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.
I stopped thinking about running away, or not being married to C. I had no plans for escape. I was trapped and that was it. I was going to stay married and take him to Canada. Things would be better there I promised myself. I said C would not be able to beat me with a stick or do all the other evil things he had done to me, or rape me just whenever he felt like it. I would be in a safe environment, and maybe once he was in Canada, he would think I wasn’t good enough for him, or he would find another woman to prey on. I started feeling a bit hopeful. I was sick of being in Ghana by now. I decided to petition the High Commissioner to allow for C’s processing to be expedited so that I could return home to Canada.
I had given up my job, my apartment, sold my car, and borrowed some money from my friend Twy to add to what I had saved up. All of that was exhausted. I was also constantly on the verge of a major asthma attack due to the poorer air quality, and my inhalers were nearly gone. I needed to get out of Ghana. I also thought that I was pregnant, because I hadn’t had a period in 3 months and was suffering severe nausea and vomiting. Now, I wonder if I really was, and had miscarried early or if the severe stress and pressure that I was under had caused a hormonal imbalance. I guess I’ll never know.
The High Commission soon answered and agreed that the application was straight forward, and that C could come for his medical forms. He went to Accra to pick them up. I stayed in the room and threw up. I paid for the medicals to be done, and soon the results were out. I was really looking forward to returning to Canada. I longed to breathe easier, and to return to school as soon as possible. Schooling was my initial reason for moving to Canada, and I could not lose sight of that goal. After C got his Permanent Resident visa, I told him that I would return to Canada, in order to look for money to send to him to come, but he refused totally.
He said we would go together, or that we would not go at all. He asked me to go to Nigeria to get money from my father. I said no! My father thinks that I am in School in Canada. How am I going to explain my presence in Africa? I also said that my mom would take a look at me and know that there was something wrong with me, as I am so sick. He asked me to call my uncle in the UK. I did, but my sister Ifeoma had told him that I was married to C. He was very angry about it, and he refused to help me. He said, “C is a man, let him find the money”. The only one I could think of was a man I will call Sunny to protect his family. He and I had met in Nigeria, and he helped me during the process of applying for my immigrant visa. We were really good friends. His wife was from near my village, and she and I spent a lot of time together, even though it was Sunny whom I had first met and become friends with. He was also a Canadian resident, and he shuttled back and forth between Lagos Nigeria where he had his businesses and Scarborough Ontario where he lived. I called him and told him my situation, and that I needed $5000 and without hesitation, he said, sure come to Lagos and get it. I said I couldn’t come to Lagos without seeing my parents, that it would be too difficult for me. He understood, and said he would fly into Ghana to give me the money and return the next day. That’s how good of a friend he was.
Sunny did come to Accra the next day, and of course C went with me to his hotel, where he gave me the money.; being first and foremost a business man, he had drawn up an agreement between us which basically said that I would pay him back the money once I returned to work in Canada, and that I would pay $500 a month for 10 months through the Royal Bank ‘pay other Royal Bank Customer’ feature online since we both had Royal Bank accounts. I still have a copy of the agreement.
I went and booked the tickets for the trip back to Canada. I booked two different seats, one in the middle for him, and one in the far back, near the toilets in the back for myself; I had read somewhere that in the event of a plane crash that the survivors were usually from the tail end of the aircraft. I figured that if the plane crashed, I would survive and he wouldn’t. I was so desperate to get away from him that I didn’t think about the other passengers in the plane. He loomed so large in my life, that it was as if he was the only person apart from me in the world. I couldn’t see beyond my intense fear of him. The plane didn’t crash, and we arrived in Frankfurt. It was the saddest thing you ever saw. We walked apart like the strangers that we were. I gave him money and said go find something to eat, and I went to look for the showers. I paid some money and spent the better part of an hour in the showers trying to wash away the dirt and grime and suffering and shame I had just survived. I cried great tears and just kept taking in deep breaths to give my lungs a break from the red dust of Ghana.
I then went to a café at the top of a set of escalators and sat down, looking out onto the level below. I don’t know where C had gone to, but I saw him at the bottom of the escalators. I soon realized that he didn’t know how to come up on the apparently ‘moving staircase’. As I watched, he suddenly took a jump onto the up escalator and then screamed all the way to the top where he jumped off and landed on both hands and knees. As someone gave him a hand up to his feet, I sat in the café and covered my face with the newspaper I had bought and just howled in laughter. I hadn’t laughed for months, and it was just comical in the extreme for me to see the big bad evil captor afraid of an escalator. I saw him stand at the top and watched him, as he watched people getting on and off the escalators.
After I ate, I took him down the escalators once more, as I told him we had to have our boarding passes validated downstairs; same thing. He jumped on, held on tightly, and then jumped off at the bottom, again falling down. I don’t know how I kept from screaming in laughter, but I didn’t. When we arrived in Vancouver, I could hardly wait to see a repeat performance of escalator-phobia at the Vancouver airport, but sadly there were stairs as well, and he took the stairs. Although once in Canada, even though we stayed at the basement suite that I shared with my friend Rose and we could have gone to the Service Canada (then HRSDC), office just down the road on King George avenue to get him a Social Insurance number and all the things new immigrants had to do, I took him to the downtown office because there are a wicked set of escalators in the Granville street Skytrain station, and I had to see him on those. He was also afraid of the Skytrain, and kept demanding to know where the driver was. I was dying of laughter. I told him that the driver might be in another car, and that I would go see.
I got off, left him and went to the next car, where I just was falling over in laughter. I still remember the looks of the other people on the train till today as they also smiled at me and some laughed along with me wondering what was funny I am sure, as I looked through to the other car watching C frantically looking around for me and possibly the driver. I went back and told him I couldn’t find the driver. When we arrived at Granville station, he didn’t want to go up the escalators, but the push of people forced to him to. On our way back he sat on the down escalators and rode on his behind all the way down, before falling off at the bottom. I discovered that he had a fear of heights. I wish it had occurred to me in those days, I would have taken him to the top of the Space Needle in Seattle WA.
I promised myself I would research all the escalator locations in Vancouver and take him on all of them, but I never did. I also never knew how or when he found out that the Skytrain has no drivers. We didn’t talk that much.
We arrived in Vancouver in the first week of December 2001; I had made up my mind after the death of Lindsay that I would stay married to C. I didn’t think I had any other option. I called Ifeoma in Nigeria and told her to let my mum know that I was married to C. My mum called me back within a few hours and asked ‘what is this nonsense about marrying anyone?’ Where did you see C? I couldn’t tell her the whole story. I said Ifeoma will explain. She said, ‘just get that marriage nonsense out of your head. You are not married, we do not recognize it. Our daughters do not get given away like trinkets. Where is his family and where is your dowry? You are not married in our eyes and in the eyes of our community, so just forget it. Your father has been ill, and I am not even going to mention this to him. Face your studies and finish your degree. Your father and I will come for your graduation next year, and we will sort out this rubbish then. She didn’t know I had not been in the university for over a year at that point. I couldn’t say anything more to her, so I said ‘ok mummy’ and that was it. I started trying to get back to my job at the Surrey Tax Centre. I called and left many messages for my supervisor Merrill, as I needed to go back to work so that I could start to repay Sunny his money. I did not get any answer. I told C that he would need to start looking for a job. He said ‘I am a pastor, and pastors don’t work’. I said well you are going to need to work here. Everybody works. Either that or you can go to school, so you can learn to read and write properly. His reading and writing was at about grade 1 level. I said it doesn’t matter what job you get here, you’re going to need to be able to read. Everything here is about paper and forms and there is nothing that you do that will not require the ability to read and write, not just working. I reminded him about the money for Sunny and he just started to scream at me. ‘Do you think I don’t know that that big man was your boyfriend? I said “yes, every man in the world is my boyfriend”. I said “do you think that if he was my boyfriend that I would have taken you to meet him”? “I know what you do! You kill people. I know what you did to Lindsay, and I know what you did to my friend Nonso. You are a killer. He is not my boyfriend, he has never been. If he was you would have killed him by now. His wife is from my village, we are just friends. He is a very kind person, but you know nothing about kindness”. He said “how can anyone give you $5000”. I said ‘my parents are not paupers; my friends are all rich people.’ You are the only poor person that I know. He said well, I am not working and that man is getting nothing from me. We argued on and off about it for a week. Christmas and New Year 2002 came and went. I remember nothing about it.
On the evening of January 6th 2002, he came in the door, I don’t recall where he had gone to, and he brought a sheet of paper to me, and said, can you tell me what this says? I was sitting at the computer filling out job applications, as I had not yet received a call back from my supervisor, even though I called her on an almost daily basis. I said ‘no, I will never read anything for you. I have told you to go to school to learn English. The government and many churches and other places have free ESL for new immigrants, which you are, so here, I pushed a big telephone book towards him, look there, and you will see ESL, go find a place to learn your English. In those days, TELUS was called BCTel, and they published this big phone directory called the Whitepages. It had to have been about 8-10lbs in weight if not more. He picked up the phone book and threw it at my face. I got up to run, and he caught me and threw me down and the ground and just started to beat me. I couldn’t get up. I was screaming for the landlord upstairs ‘Pinky, Pinky help me’ I was on the ground, and his foot was close by, so I grabbed it, and before he could move, I bit him just above his ankle. That earned me even more blows and kicks. Then he suddenly stopped and ran outside. I didn’t know that Pinky had heard me and had called the police. I got up off the ground and was going to sit on the couch when a policeman came in; he said we talked with your husband and he said asked you a question about that sheet of paper, and you attacked him with a phonebook, causing him to fall on the ground, at which point you proceeded to bite him. I was dumbstruck. I couldn’t respond for a while. I told the officer what had truly happened and he said, ok where did he hit you, show me the bruises. This is where I will continually decry the fact that just high school graduates are allowed to enroll in the police force. There should be a limit of at least a university degree before one can become a policeman considering the level of public contact that they have. Since being with C, I have had police encounters a total of five times, and it was only once out of those five times that I ever heard any of the policemen show any evidence of intelligence; either that, or C hypnotized them, something I am now willing to consider, after everything that I know of him. I said to the policeman. I am really dark skinned; you are not going to see any bruises on me. He said, but I see bite marks on him. I said, but he threw me on the ground and was beating me. I was defending myself, I was on the ground, and his leg was the closest thing to me. He said I am arresting you based on the evidence that I see. So within three weeks of C arriving in Canada, I was in jail for the first time in my life. I was released on bail the next day, on my own recognizance, and placed on a peace bond. I had to take an anger management course, and report to a bail supervisor for a couple of months. I returned to the house, and packed up all my things. I called my roommate Rose and told her that I was leaving, that I would come for my computer the next day. C refused to allow me to leave. He was very excited about my having been arrested. He said ‘Rubbish Canada. I thought they said women are the owners of this country? I will show you that I am in charge of you here’. He said if I tried to leave that he would cut his leg with a knife and he would call the police and I would be back in jail; this at a time when I was under a peace bond. I told him that he’d wanted to come to Canada and that he was now in Canada; so that he was free to do whatever he wanted, but that I would not be staying.
He tried to beat me again, but I ran into the room and locked the door, determined to leave the next day. The next morning he was after me again. He rained all kinds of curses on me. He said if I didn’t show him some respect that he would curse me and I would not be able to get a job or go back to school. I ended up not moving out, but I also would not allow him to sleep in the room or on my bed. Every night he would come to force himself on me. When I tried to refuse, he would slap me on the face many times as he raped me and he would call me prisoner. He would cut off my air supply by putting his arm just below my neck and leaning on me, until I would be gasping in panic and crying for my inhaler, which he never gave me until he was done. He would be chanting prisoner where is your uniform repeatedly.
I finally devised a way to keep him out of the bed. I went to Wal-Mart and bought a waterproof mattress cover. Every night I would drink about three glasses of water and would not go pee when I felt like. After he raped me and fell asleep, I would then pee on the bed, soaking him and the whole bed. He would then wake up and call me all kinds of names, before leaving to sleep on the couch. I would then go bathe, and then change the sheets before sleeping peacefully alone in my bed. Whenever he came to my bed, he was sure to be peed on, but whenever he didn’t, my bed would be dry. I did this for months, and wondered that he never caught on.
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