenty-one with an SSCE. Since they got married, she has been telling him that she wanted to go to school, but never at any point did he encourage her. Rather, he belittles her achievements. He would tell her, “Let me finish first,” and this is a man who has been attending school since 2002 and has never supported or pushed her. He complains that my mother never brings anything to the the family, which is a lie because the amount he drops for upkeep is very small compared to what my mother spends to make everything work out well. Recently, he asked my mum to cook soup for his friends and the same amount he dropped for upkeep for a whole week was the amount he dropped for the soup. And this is clear indication that he knows just what he ought to drop but is willingly choosing not to do it. Anytime my sister and I make it clear that we won’t marry someone like him, he says that my mother is turning us against him.

Most times my mother cries because she’s helpless. He never listens to her. If you hear my father talk about my mother, you’ll think she’s a big fool and a thoughtless person. It’s why he prefers to table family matters to his friend and not her. And when when everything turns bad, he then returns home to listen to her advice. The gaslighting, manipulation and belittling are top notch. He once told her she’s a witch and her umbilical cord is buried somewhere so she needs deliverance. Now, my mum is considering divorce and we support her.

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Image used for illustrative purposes. Source: Nigerian Parents

Ayobami.

My dad was beating my mum before I was born. Even when I was a child, it continued, but I did not get a hint of this. He was always very careful about it. He hardly ever beat her when the kids were around and even if we were, I was never there to witness it. I was probably off playing somewhere while my brothers bore the brunt of the whole thing. Once in a while, they would stand up to my dad but rather than resolving things, it caused an issue between my dad and eldest brother. And as though the beating was not enough, he was also cheating on her with several women.

When I turned seven, my mother took me and my brothers to stay with her family, and then she left the country. She was away for five years. My dad tried everything he could and finally got in touch with her. They started talking again on the phone and he convinced her to return to Nigeria, even though he was remarried with 2 other kids. She came back but refused to stay in the same house with my step-mother so my dad had to rent another house for my step-mother. And then, he resumed the abuse.

We thought the going was good and since I never really witnessed any domestic violence when I was young, it didn’t occur to me that anything was going on in the house. Until one day when I was alone at home with my parents and my brothers were in the university. They started arguing about how my dad was cheating with the neighbour’s wife. Things got heated and my dad started beating my mother.

He beat her from the backyard to the kitchen to the sitting room to her room, then back to the sitting room. The house was in shambles that day. The gas cooker was upside-down, food was upturned, and yet my father was not satisfied. I couldn’t do anything, he had already pushed me away a long time ago and I felt powerless in the face of the abuse. I was crying as I watched my mother, and she too was crying. And then he went to pick up a hammer and told her that he would kill her and no one would ask him about it. That was how the fight ended: my dad, raising a hammer over my mum, about to kill her.

That was the fight that broke everything. My dad called his family members the next day and told them he wanted my mother out of his house. She begged and begged but they didn’t listen. My mum and I had to leave the house very early the next morning so the whole estate wouldn’t see us leaving with all our luggage.

Kazeem.

The earliest memory I have of my dad hitting my mum was when I was about four years of age. She had started a new business selling and packaging kunu for sale. He travels a lot, and was away when she started the business. When he returned, he saw the business and expressed his dislike for it by hitting her. He hit her in public, scattered her wares and broke everything down. She cried, we consoled her, and later at night, he came to beg her.

The beating was frequent. Traveling helped a lot, but whenever he got back, especially after hanging out with the boys, and taking a drink or two, my mum would have to walk on eggshells or hand will touch her. Most times when he starts acting up and throwing things at her, sh would run outta the house. By the age of seven, I had learned how to run with her. We would take strolls to two bus stops away and walk back when things have cooled off.

The most amazing thing was, my dad was the perfect father. He was caring, quite responsible and everything good a person would want in a dad, but he was a monster of a husband. With time, my mum became accustomed to his rage and she became fiesty and began to talk back. It cooled him off a bit, but when it gets to him, he would react. Even when he was above fifty, he would chase my mum round the house, trying to hit her.

When we, the children, stand up for her, he also started hitting us and was shameless about it. But one thing was frequent: he would come back to apologize. He would tell us, too, that his weakness is anger. And yet, after apologizing, he would go back to doing the same thing. Where does one draw the line in that kind of situation?

Family members that have stayed with us know what my mum goes through. The neighbours too. People rarely respect her. She never left because she had absolutely nothing to get back to. He prevented her from using her degree (he sponsored it after her third child), never wanted her to start a business, & always wants everything she owns to come from him.

Presently, he works in another state, and we don’t look forward to when he comes home. It’s not like he still hits us, but we are all scared of it happening again. We, the children, all have strained relationships with our dad now, and he’s jealous of what we have with our mum. But the truth is the truth: it’s hard to love a father who treats your mother badly.

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Image used for illustrative purposes. Source: Google.

Amaka.

My mum herself was abusive to us, her children. But I feel that an abused person becomes abusive because of the things they have gone through. My father abused her. Every week, they had arguments, some about money, and these arguments degenerated into fights. Once, when I was about eight or nine in JSS 1, he beat her, ripped her clothes and sent her out of the house naked that night. Our neighbours had to take her in and give her clothes so she could go sleep at her parents house.

Several times, I had to call the neighbours to separate fights. At some point, it became embarrassing. She left him, came back, and yet the beating never stopped. He gave her a black eye once, and the scar still remains.

One thing that guides me now is that he is abusive, and I never want to be like him. He has married two more wives, and he beats them too. Recently, his third wife sent me a message to say that he beat her. I didn’t talk to him for a long time and our relationship is weird, and this is one of the thing that influences it. Eventually my mum left when I was fifteen. And we the children had to choose who we wanted to stay with. He disowned me when I decided to go with my mum. He’s the reason I don’t want to have children. I think I would be a shitty parent.

Mildred.

My dad used to beat my mum but I never saw it. I just saw the aftermath of it, like the time he pulled out a whole cornrow from her head and that part of her head had no hair, just shiny and bald. This was when I was seven. I would tell my mum to leave him even at that age but she didn’t. The only time I ever saw him hit her was once when he stomped her in me and my brother’s presence, that’s when I was eight.

Even then I never used the words domestic violence. I knew what it was but it wasn’t until I was about thirteen or fourteen that I was able to use it and even then it made me uncomfortable because it seemed like an outside thing, not something that was happening in my own house. The worst part was my father once trying to justify it to me when I was sixteen, talking about how she didn’t respect him. That was the day he died to me.

The day I saw him hit her was the day she left, but she came back after a year and then that cycle repeated itself two more times. Now she doesn’t speak to him unless they happen to be in the same environment and she rarely sees him because they don’t live together anymore.

I don’t like my father and I try not to blame my mother for staying but the truth is that I do. As a child, I never wanted to get married but now my view on it is “If it happens, then fine.” I think it’s also made me the kind of person that’s very aware of the little things and any sign of anything that might lead to abuse of any kind, both emotional and physical. I’m out with a quickness.

Temitope.

The abuse robbed me of my childhood. It happened too many times, it became the single story of my childhood. When I think about growing up, the abuse is what comes up. My siblings and I hardly knew the cause. We just heard people screaming, and someone would come out, usually my mum. At some point, it became our playtime drama. We had fun times shouting, “Daddy please don’t kill mummy.”

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Image used for illustrative purposes. Source: Istockphoto

One incident I specifically remember is when my dad lost his job and he blamed my mum. He called her a witch to our faces. On some occasions, my mum’s brother would come to intervene. And when things ended, they ended because my dad refused to move in with us. Why? He didn’t want to live in a house “built by a woman.” Like I said, he’d lost his job and couldn’t get another. We got thrown out of the house we were living in. But my mum had bought this land. So she quickly put together some bungalow on the plot, but my father said he wouldn’t be moving in. End of. They separated.

Tobiloba.

My dad never wanted to marry my mum, but she had promised herself that anyone who deflowered her would be the one to marry her, and my dad happened to be that man. What was worse, she was pregnant. He refused to marry her. He said he did not know if my mum had slept with someone else and was trying to force a bastard on him. In the end, he caved in, and that was the genesis of the abuse.

He beat her while she was pregnant, and this affected the first child’s ability to understand things quickly. And yet, the beating during pregnancy never stopped. It carried all the way down to the third child. After I was born, he would bring in other women and lock my mum out. There was a time he beat her so much and he hit a table on her leg. Till date, the scar remains. There was the other time he brought out a cutlass too.

There are excuses that might be tendered for his behaviour. One of it would be that he came from a military family. All of them in that family, from my father to their last born, all of them with a history of violence. Once, I was in university, and my brother called to inform me that he had beat my mum again and locked her in the house. I left school, took a night bus, all so I could get home. Not that it would have stopped him anyway.

He’s changed now. In fact, he is the president of the men’s union in church for two years in a row. But some things are unforgettable, unforgivable, perhaps? Sometimes, he blames my mum for my eldest brother’s ‘condition’, and says that he turned out the way he did because he is a bastard, not his child. He does not mention the beating during the pregnancy.

My aunt too goes through the same thing with her husband (who is my dad’s youngest brother) and each time she comes to our house to share, my mum encourages her to keep fighting. Sometimes, I get angry and tell her it’s not worth it and she is lucky she did not die in the process. I respect my mum for fighting for us, and I love my dad. A part of me believes firmly that he deserves whatever bad things happen to him, but then he’s still my dad and he is trying everything possible to be the best dad he was not in the earlier years. I believe he could be better for himself, and for us, his family.

Sarah.

When I was younger, my parents used to have a lot of issues. I really didn’t grasp what was happening; I was about five. But I remember very clearly, one night my sister and I were making our bed to sleep when we heard a noise. We ran out and saw my my father hitting my mother. I remember us telling him to stop, leave her alone, but nothing could have prepared me for the punch my father gave me so I could get out of the way. I tell it as a joke now, but the truth of it remains that he was so blinded that he hit a five-year-old.

There was another fight they had where he broke a mug on my mother’s head. He tried to take her to the hospital, but she screamed at him to leave her alone. She took herself to the hospital, but my father never went to see her throughout her stay there.

Many of the fights didn’t make sense. Some of them happened because she demanded for school fees, or because he returned home drunk. I really believed she should have left him all those years ago, but she never did. They are still together. Sometimes when I ask my mother why she stayed, she tells me she did not have the choice to leave him. Leaving a man was not an option that was considered possible then. Where was the money, first of all? And where was the parental support to back you up when you did such a thing? The first time she tried to leave him, her mum told her to go back. And she had five kids. Even if she wanted to leave, where would she have put them? Now, she is almost sixty, and he doesn’t hit her anymore, so I guess they have found a way to make it work.

*Names have been changed.

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