The advice of the uninformed is usually, “Just leave him.” “If he hits her, why doesn’t she leave?”
The reality is that worldwide 1 in 4 women who decide to leave an abusive relationship are murdered by the ex-spouse or partner after they have left. Experts on intimate partner violence have concluded that leaving an abusive partner puts women in potentially life-threatening danger, sometimes more than if they had stayed in the home. The intensity of the threat increases hundredfold when the victim leaves.
When Roxy left her husband in 1991, they had been married for three years, and she was then five months pregnant. She resorted to subterfuge, engaging the assistance of a friend to squirrel away small packages of her clothes at a time. She closed her bank account, which her husband had access to, and opened a new one in her name only. Using the excuse that she would only be gone for one day to ‘air out’ her mother’s empty house, she left, never to return to her marital home in Morvant. In the twenty months that followed, she was virtually under house arrest, terrified to step outside since her husband had vowed that if he could not have her, then nobody would. The old people say, ‘words are wind’ but to an already battered psyche, words can be weapons and can often contribute to the feelings of fear, guilt, and insecurity that already exist in an abusive situation.
Roxy almost gave birth at her new Trincity home in February of 1992, so fearful was she to leave the house. Then, she discharged herself and her newborn from Mt. Hope Maternity Hospital against doctor’s advice, before visiting hours, just for their safety. At home, she suffered the constant indignity of her husband cursing her for being a ‘slut’ who had left her marriage and threatening to burn down the house around her. Neighbors never intervened whilst the man was screaming in her yard. She supposed they feared him as much as she did, but they usually had plenty to contribute after he left. There in Trincity, her strait-laced middle-class neighbors, although they had known her since she was a child, felt that she should have known better than to bring that kind of ‘ghetto’ behavior into their midst.
For months afterward, Roxy would have to beg favors to secure a lift to attend clinics with her daughter. She went hungry many times because she could not work. Once, when she had left the baby with a sitter so that she could take up a job, her husband went to the sitter’s home and threatened her at gunpoint to hand over the baby. Needless to say, that was the last time Roxy could use her services.
There was one time she accepted a job at the Airport Authority specifically because it was for a night shift worker. Her daughter was placed in a wicker market basket, covered with a blanket and brought along to work. The job did not last too long, but at least she could have had her baby in her sights and still make a living at the odd hours when most people, including her husband, were in bed.
There were many instances when her abuser saw her on the road, and purposely tried to run her over with his car. And for those who might wonder if she ever spoke with the police, she took names and regimental numbers of the officers present at the times she made at least 18 of those reports. It was to no avail, though. One example of our stellar police service in action came when her husband tore the door of her house off at the hinges, trying to get in. The Arouca police were called, and they came in time to see him driving away, but they chose not to pursue. Instead, the jovial Corporal asked her, “You say your husband do this? What you do this man so that he can’t leave you alone? Hmm, Girl, you don’t have no big brother or somebody to put a cut tail on him? Nah, man. Young woman like you must have some friend to help you out.” At that point, Roxy thanked the officers and closed the door.
Those incidents are not peculiar to Roxy. Women in abusive situations the world over can identify, and unfortunately, COVID19 has served to exacerbate the horrific living conditions that thousands experience every day. Roxy was one of the lucky ones because she survived, mainly because she had somewhere to go. Many do not have that luxury, and even when they do, still must find a way to earn and live with the knowledge of a very real threat to their lives hanging over their heads.
Roxy’s story relayed by contributing writer, Andrea Browne