Abused Women Speaking Out
from Stabroek News

ALL OVER GUYANA there are many women trapped in abusive marriages. The five women who speak here, speak anonymously, and names and some circumstances have been altered or omitted to protect their identities.

R is 26. She has three children and last month left her husband, a heavy drinker, who used to beat her with a cutlass.

"I was fourteen when I met my future husband. He used to drive a minibus along the road. At the time I had to stay home and look after my little sister while my mother went to sell in the market. I didn't like it and he was different, intelligent, more understanding. He did not drink or smoke and was always neat looking. He was 29 years and married but I did not mind. All I thought about was how I wanted a good marriage for each other and to raise children. But my father was very upset. He beat me and I ran away to a relative. The next day the relative spoke to my father and so he said get a JP [Justice of the Peace] to come marry us. I was a Hindu and he was a Moslem but I decided to change to please him.

"I left my parents on bad terms and did not go back to the house for two years. I would see my mother in the market and hug her up but still it hurt them that I could not have done better. We lived in my husband's parents' home, and at first it was good although I had to look after his grandparents and his sickly younger brother. There was a lot of work. I used to get up at 4:30am to wash clothes and clean the house and yard. Soon after I moved in, he hit me for the first time. One day I remarked how he was always watching a particular girl who used to pass the house. He got mad and gave me two slaps on my face and knocked me on my back I was very surprised and I cried a lot. But he said he was sorry and explained how I should not complain about that - that I had made him do that. I forgave him. I accepted what he said and told him he must not do it again. But he still beat me, sometimes every week, cuffing me in my stomach and back or pressing his knees into my chest. After our first child was born we were happy. He did not hit me but with his mother out of the country there was a lot of work. I tried to be a good housewife, a loving person, but it was too much and I complained that I was not a machine. By 1994 he had started beating me again, this time with the flat of a cutlass on my back until I turned black and blue. Or he would lock me in a room for the night. One time he bust open my lip and eyes.

"But things got even worse when he started drinking. He had no money for the house or for the children. Friends in the street where we lived used to help with clothes for them. He kept on beating me with anything he could find - cutlass, belt, broomstick. I used to hide the cutlass in the yard but he would squeeze my neck hard and make me go get it and then use it on me. When I was eight months pregnant he beat me with it because I wanted to buy some things for myself for the hospital. One time he held down my hands with his knees and hit me in the head. I ended up in the hospital and he told the doctor I had fallen down some steps. But I told the doctor how he was lying and he had beaten me. The doctor said he was going to call the police but he never did. Plenty times I brought the police on him but I never pressed charges. I realise I cannot look after my children alone. Even if he works one day he can give me $1500-$2000 which I would stretch to last a week. I blame myself sometimes because I know I speak loudly and curse and I beat my children. I don't like it but I am frustrated. I end up crying. He beats them too. One day my son wanted $20 for school and he said he did not have it. My little son said, 'Daddy don't drink rum you're going to die out quick,' and he took off his belt and beat him.

"In the last two years he has gotten worse. He drinks more and because he did not get through with his papers to go abroad he takes it out on me. His mother blames me for his problems and says how he should not have married a Hindu girl. In November he came home drunk and I was on my way out to a religious function with the children. But he threw me down on the bed and asked who gave me permission to leave the house. I said nobody, and who gave him permission to go drink rum? He went downstairs and fell asleep in the hammock. I slipped out of the house with the children and went to stay by my parents. And that is where we are today. I don't want to go back to him. I am going to find some work and try and get by. My children want to go back. My son who is six says I should give him one last chance. 'Let's go back and have a happy family,' he says. But I won't. It's over."

D, 36, has been married 22 years. Her marriage is better since her husband stopped drinking.

"My husband was 22 and I was fourteen. He asked home for me one day while I was in school and my parents did not disapprove. We got married and moved in with his parents. But his mother did not like him giving me his money so we moved back to my parent's home. From the very beginning he was always jealous. He couldn't see me with anyone strange or talking to anyone. When he used to beat me he was always drunk. He used to apologise afterwards, beg me to forgive him and say he would never do it again but he would drink again and the same thing would happen. But he has always provided for me and the children and would give me his pay packet unopened even when he went to drink. He was always hustling looking for a way to make money. But when he was drunk he would go for a whole week sometimes. My four children used to be very scared when we argued.

"I had to go to the hospital several times, once to get stitches in my head when he hit me with a chair, another time for a closed-up eye. The police would lock him up for a few days but he would get out and come beg me to take him back and I would, for the children's sake and because deep down I am religious and we took a vow to stay married. He has stopped drinking for three years now and things are much better. Only one time he hit me on account of an argument over my relatives. And I still love him. He can be so kind and generous. He frets now and then but I have learnt not to take him on. To ignore him. And I pray a lot. Sometimes I pray and I just burst out crying. Me and my sister were talking the other day and she asked if I was happy. And I said I was. I am happy."

D is 26 and has been married for three years. She is afraid to leave.

"I used to go stay by an aunt and she introduced my future husband to me. He was very shy but he was kind although he never bought me any presents. We got married soon after at my parent's insistence. He had promised me a honeymoon but come the time we did not even have a celebration at his parents' home. Even now he does not buy me anything for my birthday and I got nothing for Christmas. I went to live with his family. They have a shop and at first things were good since the business was doing well. But he was always very jealous. The first time he hit me was when I went out on an excursion in the Essequibo with my family. When I came home he accused me of talking to other boys and he hit me on my head and back. It hurt and I cried a lot and made him apologise. But after that he would hit me all the time whenever we argued. He has a bad passion. The shop is not doing well so now he does not even have money for food to cook sometimes even though he would go out and drink. He would slap me when I complain. He insults me and blames me for all the problems as if I have blighted his life. I pray for him to change, to be kind and gentle. My parents don't know what he is doing. I am too ashamed to tell them."Now we have a small boy and he does not give me money for diapers and milk and I have to ask my family to help out. I can't live like this. I was brought up in a good home and I am living like a dog. I don't have a life to look forward to. I want to leave him and live on my own but I am afraid . He joked one time that he would shoot me if I left."

V is 25. She recently ran away from her home after being beaten with a cricket bat.

"I was born in the Mahaica river. My father used to beat my mother. He was a drunkard and eventually she left him. I met my husband when I was fourteen, my mother never liked him. He was ten years older than me. I liked him and we eloped and went to live by his mother. But he and his mother disagreed and we had to leave. She said he was bad from small. We built a small house and he would do paddy work and mind cows for people. The first time he hit me it was around Mashramani and I had made plans to go out but he did not want me to go. We argued and he picked up a rope and hit me on my back. I cried a lot and went by my mother's home. But he did not apologise. He never apologized. We just started talking back after a week. He got into trouble with the law and went to jail for nine months. I looked after my two boys and used to carry money for him as I knew it was hard in there. He was always a jealous man. If a car passed and blew its horn that was a problem or if he saw me talking to anyone strange. He would come home drunk and start breaking things in the house saying how I liked to stray. He would put me out of the room and I would have to sleep on the bare floor. Or he would beat me all over my body with the head of a belt. I had to go to the hospital three times. One time I asked him if I could go to a show with some relatives and he said no, and I stopped talking to him. At 12:00pm he got out of bed and started beating me with a cutlass until the skin on my back burst. Lately he took a cricket back to me and hit me all over. Then he grabbed my hair and pushed me out of the house. I ran away to a relative and he bought a bottle of poison and said I should drink it. I wish he would drink poison then I could live happily on my own. But I am afraid to leave him. It would be hard to find a place with three small children. In 11 years of being married we never once went out together. Not once. He does not buy me anything for my birthdays, anniversaries or Christmas. I have been to the police but his relatives pay them off and they release him. I am not going back to him. I've gone back enough times."

F is 36 and still living at home with her husband despite years of abuse.

"When I was about 19 I had dreams to have a good office job in town and I was finishing my exams. My future husband used to be a small trader and had dealings with my mother. He said me and he must get away. Just like that. I was a Moslem and he was a Hindu so my mother did not want that. Eventually we got married legally but we did not have a wedding. I came to live by his mother's house downstairs and things were good. We were happy. But he was jealous and even before we were married he had hit me. I had gone out with some friends for a birthday party and when I came back he hit me in my tummy. I did not expect that. But it was him always fooling around. The first time I caught him with a girl I was pregnant. And after the first child he had lots of women. But he never wanted me to find out so he would keep me in the house and people would come and tell me they had seen him with so and so and when he came home I had to ask him. I couldn't stay silent. And he would fly into a passion and when he beat me he had no mercy. He would beat like he was beating another man with closed fists in my back. Or he would pick up something, a belt, a piece of wood. One time he lashed me in the head with a broomstick. He stuck me in my foot with a knife. He beat me in public on the road. One time he put me out and I was on the road and he got his gun and fired a shot at me. But I have never really left him. I am frightened he would kill me and because of the children. I just want them to get a good education and lead them in the right way and for them to grow with love. He has always provided for us and we have never wanted for anything. But all the time he has these other women. And he would always doubt me even though I have seen him with my own eyes. I have been honest to him and good to him. Even when he beats me, the next morning I would wash his clothes and cook the best for him. It is very hurtful. We don't celebrate our anniversary or my birthday. I have not had a happy life."

[Editor's Note: This report is absolutely encouraging. It was published by Stabroek News in January, 2002. More women ought to make such disclosures. One of the disturbing thing reflected in this report is the women's willingness to remain in an abusive relationship...this is often the trap that can lead to death. Another is the unwilingness to press charges. In both cases, we recognise that it is easier said than done but we firmly believe that too mnay women simply endure intolerable relationships, when they need not. Abuse is illegal and inhumane; all abused women should seek assistance and tell their stories to relevant authorities. In Guyana, these include the police, the Ministry of Home Affairs, religious ministers, and of course, any women's rights group such as Red Thread. We know of no reason so great, no god so holy, and no political party so powerful that require a woman to be an object for abuse from her spouse. We encourage you to TELL YOUR STORY AND HELP RESCUE OTHER WOMEN WHO ARE TOO SCARED TO TALK. Of course, feel free to contact us and we will be happy to direct any abused woman to relevant authorities for assistance in Guyana or in North America/UK.]

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