Before you start reading, let me repeat that this is a long story [10 pages], and if you do not read to the end, you may not fully get it. Amaka Munonye is a Nigerian resident in BC, Canada and in the process of getting a divorce from her Ghanaian husband. At this stage, all you read are her side of the story. Their case is in court and she is afraid that if she keeps silent, she may lose custody of her children. She has shared the following story on her blog and I've been asked to help publicize it. If you know anyway to help, please do, or leave a comment in a respectful manner. Beyond that, I believe this is a story many women stand to learn a lot from. Thanks.
*Names have been initialed to protect third party privacy.
After I had bathed and got dressed, I called a woman called Uyi who was mostly looking after the children at that point. I told her to please come over as soon as possible, that C was raging, and I had to go to work, but that I was afraid of leaving him alone with the children, seeing as he was so angry. I felt that if there was another person in the house, he would not be able to do anything to them. Uyi said she was in Vancouver and that she would come very soon.
I called another person from the church, and he was fairly new at the time. His name was Manas. I wanted there to be somebody around C to provide a buffer between him and the children, seeing as he was in such a very angry state of mind. Manas soon arrived with another man called Emmanuel. These were both young guys in their early 30s, I believe. Also, unbeknownst to me, there was a third person, called Michael, who was in the car who had driven them down. I met them at the door and I asked them to come in. I said, “Please wait until Uyi arrives.” C then came down and asked them to leave. I gave Manas my key and I said, “I invited you, if he locks you out, just open the door and come in.” C said, “Okay, you're not going to work then! Get back inside!” And he started to drag me back in. I fought him off, and I think one of them held him, and I asked the men again to please wait for Uyi, who was going to arrive soon. I wanted there to be somebody there with my kids and with him. So he said, “Okay, if you guys want to stay, that's fine, but I'm taking the children and I'm going to go out.” So when I got outside to go to work, I went to the van that he usually drove – it was my van, I had got it – and I disabled the gears. That way he would be unable to drive the car with the kids in it, seeing how enraged he was. I went to work.
Until now, I have no idea what transpired in my absence, but within two hours of me being at my new job on my first day, a policeman came to my work. He said he wanted to talk to me, so I took him to the conference room, we sat down, and he asked me what had happened. I told him a little of my history, and I also told him what had happened earlier in the afternoon. He said that he had been told a different story. He said he had been told by C and by a man called Michael that I had stabbed C with two knives, and he had pictures of the knives. He said C had told him that I poured bleach on him from head to toe. I said, if I was carrying the jug of bleach, I would not be able to reach up to C's head, seeing as he was 6 foot 2, and I was 5 foot 8 and not dressed so that I would not be able to reach over his head. I also asked how about his clothes? He was fully dressed, did he show you clothes? He said, well no, but C took him upstairs and showed him the carpet stains where the bleach was and that the bottoms of his pant legs were bleached stained. I pointed out that if he had actually been poured bleach on from his head to his toe, all of his clothes and all of his body would be bleach stained, contrary to myself, who was not dressed and who had had the bleached poured from my head to my toes.
I said, okay, so if he said I stabbed him, where were the stab wounds? Were there marks on him? I told the officer that, look, I wasn't seeing when I was trying to grab onto anything, so I grabbed and I touched the bleach, and that the cover came off in my hand, and that was how he was able to just get it. But the officer said that both the men had said the same thing, so he had no choice – he had to arrest me. He however said, “Go and grab your things, grab your purse, grab your jacket – you and I are going to walk out of here like friends. I am not going to handcuff you.” I thanked him. I called the shift supervisor, I said I had to leave, and then I went with the policeman. He didn't cuff me until he got to the car. He was almost apologetic at the car, saying “Sorry, it's regulation. I'm must put cuffs on you.” I said, “That's fine.” He was really extremely kind. I was taken to jail again. I was there for two days. I was marked as a no-show at work, and I almost lost my brand new position, but for my union rep being so tough. I appeared in court the next day. I told the duty counsel my side of things, and they let me out on bail restricting me, however, from seeing my kids or going to my house. I stayed with Uyi at her boyfriend's place for the 10 days before I appeared again in court. When I came to the court, the prosecutor called me and he asked to speak with me. I told him the entire truth about what had happened, strongly stressing that none of the men were around when it happened. He said he thought the story C had told him was too strange, and he didn't believe a word of hit, especially given the bleach from head to toe without the clothes the show, and the stabbing with no evidence of any wound. In the court, he dismissed the charges completely, and I was free. I went home to my kids.
One would ask me at this point why I continued to stay in light of all that happened to me. My immediate response would be that, I don't know. I am not sure. For one thing, I was not thinking clearly. I had undergone too much trauma. I thought that it would not be the best thing for my children. I had seen women endure real horrors in their marriage just for the sake of their children, and I was also fairly sure that the way C was with other women, that soon he would find someone else he wanted to leave me for. The biggest thing though, I think, is I did not know then that as a Christian, that I had the option of leaving a terrible marriage. I had, after all, gone to Pastor P for help, and all he had said to me was, “Go home and sleep with him, and that should make things better.” I also didn't know who to go to for help. I didn't really have a friend who would be able to help, and I knew nothing about services for women in trouble, so I stayed. I was resigned to my fate, and I suffered.
Later that same year, I came home one evening after work and I took my kids as usual to bathe them. As I undressed my daughter, I noticed that her underwear was bloody. She was not yet four years old – why would her underwear be bloody? I was upset beyond belief. I called C asking him for an explanation. He said he had had to go to a meeting, so he had left my children with Manas and Michael and another woman, who I think was M's girlfriend, and that when he got there to pick him up, Ctine had no clothes on and that she and David had been put in separate rooms to nap. I was panic- stricken and upset, I was outraged. I was almost apoplectic. I was unable to breath. I called the police immediately. C started to rail about me calling the police, saying why would I let a member of his church get arrested? I told him he was insane and it looked like my daughter had been assaulted, and he was talking about his bloody church.
The police took statements from me and we were asked to go to BC Children's hospital immediately. Ctine was examined, and they told me that they could not find anything really conclusive. The doctor in charge of the assault team said there was some trauma to her labia, but that it was inconclusive. I took a few days off work. We were referred to VGH counselors as well. At the end of the day, they were unable to reach definite conclusions, but I remember one of the counselors in charge, she said to me, “Keep your daughter away from that man Manas, because it was he that Ctine had mentioned his name over and over.”
I stopped allowing Ctine to go to church, seeing as Ms was in charge of the kids there, but when I was working, C would still take her there and leave her with Ms even though he had been specifically told not to expose her to him. That was how uncaring he was towards her. He also frequently would leave them with people we didn't really know. Once, on my break at work, I called and I asked after the children, and he said “They're here.” So when I asked to speak with them, he said, “Oh, I left that at the beauty supply store near the Royal Bank, because the woman told me she was from near your village in Nigeria.” I asked him to go pick them up immediately, and said if he did not pick them up right away that I was going to call the police to go pick them up.
After C moved out in 2009, the kids and I finally had breathing space. I was finally at peace. I applied for a nights-only position at work, so I was able to fully care for my children. I got a sitter who I paid $30 a night to be with the kids while I worked. It came to $600 a month, which I paid very gratefully. I would take them to school and I would sleep until it was time to pick them up, then I would go pick them up, I would spend the day with them, and we would all go to bed at about 8:00 or 8:30 pm, then I would be up again by about 11:00 pm to go to work. It really was perfect.
However, after about a year, C went to court again to say that he wanted to have a valid order to be able to see the children on weekends. He wanted it in writing. He was already seeing them on weekends at that point. They were actually going to him and coming back. He said he wanted it documented. He said he also wanted to be taking the children to school in the mornings and dropping them off after school. I said I was perfectly fine with the arrangement I had. He refused. I was served documents again. I had to report to court. When I arrived at the court, his lawyer was there. I was unrepresented. I did not have the wherewithal to fight it, so I just gave in. Soon after, he started trying to have sex with me again, and I got a restraining order against him. So all he really could do was to pick up the children and then drop them off. He would always, always be late dropping them off and picking them up, and I complained about it. I felt that this was just going to continue forever, my continuing to have problems with him back and forth. I decided for the sake of peace of mind for the children and for myself that I would put some distance between us. I also did not want to risk getting raped again, seeing as he was now coming around ostensibly to pick up the kids and to drop them off. There were always phone calls or something about the children. At the end of 2010 I applied to and I got admitted to the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton to complete my degree in medical laboratory science, starting in September 2011. I told C in March that I would be going, but I would send the kids back home for holidays to see him. He said he would only agree if I would go back to sleeping with him until August when I would move, and that he would come along to New Brunswick for the first month until the kids were settled in school. I said that I would think about it. I had obtained $17,000 in funding, and my family in Nigeria had also sent me $20,000 so that the kids and I really would be fine. I told myself it was worth doing. I told myself I would sleep with him – after all, I had done it many times before. I knew how to pretend that I was not really there; I was not the one who he was sleeping with. I knew how to disassociate myself and my mind from the actual act of having sex with him. I really tried to convince myself that it was for a good cause; I was sacrificing for my children, that my going to school would be a good thing for them, that they would be in New Brunswick in a French environment, seeing as they were in French immersion, and that would really help them at school. I said my education is a good thing for myself, it's a good thing for the children, and I would be living by example to them, to show them how important school was. I had, after all, come to Canada over 13 years ago at that point to go to school, and C had managed to stop me the whole time.
I told myself I only had to endure this for less than a year. I agreed to sleep with him once a week. The first night he came, I tried really hard to wait until he was done. His perfume was overpowering, I was physically ill, and I was just very sick inside. I hated myself for agreeing. I knew that I was being manipulated and blackmailed all over again. It was almost as if I never left him, even though it had been over a whole year and a half since I left. I thought I was free, but this brought it all back again. I was his captive one more time, and I knew that I could not go through with it again. After he left I went and I had a shower for what seemed like forever, and I just vomited, and I tried to clear my head and my body of him.
Well, the next week when he called and said he was going to come, I said, sorry, I had my period, and then the week after that I said I was sick. I managed to put him off for about a month, and then he got frustrated and angry. I told him that, sorry, I could not sleep with him, and that he had other women, and why could he not be with them? There was nothing special about me, that surely there were other women who would be willing to sleep with him – what was important about me? What was special about me? I actually offered to pay him $5000 instead, and he said that $5000 dollars was too little. So we argued, he tried to get me to continue, and I said I absolutely could not, that I couldn't stand it and I would not. So, sorry – if he didn't want to take the $5000 dollars that I was offering, that there was really nothing I could do.
I honestly thought he would come for the money, because he wasn't working, he didn't have another source of income apart from the women who financed him and who bought him trips and stuff, and I didn't know if the church was paying him at the time or not, I was fairly confident that he would accept the money, but he didn't come for it.
I told my co-worker who headed a department that I planned to go away, that I would just move to New Brunswick, and that C had never obeyed any of his court orders, and that I felt he would not come after me to New Brunswick. She said she had seen a case before where the mom had moved with the kids and she had got arrested and forced back to British Columbia. She suggested I get a lawyer and I decided to try. At the end of it, though, we were unable to reach any sort of agreement, because they wanted me to agree to pay for him to come and visit the children in New Brunswick every month. How could I possibly afford to be flying him back and forth to New Brunswick, once a month? That would effectively decimate my savings, and I wasn't planning to work while I was going to school. The judge said, well, there's nothing you can do, we have to bring the case to trial, and the trial was set for August 2011. Well, I decided against going forward to trial for two reasons. First, I could not afford the legal costs, and secondly I would miss the beginning of the school year anyway. If the trial started in August, then I would not have time before school started in September for me to be able to start school with the rest of the class. So, I gave up on that. I said well, C has managed to kill this dream one more time. I sent the $20,000 dollars back to my mom, who was really actually quite grateful to have it back seeing as she had run into some financial distress at that point.
I just continued to go to work, and take the kids to school, and at the court hearing he was ordered to pay $235 dollars a month in support. I wasn't successful in stopping him from doing the pickups and the drop off of the kids to and from school, although he was never on time, so I still maintained my day care registration, and sometimes in the morning I would drop them at day care anyway, and he would pick them up after school. He would never be on time with the checks and once he brought the money, he would collect it all back within two weeks, saying that he had no money for gas or for milk for the children. He would also give me grocery lists to buy things for him, saying that he had no money, that the children would have nothing to eat when they came to his place if I didn’t give him the money. I soon got tired of buying food for his house, so I gave David my son the spare key, and asked C to drop them at my house immediately after school, and feed them, as I would always have food. He took the key from David and very soon, a lot of things started to disappear from my house in general, and from my freezers in particular. He would help himself to toilet paper, bath soap, the texturizers I bought for David, cleaning supplies, deodorant, beef and chicken from the freezers, meals that I painstakingly cooked and froze for our convenience he just made off with. Anything that he could take, he did. When I queried him, he would say “What? A big woman like you, working in a big hospital, you are crying about common food? What is food? You are a big educated rich woman, what is chicken to you? He always said mockingly. He also lied to the courts that he was working at a glass cutting factory. I know for a fact that he wasn’t working. He made arrangements with a friend of his who owned the factory to make out contract payments for him. I think the man soon tired of it, because within three months of the court saying he had to get a job, there was no further talk of his working at the factory.
His style of parenting was strictly at his convenience, and I was glad that I still had the convenience of the day care. He would frequently leave Canada and go to different countries, sponsored by women that he met on Facebook and on the internet. He would say he was going for church functions. I really didn't care in the least, to be honest. My children and I were fine and we were safe, and I wasn't bothered. When he was absent, it was always a relief for me, and I think that Ctine was also relieved as well, because when he picked them up from school in the afternoons, he would force her to eat large meals, which she really hated. She would always complain that he force fed her until she vomited. I told him over 20 to 30 times that if she said she was full that he absolutely had to stop feeding her, but he is not someone you can reason with or tell, please don't do this or such and such – that was just impossible. So he kept force feeding her, even until now, and she's almost eight.
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