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Friday, July 19, 2024
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What is domestic violence?

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With Aisha Jallow

Violence has many faces and it is sad that we must always raise awareness of domestic violence. Too many times it becomes normalized, as a part of one’s every-day life. I remember when I was a very young girl, living in Finland. We had to move often, as my father could never keep a job. He was a lorry driver, but he was also an alcoholic. It seemed to be easy for him to find a new job, but sooner or later he lost it because he was not reliable. When he had had too much to drink, for too many days, he was unable to do his job. It didn’t matter that men drinking a lot of alcohol was part of normal life by then. A man should do his duty, no matter how much hangover he had.

The last house we moved to, in Finland, was of a very low standard. It had a room and a kitchen, that was all. No bathroom, only an outhouse, but my sister and I didn’t go there as large rats were residing there. We did our ”business” in a bucket and our mother went to the outhouse to empty it every day. The first day, when we arrived at the house, my mother was the first to get in. She ran out again and told my sister and I to not go into the house. Curious as we were, we went in anyway and saw the reason for why our mother didn’t allow us to see what she had seen. There had been a fight with knives in that house, and there was a large puddle of blood on the floor. There was also a lot of blood stains on the wall.

My sister and I were only kids so we didn’t understand the seriousness in what had occured there. For us it was only a bit exciting. Violence was a normal part of our every-day life. We lived on the first floor in this small house, on the second floor lived another family. The couple had a small baby and the baby cried all the time. The house was not robust, so we could hear every cry and every argument from above. The couple fought a lot and that made the baby to cry even louder. I remember that we had a broom stick we used to bang on the ceiling everytime the commotion from above was too loud. No one ever considered to interfere or to knock on their door to ask what was the matter. The domestic violence was part of our every-day life.

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What I remember mostly from my childhood is fear. I was afraid of my father when he was drunk. I was afraid to disturb him when he had a hangover. I was afraid of his angry eyes. I can’t remember that he ever hit us children, but he hit our mother. I remember that I tried to protect my mother. I think I was about 6 years old. My mother was washing the dishes and for some reason my father was angry with her and tried to hit her. I ran to him and sat on one of his feet to make it hard for him to move. I held on to his leg like a baby monkey, arms and legs wrestled around one of my father’s legs. I can’t remember how that occasion ended, it was only one of many occasions. One of the occasions that was part of my every-day life.

I read about the poor Gambian woman, Amie Sowe, who suffered horrific injuries from being slashed by her husband. Gorgi Sowe tried to kill his wife on November 16 last year. This husband is now charged with five counts of attempted murder, grievious harm, acts intended to cause harm, wounding and domestic violence. Amie Sowe told the court that the accused had divorced her three times, but he kept coming back to her. Everytime she demanded anything from him, he would beat her in front of their children.

Mrs Sowe is now confined to a wheel chair, and suffers terribly from her wounds. Her husband attacked her while she was sleeping. He slashed her legs with a cutlass, he also caused injuries to her fingers with the cutlass. It was when Mrs Sowe shouted her husband’s name, and asked why he was trying to kill her, that he finally ran away. Mrs Sowe’s child had woken up from the commotion and was told what her father had done to the mother. It must have been a terrible shock for the child to see the injuries, all the blood and the suffering her poor mother was going through. The child offered to go out for help, but at first Mrs Sowe didn’t want to be left alone. She was afraid that her husband would come back to cut off her head.

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The violence Mr Sowe used against his wife was a part of the every-day life for her and the children. As a mother you try to protect your children from harm. You try to hide your wounds and tell that you have been clumsy, ran into a door or slipped in the shower. Anything to protect the children, not the perpetrator. The mother understands that the visual harm is affecting the children. It is causing distress and fear within the children and a mother doesn’t want that to affect them. The mother has carried the children inside her for 9 months, protected them even before they were born. She understands how vulnerable they are and does everything she is able to protect them.

This man, Gorgi Sowe, is a pitiful example of the human race. He didn’t care how his actions affected his children or his wife. He followed what his twisted mind told him to do. He was the one who divorced his wife three times and still he kept on coming back to her. It must have been very hard for Amie Sowe to try to stop him from coming back to her and the family. Even if she tried, there are a lot of expectations and interference from nosy neighbours and relatives. We have a lot of people who put their noses into other’s business. Some call it a social network, others call it what it is – interference. Interference is good when we try to stop someone from doing harm, but it is never good when it comes to anyone’s personal matters.

Amie Sowe was between a rock and a hard place, not able to protect herself against her husband. Instead of expecting the woman to forgive and forget, we should expect the man to leave her alone. We must protect the vulnerable, not more or less force them to stay with the perpetrator. A man who hits his wife, either in front of their children or in solitude, doesn’t deserve forgiveness. Gorgi Sowe was able to come back to his wife several times, even though his violent actions were no secret to anyone. Still some people, both men and women in The Gambia, believe that a real man is the one who beats his wife. When will this change? How many more women must be beaten more or less to death? How many more children will grow up, affected by what they have experienced? Violence is never acceptable, unless you have to protect yourself and your family.

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