‘He slapped me in public during a date’

What you need to know:

Elizabeth says her marriage became a warzone just two months after her wedding day. Dehumanised and traumatised, two years later, she gathers the strength to tell her story to Gabriel Buule.

“Few days after finishing my final examinations at university, I met Joseph who worked with a local television station where I was undertaking my internship. Josh, as I called him, proposed a relationship, which I agreed to. We agreed to follow the right procedures of becoming husband and wife because my parents could never welcome a relationship outside wedlock.

Floral were the promises and hopes as Josh negotiated his way into my life. He introduced me to his family and friends. He always acted like I was a queen and he was my varlet. One time, the then 31-year-old celebrated my 21st birthday party with a glamorous function that saw his friends and family members turn up in big numbers.

 Life went on smoothly and we had an intense courtship period of seven months. While dating, I noticed something strange but I never considered it a serious red-flag thanks to Joseph’s convincing tongue and apologetic character. At one of our date nights at Tipsy Restaurant in Wandegeya, Kampala, Josh slapped me in public when I checked his phone.

 We were having a meal at the restaurant and a WhatsApp messages popped up on his phone. When I opened the messages, his “other woman” had sent him nude photos. The WhatsApp conversation clearly indicated that it was Josh who had requested for the pictures and when I asked why, he responded with a slap.

Immediately after he slapped me, Josh knelt down, crying and pleading for forgiveness as bystanders kept rebuking him for his action. At his workplace, where I was still an intern, he would threaten his workmates with violence for just being my friends. One day, his workmate offered to buy me lunch and when Josh learnt of this, he threatened him with violence.

Hopeful

In July, 2017, a month after we had had a bitter brawl with Josh, we made up and agreed to start wedding preparations. In the same month, we had our first traditional function (Kukyala) where Josh and his family visited my family to propose marriage. Four months later, we had the introduction ceremony (Kwanjula) before our wedding on December 9, 2017.

 I come from a staunch Christian family. Both my parents are pastors and prior to my wedding we would pray as a family. I went to Prayer Mountain in Sseguku, Wakiso District, where I observed fasting and prayed for three days. Indeed, I hoped for Godly intervention and blessings in my marriage and this was the same wish from all that attended our wedding.

Everything went as planned and we were both excited hoping that nothing will ever do us apart. Our three-day honeymoon at a hotel in Kampala was filled with promises and assurances.

Verbal abuse

Two months into our marriage, a lot started unravelling; Josh’s language, conduct and character totally changed. His mother started visiting us abruptly, giving orders on her son’s behalf. Josh then asked me never to complain to him about his mother who kept trying everything possible to make my life a living hell.

I remained submissive to my husband, which made his mother furious to the extent that she would enter our bedroom whenever she felt like. Then, they would both openly insult me even when  I had done nothing at all.

When I was about seven months pregnant, my husband said he would come home late since he had gone to cover a football match in Wankulukuku Stadium in Kampala. That day, he came home past midnight.

Because his phone had been switched off, I called one of his friends who told me that he had not showed up at the football match. Immediately after reaching home, he switched on his phone and a message from a certain woman thanking him for ‘a great day’ popped up. When I questioned him about it, he kicked me in the stomach. I bled for two weeks.

In hospital

He started denying me financial assistance yet I was pregnant. One day, I did not have transport fare and when I called him as I left work, he told me to improvise and come home with food. He later resorted to torturing me mentally; he absconded from his duties at home and also denied me conjugal rights.

A month after the birth of our son, he pushed me against a wall. I woke up in a local clinic surrounded by nurses. Then I heard him telling the nurse that I had slipped and fallen on the floor. Beatings became routine and most of them would be triggered by minor incidents.

I, however, made it a tendency to protect him from the law and my family hoping that he would stop. Besides, I feared that any decision would affect my father’s image at church. I also never wanted to raise my son without a father. Yet, often, our son saw his father beat me.

The last straw was when I chose to change the face of our home. I had bought new things in the house to please my husband when he returned [he had deserted our home to stay with his mother]. Instead, when returned, he beat me up. His mother also attacked me and accused me of using witchcraft on his son. That day, I realised my perseverance could not solve anything. I had had enough.

No more

In March 2020, I left our marital home with just my handbag and laptop. My friend Suzan drove me to a friend’s place in Naguru, Kampala, and two weeks later, I managed to rent my own house.  In December 2021, I concluded my divorce process and I never claimed a share of any of our hard earned assets, including the house that I contributed towards. It was only child custody that I negotiated.

Free at last

People suffer different marital woes. Mine was a cocktail of my husband’s infidelity, violence and selfishness. The more I feared what could happen if I stood my ground, the more I was traumatsied.”

Note

If you are hoping your abusive partner will change: The abuse will probably keep happening. Abusers have deep emotional and psychological problems. While change is not impossible, it is not quick or easy. And it can only happen once your abuser takes full responsibility for their behaviour, seeks professional help, and stops blaming you.

If your partner has promised to stop:  When facing consequences, abusers often plead for another chance, beg for forgiveness, and promise to change. They may even mean what they say in the moment, but their true goal is to stay in control and keep you from leaving. Most of the time, they quickly return to their abusive behaviour once you have forgiven them and they are no longer worried that you will leave.


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