Law & Literature: The Verdict (Domestic Violence)
I apologize for relating how hellish, sorrowful, brutal, heartbreaking, and chaotic life has become for me. I feel itwould not be justice for myself and the rest of humanity, should I fail to explain the circumstances surrounding the reason for why I feel compelled to act the way I do. In essence, my story reveals a long journey beginning with abuse, subjected to arrogance, and being entrapped by the vagaries of life. I am obliged to relate it here so that you may reach a verdict for yourself. Supposedly, whatever action I did take towards Mr. Jack illustrates and depicts the individual I have been forced to become. I am not just what you expect me to be. In reality, thissymbolizes and indicates my right to define myself in my ways without self-imposition onto my personal life’s pathway; however, this was never the situation for me. As you may be aware, there are reasons and motives for the acts or actions that we carry out. My actions are by no means an exception. Blame may be squarely heaped upon me for the mistreatment of my dearly beloved husband by individuals ignorant of the revelations exposed in my autobiography, which life story I believe is a million times more effective as a critical analysis, and whose words slice through to truth’s foundation.
I dropped out of high school, and since I had minimal academic qualifications, I worked as a waitress. Nevertheless, I aspired to marry a good man who would respect me, remain loyal, faithful,and not abuse me. Such was my dream. Based on all my previous relationships, it appeared to be a mere “pipe dream.” My past relationships took a horrible turn, and they created a moral hazard in my life. My earlier relations were so painful to remember! When I pondered the memories of my past relationships involving, as they did, abusive men—my subsequent actions were more from anguished frustration than anything else.
One locked me up in the attic for days, with no food or water. I developed an infection from being dehydrated. Another time while taking a shower, I smelled smoke. Wrapping the towel about myself, I exited the shower stall to find him holding aknife with which Mr. Jack threatened to kill me. I ran naked, with only a towel wrapped around me across town to my mother’s home. My American boyfriend impregnated me, refused to acknowledge the infant, and then callously abandonedme in a hospital bed for an abortion—a procedure which nearly cost me my life. I was forced to spend my entire savings upon hospital bills. These terrors and anxieties have haunted me every waking day of my life.
I met Mr. Jack at his father’s birthday celebration. He [seemed to] meet my expectations for a guy because he appeared promising, progressive in his outlook, handsome, caring, studying medicine, and soon completed his exams. Also, I believed Mr. Jack would never dump me; and above all, he looked like such a serious and stable guy. It was a fateful and the most thrilling moment in my entire life. I also knew my beautyimpressed Mr. Jack.
Our honeymoon began four months after getting married, and I moved in to stay with Mr. Jack. We were happily married for a period and took a trip to Egypt, having a great time at the ancient Egyptian pyramids. During this trip, my arrogance and aggressiveness toward Mr. Jack began to manifest. I told Mr. Jack about my previous relationships with other men, which were marred by disappointments and abuse. That among these relationships, I nearly died from abortion after being abandoned by my American boyfriend, when he discovered I was pregnant. Because of the painful experience and recollections of this episode, I voiced it to Mr. Jack before entrusting my entire life to him. Additionally, I made Mr. Jack give his oath that he would never abandon me for good or bad, and he did. Therefore, it is self-explanatory that the pursuit of a steady, happy, trusted,and loyal relationship was all due to my previous relations, which turned out to be a psychological nightmare haunting me. I began to consolidate my position with Mr. Jack and throw his record collection away because I felt jealous that other women would continue to listen to him. We fought over this for almost two days; I was also troubled and scared by the way Mr. Jackheld a knife and fork in his grip—to my frightened eyes, it indicated a potential sign of abuse, intimidation, and mistrust in our relationship, just as it had been for me in the past.
The fun was over, we were home, and the nighttime turned into days with bitter memories of the past, sad remembrances, and a repeat of my previous relationships. Mr. Jack woke up early one morning and angrily left for his farm, purposely breaking his promise to me that for better or worse, he will remain with me. I felt something was wrong, and he is now a ‘runner,’ running away from me. Mr. Jack denied and broke his promises, an action which was a betrayal of my trust, just as others had doneto me. I would accuse him of being with other women when he always came home late. I would insult and yell at him for his infidelity, metaphorically describing him as a “pig,” “torturer,” and an “idiot” who has no feelings for me. Mr. Jack lost interest in sex; instead, he would engage in reading books at nights, spending long hours at work, and he preferred to seek solace inhis garden, rather than spend time together as a couple. I was relegated to a form of solitary confinement, and his silence condoned my knightly insults. I do not know what the silence meant, but one evening, I was so angry with him that I threw a frying pan at him in response to his recommendation for me to visit a psychiatrist. Paradoxically, Mr. Jack may be correct when he tells me that I need to be seen by a psychiatrist for emotional evaluation—that maybe I was “in a state of self-denial.” Life appears to be difficult for both of us because Mr. Jack began to look skinnier, while I gained weight, more and more. I remember Mr. Jack tossing and turning in the night; he wouldsweat excessively, and had difficulty falling asleep. I would tell him people would joke and say, “I beat you up by throwing things at you.” He would wake up with new bruises on his body at least twice a week.
Maybe Mr. Jack was right—I needed help, long before I met him. I thought all my fears would go away by meeting “Mr.Right,” but all I’m doing is bottling-up my anger internally and taking it out on a man who has so much to offer. I feel as thoughMr. Jack is not honest with me. I have a hole in my heart that makes me believe wicked, mean thoughts. I want to hurt Mr. Jack when I think he is lying to me. Why do I want to hurt him?Mr. Jack has been nothing but kind to me. Perhaps, it is all the lonely nights by myself, and possibly Mr. Jack stays away because he thinks I am crazy. My past haunts me every day, it doesn’t predict a very bright future for me, and all I can visualizeis oppression, mistrust, and pessimism. For the purpose of the unshakable justice and the prerogative conferred on you, as a judge, I appeal you give a verdict by Trying-to See-it-My Way.
***Note: the characters, Mr. Jack and I represent fictitious names or anonymous names in the domestic household where real abuse occurs.
By Lamin Keita