Two weeks ago, Beryl Ouma, a pregnant woman, died after a domestic brawl with her spouse at their home in Kahawa Sukari, Nairobi.
This, like the many stories of the dead women and girls that have been making headlines, is such a tragic tale.
What was more tragic, for me, was the interviews I watched of Beryl’s neighbours.
They said that they knew her. They spoke about how they listened as she screamed for help for four long hours.
According to one man, they couldn’t interfere because it was a private affair. A private affair that saw two lives lost.
Now, I’m a very curious person. I will ask many questions; ask for things to be repeated.
This is particularly so if the matter in question involves gender. I have been called nosy. Annoying.
Asked why I care so much that this happened to this woman or that man yet it doesn’t concern me. When people say this, you can almost hear them thinking, why can’t she just mind her own business?
The truth is that while it might not directly affect you, if an injustice occurs to another, if a hapless woman losses her life to a beating next door, it does concern you.
How? The way I see it, when it comes to domestic violence, silence is complicity.
If you do not care that a man or a woman is being beaten black and blue next door, if you can ignore their screams as you tuck your children in their beds and go on to have a good night, if it doesn’t bother you, then you approve of it.
I have heard that argument that you shouldn’t interfere when a woman is battered because even if she leaves, she will come back.
I have heard it said that ya waliojifunika blankets moja, usiingilie. I have heard a battered woman asked what is wrong with her. Why can’t she lave? Is she stupid? Doesn’t she love her life?
Being on the receiving end of physical abuse, tolerating it does not mean that a woman is stupid. It doesn’t mean that she doesn’t want to leave. Truth is, physical abuse always begins as emotional manipulation. By the time a woman is slapped, this man has got so into her head that she doesn’t think she has what it takes to leave. He has her mind so twisted that she might think she invited the violence. At this point, this woman needs you to speak up for her.
Even if you may not be in an official position of influence, you have a voice. Use it. Don’t worry that a person or two will hate you.
Don’t worry that a battered woman might come back to her abusive husband in the end. Do your part. If she does come back and things go south again, speak up for her again.
Sometimes people need more than one chance. And if you do your best no matter the outcome, then you will definitely sleep better at night.