Stories From Isolation: Maryam’s Story

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My name is Maryam and this is my story of growing up in an abusive home. I am from Yola in Adamawa state but I was born and raised in Kano.

Growing up, I didn’t have the ideal family. My mom met my dad when she was 18 and after what was supposed to be a relationship, things went south. They met on a Friday on her way to school and as she told me he never stopped following her around. Since that day her life was never the same.

One day, when she got tired of the chasing, she decided to stop playing hard to get and finally gave him a listening ear. Since then, they were inseparable. He’d walk her home from school and they’d exchange letters. The relationship became so serious that their parents were involved. A year into the relationship, Farouk decided to take her out to celebrate their milestone. They went to the hottest spot in town where they had dinner and talked all night. On their way home, they made a pit-stop and decided to take the relationship one step further. Couple of months later, my mom was pregnant.

She sought advice on how to handle the situation and her friend suggested that she just got it out of the way. So, she looked for ways to abort ,she tried going to a private clinic but they were asking for authorization from her “husband” or family,after more research she found a hospital ready to do her bidding,they fixed a day and asked her to come early for the appointment .However, when that day came she couldn’t do it because even though having the baby would end her, she couldn’t end its life. With that, she ran out of the clinic prepared to face the consequences.

A few weeks later, while sitting with her mom she felt an urgent need to throw up. So, she ran to the toilet and vomited twice! Her mom suspected her but never said a thing. She started to show signs of a pregnancy and the rumors began spread. So, when her dad had enough, he called her to explain herself. Alhaji Murtala sat my mom down and looked her straight in the eye and said, “Amina, I’ve been hearing a lot of things and I want you to clear my doubts. Addo mari redu na; are you pregnant?” he said. She looked into his eyes, fighting back her tears and answered “Yes.”

He slapped her and turned to her mother, Anty Halimatu, and said “See what your child has caused, she has decided to bring shame to this family and I will not allow it.” He immediately told her to pack her things because she was no longer part of his family. Anty Halimatu begged him to calm down and not make such rash decisions but his decision was final. With tears streaming down her face, she packed her bags and said goodbye.
​She went to Farouk but he denied her and the child. For the first time she understood the feeling of rejection so, went to stay with a friend. However, the stay was cut short because her father reported her to the judge and according to Islamic law, she was to be given a 100 strokes as punishment for fornication. So, that night, she packed her bags and never looked back.

She moved to another town and found a place to stay. And a few months later she delivered a baby girl. She named me Maryam and as much as she tried to hate me, the love was there. She tried to find something to do but she couldn’t find a job. So, with the little money she had left, she got a small place by the roadside and began to sell food. When I grew older I cleaned the house while she continued to sell her food. When she made enough money, she sent me off to school so I could get my own share of education. Even though my mom tried to do the best for me but she reminded me constantly that I was the cause of her problems.

My mom had a customer who always came. He always made excuses to stay longer because he enjoyed not only my mom’s food but also her company and the feeling was mutual. He started coming to our house to see her and he’d always come bearing gifts, sometimes he’d even play with me. My mum finally decided to marry Usman and settle down.

Daddy, as I called him was good to us for awhile until when the honeymoon phase was over, then reality began to set in. Suddenly, the fights began, they fought about everything from how many kids they wanted to finances, but the biggest fight was whether or not my mom could continue her business.My mom fought hard, so, she’d continue her business but Daddy was firmly against it and when the baby came, she decided to call it quits. Amira was the best sister ever. I cooed to her all day and looked for the slightest opportunity to take care of her.

Life wasn’t perfect but we were doing well until Daddy lost his job,at first he went out everyday to look for a job,he followed up on different promises but none was fruitful.He continued for a month without any positive result and when my mom got tired, she went back to her business. When Daddy lost hope, he found comfort in drinking.

Things were so bad I had to drop out of school to help my mum.I swept,cleaned and cooked while taking care of my little sister and on occasions that mama didn’t sell, I’d leave Amira with her and go to some houses to wash their clothes. While mama and I were hustling, daddy spent most of his time in front of the TV with a beer bottle beside him.

The abuse started one night while mama was out late, Amira and I were home alone or so I thought until I turned around and saw him staring at me with a dark look in his eyes. As he moved closer, he grabbed me putting his hand over my mouth and my screams became muffled sounds. He had his way with me and when he was done he said “Clean yourself up and if you ever speak about this to your mom, I’ll end you.” That night I cried myself to sleep. I was in so much pain but the thing was I couldn’t do anything or tell anyone. So, I did as I
was told and kept my mouth shut.

The sad thing was that he never stopped. Every time mama was out late, he’d come into the room and force himself on me. Even though I’d cry and push him away, it didn’t stop him. One night while he was trying to have his way with me I tried to resist him, so, he punched me in the face to assert his “rights” and I ended up with a terrible nose bleed. When he was about to leave the room he said “Clean yourself up and next time you’d know better not to fight.”

“You always sit home and do nothing while I’m out there working myself to death,” I heard my mom yelling. “You don’t even have the rights to complain, you should be grateful that I agreed to put up with you,” daddy said. “What do mean by that?” she said. “You know what I mean you worthless whore.” With that, he slapped her and I ran out before I got my own share.

While my mom was tendering to her wounds, I helped her clean them. For the first time ever, we had a real mother and daughter moment. I looked at her and saw how broken she was and to think that it was all my fault. If I was never born, she wouldn’t need to leave her fabulous life behind. As I was dressing her wounds, she looked up at me and said, “Your father contacted me and he wants you to live with them.”

A month later, I found myself packing to leave the only home I’ve known. I could see that my mom didn’t want me leaving but she knew it was for the best because as we both knew, I just didn’t belong there. The day of my departure came and I was anxious to say the least. There I was, twelve years later, planning to live with the very man who denied my existence. I had so many questions. I wanted to ask why he denied me; why did he throw my mom under the bus? And most importantly, why does he want me now? All the questions were out the door as soon as he walked in.

Never in my life have I seen a resemblance like the one I had with my real dad. I was the carbon copy of my dad, the only difference was that I was fairer in complexion. He picked me up and said. “Amma a muwni, you’ve grown so much.” I couldn’t even get mad because he was all I needed and when I hugged him, I felt so secure. My mom, on the other hand, wasn’t buying it. “Why do you want her now? Is it because you’ve realized that you’ve lost the best thing in your life? Or have you come to take advantage my daughter?”but she knew that leaving this toxic environment was my only chance of a normal life.

He assured my mom that his intentions were good and that he came to fix his mistakes. I packed my bags and said goodbye to my mom and my favorite sister. On the ride to my new home, he told me that he was married with 2 kids,fatima and Ahmed. As he pulled up to the gate of the house, I couldn’t help but to marvel at its beauty. I got to know my siblings and step mother,at first the kids were not too friendly but we eventually got along.

I still had nightmares about Daddy, Fatima my new friend and sister was there to help me calm down. Baba enrolled me as soon as he could, I was over the moon. After leaving school for almost two years I was so excited to be able to go back but the only problem was that I missed my mom.

After about 2 months of no contact from my mom,I decided to ask Baba if I could call.I called and it rang then Daddy picked up the phone. Hearing his voice, sent shivers down my spine and even though I wasn’t with him, I was scared for my life. I asked him about Mama and he replied “Why would you care? Na a achi amin na, didn’t you leave us?” I asked again and he told me that she had been ill for a while and she was in the hospital he said I should call back later and I did.I was so happy and emotional hearing her voice,I asked her if she was doing okay,I asked about Amira,told her I would come see her as soon as possible but she said I didn’t have to,I still kept insisting until she said a stern “NO,stay at your father’s home,where you are safe”.

That night I cried thinking about my mother and the abuse she might be going through right now,I worried about Amira and prayed he did not abuse her too and I made a promise to help my mum get out of that situation.

It’s been almost 2 years now but nothing much has changed although he now has a job, he still abuses her and these thoughts have haunting me up for days on end but my nightmares even got worse after this lockdown began.I have been able to visit them and help mama with some money for Amira but I have also started looking for a sustainable business she can do ,Alhamdulilah she has been able to reconciled with her parents but going back to her hometown might be difficult for so my Dad is helping me look for a better option for her and Amira.I just pray she comes out of this lockdown safe and sound.
#saynotodomesticviolence #storiesfromisolation

​By Aisha Mai

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