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TALES OF COURAGE: I thought domestic violence was normal

Tuesday March 10 2020

Caroline Maritim stayed in an abusive marriage all for the sake of her children. Until she realised she could give them a better life and decided to walk out. PHOTO| COURTESY

Caroline Maritim stayed in an abusive marriage all for the sake of her children. Until she realised she could give them a better life and decided to walk out. PHOTO| COURTESY 

KAREN  MURIUKI
By KAREN MURIUKI
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For five years, Caroline Maritim stayed in an abusive marriage all for the sake of her children. Until she realised she could give them a better life and decided to walk out. The 39-year-old beautician now uses her story to help other women in her situation. She shares her hopeful story with Karen Muriuki.

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"I met Mike* in April 2000 while visiting my paternal grandmother. I was 20. He was a solider, and was deployed a few days later but he came back in May.

I come from a violent and polygamous family. My mother was a second wife. She left when I was very young, meaning we had to live with my father and stepmother, who I didn’t get along with. Because of that, we eloped and went to live on his mother’s farm.

Everything was good with us. We were happy together. I got pregnant and we had our daughter the following year.

NOT TAKEN TIME TO KNOW EACH OTHER

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Mike left for a year for a peacekeeping mission when our daughter was eight months old. That, plus all the other times he had to leave for work in between, meant that we had not really taken time to know each other.

His mother had never been supportive of our relationship so she would keep making false claims about my character to make him leave me. The pressure eventually got to him. He bought a house close by as soon as he came back and we moved.

I gave birth to my son in 2004, and our marriage was still thriving. I had started farming.

Two years into our independent lives, Mike started causing arguments over menial issues, to a point of bringing up the false accusations from his mother. I never once understood where they came from. One evening, he slapped me.

I THOUGHT IT WAS NORMAL

Having grown up in an abusive home, I had believed that it was normal for a man to hit his wife. I forgave him. He was remorseful the following day and everything went back to normal.

But it happened again. Repeatedly. And it kept progressing from punches to kicks. He would repeat the apology cycle each time and I would always forgive him. However, the worse it got, the more I questioned if this was the man I really married. I started learning of his infidelity as well, which he never hid from me. On top of everything, he would ask for his conjugal rights, no matter how hurt I was.

In 2006, he hit me so badly that I had to involve my family. We had resolved our differences by this time. My father, sister and stepbrothers came to help us solve our differences. During the negotiations, my father insisted that I should move back into his house until Mike paid his dowry, which he had never done. But my husband was very convincing- he told my family that he would pay his dues in a short time. I also asked for Mike to be given one more chance.

NOT ANSWERABLE TO ANYONE

Unfortunately, my father died before he could do anything and he saw this as leverage because he was not answerable to anyone anymore. The violence got worse- he would hit me as often as he could, even in front of our children. No one could intervene- not the rest of my family members, not the neighbours or the community. All I had were my children, who I was staying strong for.

At one point, Mike kicked me in the head and I collapsed. Neighbours had to rush me to hospital, where he claimed that I got injured after a fall. He stood his ground even after they reported it to the police. The fact that he was a military officer didn’t help as well. That was the time I made the decision not to die in this man’s hands.

I toiled hard to look for a family friend’s contact- who was close to me while growing up. I needed to cut off all links with Mike. My determination bore fruits and after explaining everything on phone, she agreed to help me and my children run away. She said she would house us in Nyamakima, Nairobi where she lived.

And on that Saturday in July 2010, we left and I have never looked back. We stayed with her for three months, until I was able to get a job as a hairdresser and was back on my feet.

I met my current partner in 2012 while going through counselling. He has been an integral part of my healing. We got our son in 2017. My daughter scored an A in her KCSE last year. She’s now in the university. My son is in Form Three. My family has brought me peace and sanity.

I decided to share my story on a Facebook group. The overwhelming feedback motivated me to help women in abusive marriages. I’m hopeful for the future.”

Mike*- Not his real name

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