Woman pleads for help as suspect who maimed her roams village

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By Nathan Ochunge | Wed,Nov 24 2021 11:00:00 EAT

 Janet Auma with her mother, Modesta Owino, at the Busia County Referral Hospital (Mumo Munuve/ Standard)

Are you in an abusive marriage? Pack your bags and leave. Now!

Those words, dripping with bitterness and regret, were spoken by Janet Auma from her bed at the Busia County Referral Hospital on Monday.

At only 22, Ms Auma has only started the journey to womanhood yet she faces a complicated future that she will have to navigate without the use of her hands.

“Do not listen to the advice of staying put and protecting your marriage. That is the mistake I made,” Auma told The Standard.

This mother of two blames her predicament on her husband, whom she claims tracked her down at her parents’ home last month where she had sought refuge from his bouts of rage, and mercilessly slashed her, leaving her for dead.

Auma says she met the man in 2018. They dated for a few months before moving in together in Kibomet in Kitale.

Before meeting him, she had left school after getting pregnant when she was only 17. At the time, she was a Form Two student at Buhuri Secondary School in Butula sub-County. To make matters worse, her boyfriend refused to take responsibility.

“I was seven months pregnant when I dropped out of school due to the stigma I faced,” said Auma.

But the new man was different, she reckoned, even offering to take care of her child.

“My husband also had two children from his previous marriage. We agreed to be responsible parents,” she said.

Eighteen months later, she became pregnant again. The husband had a sudden change of heart. “Our marriage ran into headwinds after giving birth. My husband told me that he would not take care of a child he had not sired.”

Auma says she asked her ex-boyfriend to come for his son, but that did not sit well with the man who accused her of infidelity.

She claims her husband beat her for no reason. “I always lived in fear, but fellow women would encourage me to stay put, insisting that marriage is full of challenges.”

One day she attended a parents-teachers meeting at the school where her husband’s two children were enrolled.

“When I came back home later in the afternoon, I found the television broken. My step-children told me that my son was responsible,” she said.

Auma says that he locked her and her son in the house and battered them.

“He would lift the baby and drop him on the floor while raining blows and kicks on me for at least one hour. We sustained serious injuries. At midnight, when we had retired to bed, he told me that he would kill me unless I replaced the television.

“In the morning, he gave his children money for breakfast and lunch but did not bother about us. I told my sister what had happened and she sent me Sh800 for fare to go back home.”

Auma says that her mother-in-law later visited her parents and pleaded with her to return to her matrimonial home, but she refused.

Instead, she moved to Nairobi where she got a job as a casual worker. In August this year, she returned home.

Auma says that when her husband got wind of her return, he visited and convinced her to go back to him.

“He claimed he had reformed. I agreed to go back to him against the wishes of my mother. After one week, the problems started again,” she said.

Auma says her mother sent her clothes but inside the bag, there was a T-shirt that did not belong to her.

Her husband accused her of accepting gifts from secret lovers and threatened to kill her.

The following day, he asked her to take their sick son to the hospital and gave her Sh700. This is the money she used as fare back home on October 26.

Auma says that her husband sent emissaries to convince her to go back home but she refused.

Fled on a motorcycle

On October 31, she says, her husband came to her parents’ home, attacked her with a panga and fled on a motorcycle.

“I was picking firewood when I saw him approaching, wielding a panga. His face was covered but I could identify him easily by his walking style. I stood still and pleaded with him not to harm me, but he went ahead and slashed at my hands.

“He was targeting my head but I used my hands to protect myself. My left hand was completely chopped off,” she said.

And despite reporting the savage attack at Butula Police Station, investigations appear to have fizzled out. Bumala Police Commander Jacob Chelimo told The Standard that they are still looking for the suspect.

Auma’s mother, Modesta Owino, said she was worried that the man will go scot-free. “He has been spotted in our village during evening hours, and we are afraid that he could strike again. We want the police to protect us.”

Gentrix Sanda, a medical social worker at the hospital’s gender-based violence centre, said Auma should be taken to a safe house.

The nurse in-charge, Violet Omoto, said Auma is out of danger but needs specialised care. Ms Omoto expressed concern that Busia is leading in the region in cases of violence against women.

“Every month, 22 cases of gender-based violence are reported at the referral hospital. Between September last year to date, we have recorded 309 cases,” she said.

Auma has vowed never to get married. But even as the wounds heal, there is still the matter of a Sh50,000 hospital bill that must be cleared. And as she bowed her head and stared long and hard at the bandaged nubs where her hands used to be, a final request: “I appeal to well-wishers to help me get artificial hands and clear the hospital bill.”

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