Reginaldah Tatu became a wife and mother at a young age. Her happiness was short-lived as her husband was abusive. This is her story:
My name is Tatu Reginaldah, a writer, author, interviewer, and humanitarian activist.
You are a GBV survivor, how did it start?
It started with verbal threats like: “I will cut you, put you in a sack and throw you far away and no one will ever know.” And this is after a small disagreement or sometimes nothing.
He would wake up and find fault in everything.
He moved from verbal abuse to slaps then kicks and one time he beat me so badly – he stepped on my chest and rubbed his feet on me like you would a rug at your doorstep, and fell the baby cot on me and kept kicking. He took me to the hospital and said I had been carjacked. I had a cracked rib. This is when I said enough was enough and left.
How did you cope with this type of anguish?
- I snapped and hit my husband, should I worry?
- Report: Violence against women, girls in Nairobi on the rise
Unfortunately, when you leave a violent relationship, people expect you to be okay because you are out after all.
It took me many years to feel normal again. There are triggers to deal with, my self-worth died, lost my dignity, and more. I did not have a therapist, I didn’t want my family to think I was still having problems, so I pretended that I had healed yet I was breaking inside.
The day I decided to turn my life around, healing began. I became more intentional about my emotions. My family supported me and walked the healing journey with me. I am well now and choose to help others walk through this journey.
Looking back now, do you think you could have done better?
Yes, I could have done better. I wasted almost 10 years wallowing in self-pity and not letting go of anger and allowing everything and everyone to be a trigger. I shunned help and therapy, yet had I acknowledged that I needed help and told the people close to me, they would have come to my rescue sooner. I would probably have seen a therapist and recovered much faster.
Tell us about your book ME:
My book ME is largely about my journey to freedom. The book talks about my story as a teenager, a child groomed by a family friend and forced into becoming a “wife” and mother. Things move so fast and violence and abuse become part of my life.
I eventually walk out but my suffering doesn’t stop. I have court cases (no one tells us how damaging cases are), emotional abuse from my perpetrator, and bankruptcy. ME shows my transformation from a naive little girl to a grown-up, aware of her emotions, and her surroundings and ready to rebuild that which she lost in those years.
Some people find it hard to leave abusive marriages, how would you advise them?
There are different reasons that make people stay – kids, finances, fear of ridicule, losing positions, police bribery, fear of prolonged court cases etc. These factors, however, do not change the fact that you will still be in abusive marriages if you do not take action.
Determine problems that need immediate help from a professional – such as physical abuse, infidelity, addictions, depression, and thoughts of suicide. What can be fixed, fix, what can’t, let go.
Know that successfully leaving an unhealthy relationship is complicated, but not impossible.
You are actively involved in supporting other GBV survivors, how is that working out?
Together with my team, we are working towards sensitising more people, especially in the slums, to what GBV is. Some think being beaten by your husband is discipline, it is not.
With enough resources, we want to have a centre that runs 24/7 as GBV doesn’t take a break. We intend to get more counsellors and lawyers on board to assist with the increasing number of victims.
Your parting shot...
If you are suffering in silence, reach out to somebody. My organisation may not be able to solve all your problems now, but we envision a future where we can have easier access to affordable medication, schooling, child care, and jobs that can accelerate the healing, recovery, and rebuilding lives of victims. Get out before you get killed.