Let us talk about Abuse and Love. Growing up as a child, I saw my mother being physically, emotionally, mentally abused by my father. She was beaten, violated, abused – but not once did she ever mention this to anyone. One day, I asked my mother why she had to take all the pain, the violence and abuse she was going through in the hands of my father all to herself. Guess what… She said, my daughter listen, “your father hits me, he beats me, he hurts me because he loves me.”
Hearing such words from a bleeding and swollen woman made me curious to want to find out more about this love which hurts. I therefore carried a research among my friends from my neighborhood and to my surprise most children confessed their mothers were equally being abused by their fathers.
I went to ask my grandmother a question I have not been able to forget. I asked, “Grandma, why is it that most women are being abused in their homes and never open up to share with other people or seek help?“ She replied bitterly, “Don’t you ever speak of such again! You are only a child, what do you know?”
Remembering what my mother was going through, with tears in my eyes, almost dropping, she looked at me and said, “You see, when a man loves you, he will hurt you, because if he does not, then he does not love you. If it does not hurt, then it is not love. I grew up with this notion because this is what I saw, and was told.
One day at school, a man came who was teaching about abuse, gender- based violence and other forms of violent acts and how they can be reported. I followed this man and asked more questions. Shockingly, his answers were different from my mother’s and grandmother’s. He said, “If it hurts, then it is not love”.
Confused as I was, I started reading more about abuse and I discovered that most women are abused, violated in their homes and they never speak up. They are silent about it and in this way, many are dying slowly.
Years after my father’s passing, I asked my mother if she felt loved because now, dad was no more able to hurt her. She looked at me and said, “I feel loved, but you will understand when you have your own home.”
Let us talk about love and abuse in a broader sense. Most of our African traditions consider women to be weaker and inferior to men. They are advised and taught to be submissive and to endure all forms of abuse from their spouses.
This has brought about the negative interpretation of what love is. African women believe that love must hurt. This all points back to our ancestors who were taught that a man who does not beat his wife does not love her. Husbands were not taught to protect their wives; instead, they were taught to express love through violence. But, is that not cruelty?
I ask myself this question, What is love, how is it expressed, what are its characteristics, is this all there is to being loved – hurt and abuse?
In trying to respond, I found myself developing interest in the Thursdays in Black campaign, which fights against all forms of violence against women. And so, to share my thoughts, with my background, interactions and understanding of love, I can safely say, love does not hurt, it does the opposite. It heals.
Love in its simplest, purest form should feel like a safety net. With love must come freedom. This is why Paul writes in 1 Cor13:4-8 that ‘Love is patient, love is kind….”
In other words, love brings peace. Love should not and must never promote violence, love does not hurt, abuse does. If love is causing you pain, then something is wrong. All human beings deserve to be cared for, to be appreciated and to be protected. Hence expressing love, not subjecting them to pain and abuse.
My mother, who was abused by my late father, deserved to be loved. That woman, who has missed her interviews today because she is in pain, she is bruised, she was beaten by her husband for not opening the door early as he walked in around midnight when he came home drunk – she deserves to be loved. That young lady who can’t go to school due to her father’s abusive acts – she deserves to be loved. That child, who was raped and in the process contracted diseases – she deserves to be loved. That girl child, who was beaten brutally and died, her life was shortened. Had she received even just a little affection, a little love, maybe she could be still alive. She deserved to be loved! We all do.
Love heals, it does not hurt. Africa has for a long time regarded women to be without a voice. Culture has in most cases contributed to violence against women in that women are taught to never take anything from their homes to outsiders, not to share their pain.
No! Do not tell me to keep quiet. Let me break the silence and make my voice be heard because I am not speaking just for myself, someone needs to hear this. It is never your fault that you are being abused. Talk to someone before it is too late. Let us fight this brutal and cowardly crime of violence against women. Love is the only thing in the world that covers all pain and makes someone feel wonderful again.
As we celebrate love this Valentine’s Day, which falls on a Thursday, Let us join the movement #ThursdaysinBlack. Abuse and violence against women should not be tolerated, in any form. Let us remember that Love HEALS and does not hurt. Abash GBV!