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I forgive you now, and if you repeat this mistake in future, I will still forgive you!” These words are so automatic for the many times I have spoken them to my now ex-husband. This is a man who has on countless episodes beaten and stripped me naked in public, has set his mistresses against me and would have once thrown me down from the third floor of our apartment if neighbours and onlookers hadn’t intervened. I am separated from him for over five years now but if he comes back today and asks for forgiveness, I would repeat the words without an iota of remorse.
Don’t be too fast to judge me or to think that I forgive this man because I need financial support from him. Far from it! If I ever demanded anything from him, I was only reminding him of his roles as the father of our two children. I have bought my children and I a big house where we live very comfortably. I forgive this man because he is the father of my children and was and my first love.
I am a 33-year-old modelling consultant and a Public Relations practitioner. I wake up every morning eager to help someone work on their self-esteem by improving their looks, changing their wardrobes and helping build their confidence enough to stand in front of any audience. I train models and prepare different people for different occasions. I am very passionate about helping women to build their self-esteem because my ex-husband had almost succeeded in robbing me of my sense of worth. It took me years to rebuild it and today when I look at myself as a cover model on magazines, it excites me the more to reach out and help many abused women out there to gain confidence. To me, modelling is more of a talent and passion than training. I have attended many modelling workshops just to polish my skills which started when I was a small girl.
I grew up in the heart of Nairobi’s Kibera slums; in abject poverty. I am the fourth born in a family of seven. Even as we squeezed in a two-roomed house in the congested slums I ensured my clothes were neatly washed and ironed. How I left the house especially when our father would treat us to an outing to Uhuru Park mattered a lot. I would later carry this passion to Consolata Girls’ High School in Embu County between 1999 and 2002. That was after completing primary education at Toi Primary School in Nairobi. At school I was famous for dressing up girls and making their hair in readiness for either music or drama festivals. But my primary goal in life was to study hard and get my family out of poverty. We would sometimes go without breakfast or with only one meal in a day. My parents would come home looking defeated especially after a day’s struggle to feed us.
Though I didn’t join university, I joined Griffins College thereafter and qualified with a diploma in Customer Care. I got a job pretty soon with a real estate company in Westlands where I met the father of my children. He was working in the accounts department. He was charming, or so he looked, and proved to me without a speck of doubt that he loved me and was ready to settle with me in marriage. We did just a few coffee and lunch dates and in the second week he moved with me in my small apartment in Westlands. In him I saw a man who would tame me from my lavish spending, clubbing and partying and who would make me the proverbial “wife of noble character” that I had always desired. Incidentally, I was earning more than him and he chose to manage our finances. I saw an authoritative husband who was out to make me the best wife anyone would desire to have. How terribly misinformed I was! Before I met him I used to go out drinking on weekends with my girlfriends perhaps to compensate the poverty-stricken life that I had lived. In a month’s time, my prince charming declared he was ready to meet my parents. They disregarded him at first sight but I vowed to fight tooth and nail for a man who had trusted me so soon. Call me naïve if you may but I categorically defied my mother’s advice and continued living with him. It was terrible for me when my man’s hidden claws started popping out, I had to suffer in shameful silence out of embarrassment because of the strength with which I had defended him with. In the second month of our stay together he gave a set of rules that I had to obey to the letter. I had to stop modelling and would change my entire wardrode to what he described as modest dressing fit for a respectable man’s wife. I was supposed to change my friends and understand that he would be top in the list of my best friends; no more women chamas or having girls visit our apartment. Cardinal rule: he should never arrive home before me. I embraced all this mistaking it for possessive love which I kept assuring myself he would outgrow. But I got the shock of my life when in the third month he called me and because my phone was on silent mode, I didn’t hear. I was in the house and had informed him, so therefore he left the office and stormed the house. “Babie you are home so early....” I had started saying but he grabbed me by the neck and dragged me to the bedroom amid unpalatable insults.
I was starting to get confused at what looked like a crazy joke when he shouted at me to produce the man I was with when he called and I couldn’t hear his call. He checked under the bed, on the shelves and dashed like a possessed man to the kitchen where he upset all the utensils. When he couldn’t get what or whoever he was looking for, he turned his wrath on me and started beating me. I was too puzzled and frightened to even scream or cry. He went to the kitchen and came with a bucketful of cold water and splashed it on me! He left but when he later came back, he was all apologetic and assured me that it would never happen again but I should let him be the man. Faithfully, I forgave him and told him I would do my best to be a good wife. But that would mark the beginning of a long life of brutality with him. He later got a better job and was now earning more than me so we decided to start a family.
I got pregnant with our first baby hoping things would change with a baby and house-help in the house. We moved to a bigger house but he started to bring women to my very bedroom and if I caught him, he would rough me up in their presence. One memorable night when our daughter was only three, he arrived home very late and I casually asked him how he got late. He pounced on me and mercilessly started beating me. As was habit, he ripped off my nightdress and raped me. He then carried me naked to the balcony and murmured that he’d finish “this” once and for all by throwing me down from the third floor. Though I had pridefully kept my pain to myself over the years, I had to do the wisest thing to save my life because he looked like he was sure to make good the threat. I screamed loudly and my house help opened for the neighbours who had been woken up by the commotion. The women covered my nudity while the men restrained my husband. He kept saying it was a family matter and that the neighbours shouldn’t intrude. As usual he went on his knees after that and cried reminding me of my forgiving heart and that we already had a daughter. I for the umpteenth time forgave him. All this time my parents didn’t know what I was going through because I was too embarrassed to tell them. The neighbours also declared that helping me was like standing between a fool and his destiny so I never involved them again though I would lock myself in the kitchen or with the house help any time he turned wild. I got a new job with an airline and was doing pretty well safe for my brutal marriage. I kept praying and hoping my husband would change for the better. But the last straw that broke the camel’s back was right at the corner. We had a company party at the airline and though he wasn’t invited he insisted on attending. He started dancing with my colleagues and he seemingly was having such a good time. I decided to start dancing right behind him and the two ladies he was dancing with. When he turned and saw me dancing though alone he sprang to me like a leopard. “Which decent wife dances in public attracting all men in such a party?” he shouted and dragged me back to the seat by the hair. He gave me five minutes to wind up so we’d leave. When I hesitated, he tore my top and was about to pull down my trousers when the bouncers came and dragged him out. The ladies gave me their jackets because he also tore my bra and my breasts were exposed. I later found him at home and he beat me with all weapons in sight. Because he stripped me naked I ran out naked with on looking neighbours throwing shawls to me.
That is when I decided to move out to give him time to decide if he truly wanted me to be his wife. I flourished in business and was doing extremely well for over three years that I stayed far from him. Then somehow we met again and he cried and asked if we could save our marriage. Though I had long bought my own house and a car, I didn’t allow him to come to live with us but we started dating again. Before I knew it, I was pregnant with my second baby! Again the ugly scenes restarted. I could call him and a woman would answer and arrogantly tell me that he didn’t want to talk to me. She would take their photos and send them to me and write to me insulting messages. I once responded to her and indicated that though he gave her my number to insult me, he was still the father of my children. He called to say I would pay dearly for insulting his girlfriend and teamed up with her to have me arrested by the police.
I explained my part of the story when I got to the police station and showed them the messages she had been forwarding to me. The police believed my story and didn’t book me in the cells. These are among hundreds of humiliations my ex-husband has taken me through. I now live comfortably with my children and I have since moved my parents to a better place. I work hard for my children and I feel I don’t deserve the humiliation my ex-husband took me through. However, I don’t hate him and I believe if he came back and apologised, I would repeat the words I have always said: “I forgive you now, and if you make the same mistake I will still forgive you.