A Short Story
By Dorcas Tiwaa Addai
By 7am that morning, the sun was high up in the skies reflecting off warm heat in the midst of the hamattan wind blowing from the east. Adwoa stood by her car and watched the retreating backs of her two little boys. Their giggles as they run through the opened school gate to meet their teacher, was a beautiful sight to behold. Their laughter was enough to help her through the day. As she hugged them moments ago, she prayed silently for them to grow up not to be anything like their father.
‘Good morning maame Police,’ greeted another parent who came to drop her child off at school.
‘Good morning, hope all is well. I have to run off now, see you later’. Adwoa climbed into her car and sped off.
She had an early meeting with her colleagues at the central Police Station, where she worked as the District Officer in charge of the Domestic Violence Unit. Since assuming her position as the District Officer, she made it a practice to meet Officers under her jurisdiction every Monday morning. They usually discussed progress made on cases received and the necessary investigations that needed to be done. That week, she was personally investigating a case of a young lady who was beaten for allegedly stealing her madam’s money in the house where she had served as a maid. As she drove towards the Station, she made mental notes on what was left to be done in her investigations of the case before the next court date.
Later that evening she put the boys to sleep and kept watching the wall clock as she sat in the living room anticipating her husband’s arrival. Kevin worked as the Managing Director of an investment bank in the business district of the city. For some time now their relationship had deteriorated from insults to beatings at the least provocation. At about quarter to 9pm, Adwoa heard his car in the drive way. She felt perspiration in her palms and her heart started beating faster. She took three deep breaths to calm down.
Just then, Kevin walked inside. He gave Adwoa a sweeping look and entered the bedroom without saying a word to her. Adwoa followed and greeted him, trying hard not to say what she really had wanted to say to him.
‘I will go and warm your dinner. It must be cold now,’ she said to him.
‘Don’t bother, I am not hungry.’
Adwoa froze with rage. The painful memories of last week Friday rushed into her mind. She had a very hectic day at work and was suffering from a severe migraine. There was no way she could prepare dinner from scratch as Kevin had always insisted. She decided to serve groundnut soup with banku that she had prepared the day before. She had hoped that Kevin would understand. But before she could get the words out of her mouth, Kevin started screaming at her.
‘Woman, who do you think you are? Even my 60-year old mother will not feed me with this kind of food…’ Kevin shouted as he slapped and pushed her around. That was the fourth time in the last 2 years that Kevin had put his hands on her. She had been keeping count and each time felt like a dream. What was more confusing; Kevin cried and begged for forgiveness after each incident. It made her feel bad, like she was somehow to be blamed for how he had lost his temper with her.
Today, she came home much earlier than usual. She didn’t want to risk being caught up in the evening rush hour that was particular for most Mondays. After picking the twins up from school; she passed by the market to buy more fish and meat to prepare Kevin’s favourite soup for dinner. She wanted to make it up to him after Friday’s incidence and more so after their lovely make up over the weekend. Throughout the day, she still felt the migraine splitting her head in half.
As she stood frozen by the bedroom door, she felt all kinds of emotions. ‘What is all this?’ She thought.
‘Did you hear me or you are just going to stand there and stare at me like a moron for the rest of the night’, said Kevin, as he pushed past her out of the room. Adwoa staggered towards the bed to gain some composure. She felt light headed. Her first instinct was to call her mother, but on second thought she decided against it. Her mother might decide to call Kevin to plead on her behalf whether she was at fault or not. Adwoa came from a very traditional home. Her mother was always imploring her to treat Kevin like a king for being the head of the family. To her mother, a woman must do everything in her power to make her husband happy.
The next morning, Adwoa decided to visit the hospital after dropping the children at school. She barely slept the night before. Her head had pounded with so much pain and her mouth was all dry. The doctor ran a few tests on her and declared with a bright smile; ‘Adwoa you are three months pregnant. You must call Kevin right now to…’
She never got to hear the rest of the doctor’s statement. Adwoa was not ready for another child at this point in her life. Her husband was making her life miserable and more importantly, she was due for deployment to Sudan for a 6-month mission. This was something she was really looking forward to.
With heavy feet, she managed to get into her car and drove straight home. She walked in and on the sofa lay Kevin and another woman. She opened her mouth but nothing came out. Slowly she felt her chest tightening. She hurriedly left the room gulping for fresh air. Then she heard them laughing hysterically. Her world was crushing around her.
‘I am done,’ she thought as she run back into her car.
‘Mama, I have tried but I can’t marry anymore,’
‘What? Where are you? Come home right now!’
At her parents’ house; her father excused them so that her mother could speak sense into her as he put it. Adwoa narrated what has been happening in her house to her mother who sat at the edge of an old kitchen stool listening intently.
‘Adwoa I already warned you not to bring your work matter to your husband’s house. I hear how you and your people have been helping many women break their marriages. Don’t let that be your story ooo, yooo’ her mother responded holding her right ear as a way to let Adwoa know the need for her to listen to the advice she was giving her.
They had warned her not to be the first person from their family to get a divorce. She felt miserable. Never in her life did she think she will become a victim of what she had spent her professional life fighting against. Who does she run to? Who will believe her?
From all the knowledge she had acquired, she should have been able to prevent this. Back at home, Kevin had left the house with the woman. She put on a brave face and bravely fight away tears. The last thing Adwoa wanted was to break down in front of the children.
At work the following day, Adwoa sat in her office feeling like a fraud. She wondered what moral right she had to tell women who walked into in her office, how to get out of abusive relationships, when she was stuck in one. To the outside world, she lived a perfect life – successful career, a wonderful banker husband and children. She felt too ashamed to tell anyone else what she was going through. As she sat lost in thoughts in her small cubicle office that was half filled with files, she heard a slight knock on the door. An officer peered through the half opened door and announced that someone was there to see her. A woman walked in, making her feel small in her miserable mental state. For a moment, she had wished she could exude such confidence. The woman was Safiya who had an organization that provided shelter and livelihood training for victims of domestic violence. She was there to seek partnership with the Domestic Violence Unit for an upcoming programme.
At the programme, Adwoa got to know the amazing work Safiya’s organization was doing at a grassroot level. She recognized some of the women who were there. One such womna was Jocelyn who came to report the case of her drunkard husband at the Police station. The husband was always beating and forcing to have sex with her even in the presence of their children. Jocelyn had walked into the Police Station with a swollen eye and bruises all over her body. Adwoa had never seen anything like that before. After Jocelyn’s husband was jailed for 5 years; she had been abandoned by her family and that of her husband’s. With no money and a source of income, Jocelyn found Safiya’s organization and her life was turned around. Now she was actively involved in the organization as a trainer for other victims who are brought to the organization’s shelter. After the meeting, most of the women came to Adwoa to thank her and asked that she come around more often.
At home that evening Adwoa made her mind up. The support group and all those women had changed something in her. If they could get the courage to report the abuse they were suffering and get the support they needed to live their best lives, so could she. She was tired of faking her life; of listening to her parents and of being scared of being blamed for what has been happening in her marriage.
The next day, Adwoa wore her best uniform. Her shoes shone like a mirror and she looked at herself in the mirror and smiled.
‘Everything will be alright,’ she told herself.
When she got to the station after sending the children to her sister’s house, she walked straight to the counter where cases are received at the Station. Immediately they saw her; the two officers at the counter stood and gave her a salute. ‘Morning Madam,’ they both said in unison.
‘Morning, I am here to report a case,’ she replied with a straight face. ‘Can I have a statement form?
One of the officers quickly gave her the form, as they both exchange quick glances. Adwoa took it and started writing her complaint. All this while, she felt the questioning looks of the officers on her. She lifted her head when she was done, smiled at them and said, ‘oh, I am here to report my husband.’
Dorcas Tiwaa Addai is a writer and a human rights specialist in Ghana. Dorcas’s work of advancing human rights, accountability and rule of law in Ghana incorporates her interests in research, writing and women’s rights.