Black and blue
“He first raised his fists to me days after our marriage,” says Zainab•, the painful memory echoing in her soft voice. “He had returned from office in a bad mood after being refused the salary increase he had asked for and, as setting up in married life had cost him more than expected, he blamed me for being short of cash to spend when out with his friends. I objected to this accusation as I was a working woman and contributed to household costs.
One minute he was shouting at me and the next he was smashing his fists into my face. I was completely shocked and dropped to the floor but then he started kicking me and didn’t stop until he decided he was through.”
Until then Zainab had been happily married to the distant relative she had rarely met until the day of their wedding. She thought life would be a wonderful adventure full of happiness and understanding.
“I must have passed out at some point,” she recalled. “When I regained consciousness, he was sitting next to me on the floor with his head in his hands, crying. I was too frightened and in too much pain to say anything so just lay there.”
To Zainab’s relief, her husband apologised, promised that it would never happen again, said that he was dreadfully ashamed of himself and begged her not to tell a soul. Wondering how to explain her injuries to the doctor her husband took her to and then later to her family and friends, she left the talking to him.
“He told everyone that I had slipped and fallen down the stairs but it was obvious that no one believed him, yet, when asked privately, I backed up his tale because I was too sacred and ashamed to tell the truth,” she explained.
Unfortunately, this was just the first in a never ending series of beatings that, over the next six years, Zainab silently endured.
“My parents quickly realised what I had to endure and my father talked to my husband but that only served to alienate them from each other and I rarely saw my family after that. My husband forbade communication and, within six months of marriage he also banned me from working because my boss, a man, made some comment during an office function. This society being what it is, as far as I was concerned, divorce was out of the question; plus, my very conservative family, even knowing the situation, would never have agreed to it: I felt I had no option but to endure.”
Severe beatings resulted in three early miscarriages for Zainab and, due to internal complications, she was then unable to conceive. To her intense relief and her parent’s shame, her husband divorced her and quickly remarried a second ‘victim’.
•Name changed for privacy.