Lola and I hit it off from the moment we met. She is both lovely and lively. We shared so much in common, from a love for tasty fiesta to an addiction to John Grisham and Sidney Sheldon novels. We loved to gossip and got to all kinds of mischief. Then she got married and moved outside Lagos. We gradually lost touch. We exchanged visits especially during our child bearing years but not as much as we'd have wanted.
The last time I saw Lola, I knew something was wrong. I'd suspected all along that her marriage wasn't what she expected it to be but then most marriages aren't. There was this sorrow, deep sadness in her eyes that she refused to talk about. The years flew past and then I heard my friend was relocating abroad. She only told me it was for her to do her Masters, then she stayed back and did her Ph.D. After that all went quiet. Until last weekend, when she called me out of the blues, all excited, all bubbly, reminding me of all those old girly jokes. To shorten a long story, we eventually hooked up and Lola finally told me a long story of 15 years of emotional and physical abuse, mental torture in the hands of the man she married, the handsome man she married.
An incredible story it was and I am persuading her to let us do a television series with it. It is pathetic. It is painful. I still can't believe the fine-boy-no-pimples guy she married was capable of doing the things Lola said he did. But she's got scars to show for it and she walks with a limp now too. Mr Fine Boy once pushed her down the staircase to show who was boss. For 15 years, Lola stayed in that marriage. Why, I asked. And Lola's answer was the craziest reason I'd ever heard.
'Funke, the sex was good…' She said, looking into her tall glass of smoothie.
'Say that again. I don't believe I heard right.'
'Yeah, girl, you heard me. The sex was good.'
'You stayed with your husband because he was great in the sack? Are you crazy?
'I was. I know it sounds crazy but the sex was addictive. He would apologise after beating me and make love to me like a queen. I went through different stages of pain, denial, self pity and for a long time I looked forward to the sex after the violence.'
'Oh my God…' that was all I could say as I tried to imagine the state of mind of my friend. What hell she must have gone through to get to a point where she felt sex, any kind of sex, was great after she had been beaten black and blue.
'Didn't you see any sign that he would be a wife beater while you were dating?'
'Babe, I only saw the great sex, his physique, his protectiveness. Yes he was aggressive but he never laid a finger on me until after the honeymoon. By then ….'
The sex was too good to pass up. This crazy Lola.
'You could have died, you know, of too much sex or your stupidity or both!'
Then I noticed tears coursing down my friend's cheeks. We cried together until she smiled and continued.
'My husband was a sick man.'
Oh yeah, he was sick in the head, all his nuts were all unscrewed and jangling. I didn't say that out, of course.
Lola stared into the horizon, the soft evening breeze blowing her long weave into her eyes. 'My husband was really sick. He had horrible mood swings. One minute he was helping with the house chores, the next he was pummelling me and then right there, whether it was in the bedroom or in the kitchen, he would make love to me, crying and saying sorry and promising he would never beat me again. But he never stopped beating me and he refused to get help.
He refused to go for counselling, saying he was not going to discuss his marriage with outsiders. He once beat be until I lost a pregnancy at 16 weeks. But I loved him and couldn't imagine what would happen to him if I left.'
'Babe, was it love or lust? You simply couldn't see beyond the sex.'
'I didn't think I could find that kind of sex anywhere else. I guess I became as sick as my husband eventually, until the day he pushed me down the staircase. I couldn't stand up; my left foot was facing my back, if you can picture it. One of my fingers was broken but my husband simply pounced on me and…I passed out.
'I woke up in the hospital. I had concussion, fractured rib, finger, and that left foot was in a casing for weeks. It was then I knew I needed help, as much as my husband.'
It is a long long story. Lola is alive, limping but she's alive to tell the story. She could have broken her spine or neck when she was pushed down that staircase. All for what? I don't even want to think 'it'. But you see, when you live with a sick man long enough you can become sick too. The wife of a sick man is a sick woman. And all men who beat their wives are sick, very sick and they should get help. Unlike malaria or high blood pressure, the treatment for wife battery can't be accessed in the hospital down the road. It requires specialised, closely monitored treatment. It is an ailment of the mind. It requires a psychiatrist. Okay, let's call a spade a spade. A man who beats his wife is mentally ill. And he should check into the right clinic before he becomes a murderer.
But wait, I still cannot understand how it is possible to continue to love a man who beats you. I know I can't. For me it is a cardinal sin, beating your wife. I guess it's different strokes for different folks. My friends, after all, think I'm not normal when I tell them I don't understand why they develop high blood pressure because their husbands are having an affair. I can forgive infidelity but not domestic violence. It's not that infidelity is good but many men are infidels (or isn't a man guilty of infidelity an infidel?). However, a husband who is an infidel is better than a wife beater who is a sicko, at least according to me. Yet I insist that a woman who stays in an abusive marriage where she is beaten year in year out is sicker than the man. I know psychiatrists have names for such women too.
I was trying to read up on this topic when I strayed into frankmba.com, a blog by the Police Public Relations Officer, CSP Frank Mba. The topic is Spouse battery; know when to say good bye. I nodded as I read through until I got to this part:
"Be ready to leave at a moment's notice. Keep the car fuelled up and facing the driveway exit, with the driver's door unlocked. Hide a spare car key where you can get it quickly. Have emergency cash, clothing, and important phone numbers and documents stashed in a safe place (at a friend's house, for example). Rehearse your escape plan so you know exactly what to do if under attack from your abuser. If you have children, have them practice the escape plan also. Ask several trusted individuals if you can contact them if you need a ride, a place to stay, or help contacting the police. Memorize the numbers of your emergency contacts, local shelter, and domestic violence hotline."
Now, why would a woman stay in a home where she needs to park her car in a getaway position, have emergency cash and clothing? I believe marriage is forever but if your husband is a potential murder suspect and your war stories and scars are getting scarier by the day, shouldn't you take a break until bros regains his sanity? Let him get help. If he kills you, you will die. If you die, he will go to jail or be sentenced to death. And then what will happen to your children, his parents, your parents and we well wishers? And a woman who sticks around because the sex is great like my friend is on the way to an early grave. And six feet down below, you can only have sex with termites!