Titilayo Arowolo was a married banker, a mother and seemed to be on her way to the top of her career until that fateful night on Friday, June 24, 2011. She was brutally murdered by her husband, a man who had sworn before God to love and to cherish her till death separates them. Various accounts reveal she was a victim of domestic violence; a ready-made and stand by punching bag for her husband. Her father had said she always moved backed home after quarrels with her husband, Kolade, after he must have beaten her and threatened to throw her down from the top floor of their one storey apartment. She remained in a marriage probably with the hope that he would change. How wrong she was.
Following another fight on June 24, which also happened to be Kolade’s birthday, he ended her life in a manner no one could ever imagine. The Forensic pathologist in his report stated that he discovered about seventy six stab wounds resulting from the use of tremendous force on the chest, heart, lungs, liver, diaphragm, hands and other parts of the deceased’s body. He added: “there must have been many blows, stabs wounds. It resulted in severe blood loss. The stab wounds combined, caused by sharp weapon, a single and double edged wound. There were injuries to the front of the heart and back of the heart and wall of the heart. You can actually see through to the inside of the chest wall which had collapsed. A particular stab went through the rib cavity to the heart; the stomach was completely torn open. All these injuries could not have been self-inflicted because at a point, you would have dropped the knife’.
To put it simply, he mutilated her with the sole intention to cause harm and subsequently end her life. Tiitilayo is or was one of the numerous women who remain victims of domestic violence in their marriages or relationships. Many have been luckier than Titi was as they still wake up every day alive but uncertain of how their husbands will react to the slightest provocation. They live in fear safe in the knowledge that they are a few minutes, hours, days or weeks from the next battering. Many go on to have countless miscarriages after they have been beaten by their husbands like common thieves while they were pregnant. I have met a woman who was in her seventh month of pregnancy with a swollen face and bruises after her husband failed to keep his temper in check. Many have been hospitalized and many more may lose their lives in the future.
Nigeria happens to be one of those countries where we take religion too seriously. It is not uncommon for couples to be reminded at the altar that divorce is not an option in any marriage. Our religion does not support it. They are also reminded that regardless of whatever differences they have, they must look for solution and keep the marriage intact. It is considered “unchristian” to even consider divorce. The usual question or fear is, what will the Christian world say about us? How will the church react to my mother and father who are deaconess and deacon respectively? Some women are even afraid that they will be seen as women who could not keep their marriages intact. The questions are endless. Hence, many remain in very abusive and dangerous relationship while they keep the society quiet but continue to live in an unhappy relationship.
I got into a discussion with friends as regards what a woman should do if she was in an abusive marriage. During the discussion, I quickly began to come to terms with how the society thinks. People tend to believe that the duty of every woman is to remain in a marriage regardless of the conditions of the union. We are constantly reminded that the oath we swore before God, the pastor, friends and family was to stay together till death do us part. They overlook the part that the man was meant to love and to cherish the woman. I have gone through that vow repeatedly and have never seen a part which stated love and cherish in spite of all the beating you may get from your husband. On that day, they tried to convince me that the woman had to endure like Titilayo had done over the years. What happens to her children? What will the society say about a woman who could not keep a marriage? And most importantly, the good book is against divorce and hence she will be risking the wrath of the Lord if she goes away from her unhappy marriage. I listened attentively and quietly to see if I could meet them halfway. I tried but I could not. It still did not make sense to me why a woman should choose sadness over happiness.
My views remain the same. They have not and will not change. A woman who is in a marriage that one of her job description is to serve as a punching bag needs to do the simple thing. Walk away. It is common knowledge that most men who beat their wives never stop. It is more like a positive feedback. An episode of beating is followed by another. After every round of pounding, the man goes down on his knees and begs for forgiveness. He claims it was the work of the devil. Gifts, hugs and kisses are given to serve as pacifiers and as expected the cycle repeats itself. Women suddenly develop a morbid fear of their husbands. They soon realize that a little provocation could get him upset. They know that once he is upset, the sight is usually not pretty. Sometimes it is not even of their own making. The husband has a bad day at work and could decide to vent his frustration and anger on his wife.
What about those little kids they have? Children grow up in unhappy homes. They know there is a chance their mother will get beaten anytime. It comes without warning. The children live in fear. Girls live in fear, not sure of what their future relationships will be like. Will they suffer the same fate as their mothers? The boys soon begin to get the belief that it is alright for the man to beat the woman. They grow up and go into relationship and their girlfriends become punching bags. When they get married, their wives take these positions. If the woman is unfortunate and has her life cut short, what happens to those kids? The love and care they could have gotten from their mother is taken away from them. And if justice doesn’t catch up with him, he could remarry and suddenly the children face an uncertain future. The new wife could become a menace to them, constantly making life difficult for them.
Marriage is a beautiful institution. The idea that two people could come together and share everything they own, including their lives, is a good thing. But, it is important that we are happy in such an institution. It is only possible to be loved by someone if we stay alive. A woman owes it to herself to be happy. If tragedy strikes, the society that insists that walking away is not an option, will only mourn for a few weeks or months and then will continue living like nothing happened. Our sanity, happiness and lives are important.