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At nine-month pregnant, my ex-husband flogged me with sugarcane until I fainted -Domestic violence survivor

When it comes to marriage, counsellors say it is not how soon but how well. Consequences are dire when marriage happens to a young girl too soon and when she has no skills for economic survival.

Experts warn that such marriages violate women’s rights and places them at high risk of violence, exploitation, and abuse.

The experience of Barrister Elizabeth Omonigho Asekome, who was married off at 19, typifies what experts say, as reported by SONIA OKERE

Early life
Born in the 1970s, Elizabeth Omonigho Asekome grew up in Ekpoma, Edo State. As a child, one of her dreams was to become a lawyer. However, shortly after completing her secondary education, her father gave her hand in marriage to one of his friends. While they were performing the necessary marital rites, her husband promised to take good care of her and sponsor her tertiary education. He didn’t fulfil any of his promises. While narrating her experience, Elizabeth said,

“When I got married at the age of 19, the elders advised me to be a submissive wife, and I listened to them. However, to the man I married, submission meant slavery and suppression. I wasn’t allowed to air my opinion regarding any matter in the home. I did several menial jobs, and after collecting my wages, I would submit them to my husband. He used my money to chase girlfriends. He disrespected me so much that he would bring his concubines to our home, even when I was around.

I married at 19. At 22, I developed high blood pressure and was taking drugs. By 28, I was a divorced mother-of-three

“My ex-husband was from a polygamous family. So, when I complained about his infidelity, his mother told me that he had the right to marry more than one wife. Since they supported him, he kept sleeping with different women and was infecting me with sexually transmitted diseases.”

Elizabeth and her children

The domestic violence experience
Aside from being promiscuous, Elizabeth said her ex-husband abused her physically, verbally, and emotionally. When she sought advice from some friends and family, they told her to continue to endure the abuse. Even some spiritual leaders kept telling her that God hates separation; therefore, she should continue to pray for her ex-husband to change. Speaking on how she survived domestic violence, Elizabeth said,

As a single mother for over nine years, I experienced discrimination, stigmatisation, and criticisms

“My ex-husband had temper issues, and he used to beat me up over unnecessary matters. In fact, abusing me boosted his ego, and that was why he did it almost every week. That man hated me and my children so much. There was a day he instructed my daughter not to go outside and play. Later on, while I was cooking, I asked my daughter to throw away dirty water. So, when she went outside, her father started beating her.

“When I heard the noise, I rushed out and saw my daughter bleeding from the nose and crying. I started pleading that he should leave her alone because I was the one who sent her on an errand. Instead of listening to my explanation, he turned towards me and started flogging me with a long sugarcane. He beat me until I fainted.

I did several menial jobs, and after collecting my wages, I would submit it to my ex-husband. He used my money to chase girls

“Meanwhile, I was nine months pregnant when this incident happened, and when I woke up in the hospital, the doctor said it was a miracle that I survived that encounter. Sadly, my baby was born with a dislocated shoulder.

“There was another time he used the metallic head of his belt to flog me and hit my head on the floor. He also stripped me naked in the presence of my children. While I was crying and bleeding from the nose, my four-years old son said, ‘Mummy, don’t worry; when I grow up, I will buy a gun and kill him.’

“That statement made me realise that I needed to take my kids out of that jungle we called home, especially for the sake of their mental health. I had no transportation fare to return to Ekpoma, and there were no telephones to contact my family. However, I made up my mind to leave. The initial attempts to run away were unsuccessful, but on August 26, 1998, I left that marriage and never looked back.”

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Surviving as a single mother
At the age of 28, Elizabeth became a single mother with three children. She was basically homeless because her father, who was strongly against divorce, refused to welcome her into his house. So, she took her children to live in a small church in Alagbado, a Lagos surburb. According to her, during service, the pastor used to urge members to contribute money for their upkeep.

I was nine-month pregnant when my ex-husband flogged me with a long sugarcane until I fainted. My baby was born with a dislocated shoulder

“We lived in the church for one month before moving in with my younger sister at Ago Palace Way, Okota, Lagos State. Since my dad was strongly against divorce, it took a while before he allowed us to return to his house in Ekpoma, Edo State.

“Meanwhile, he kept writing letters to my ex-husband, who didn’t respond. Later on, we heard that he had married another young virgin. My divorce was filed in 1998, and the bride price was returned on March 19th, 2000.

“During the court proceedings, my ex-husband was asked to pay N5,000 for child support, but he only paid once. So, that was how I started struggling to provide for my kids. I became a jack of all trades to survive. I braided hair, sold kola nuts, fufu, yam, grain, etc.

“I still remember when we used to pick condemned plastics and metals from the road. Then we would resell them for a token and use the money to buy food. My children really suffered with me. There was a time they didn’t go to school for one year. I couldn’t even afford to feed them properly or buy them new clothes. During this period of hardship, we kept going to church and praying to God to help us.”

One day he beat me in the presence of our children. While I was crying and bleeding, my four-year-old son said, ‘Mummy, don’t worry; when I grow up, I will buy a gun and kill him

The beginning of a new dawn
While Elizabeth was still struggling to make ends meet, she got an offer to work as a photocopier at Ambrose Ali University, and that was where she met some angels in form of humans who changed her story.

“Back then, I got a job to work as a photocopier at the Faculty of Law, and my salary was N600 (six hundred naira) monthly.

“One day, a man came to make a photocopy and forgot his wallet in the library. When I saw it, I quickly ran after him and returned it. He was very happy because I didn’t steal the money that was in it. So, he told me that he would reward me for my honesty. I later found out that he was the dean of the Faculty of Law.

“A few days later, he invited me to his office. When I got there, he asked me about myself, and I told him everything. After listening to my sad story, his wife had pity on me, and she told the dean to help me.

I and my kids used to pick used plastics and metals which we sold for a token and used the money to buy food

“His wife enrolled my children in a private school and paid their school fees. When the dean asked me if I wanted to further my education, I said yes. Then, through his recommendation, I got admitted into the Faculty of Law as a part-time student. Before then, I had obtained an OND in Accounting, so he helped me secure the position of treasurer at the university.

“God used that family to rewrite my story. After I got my LLB degree from Ambrose Ali University, I was sponsored to attend the Lagos Law School. God touched the hearts of my directors and pastors to bless me. Thankfully, on May 9, 2007, I was called to the Bar. Thereafter, I obtained my Master’s in Law from the University of Lagos.”

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Elizabeth Omonigho Asekome

The second marriage
While Elizabeth was smashing her academic and career goals, she also desired to get married again. Although she was still very beautiful and young, it was difficult to find a man who was willing to accept her and her children.

God used the Dean of AAU Law Faculty and his family to rewrite my story

“I was a single mother for over nine years, and during that period, I experienced discrimination, stigmatisation, and criticisms. Although I wanted to get married again, I wasn’t desperate about it. My main goal was to become successful and give my children a better life. So, I started investing in different businesses, and thankfully, God blessed the work of my hands. In fact, the same woman who was homeless and squatting in people’s homes eventually became a landlady.

“After achieving success, I intensified my prayers for a life partner. I met a few men who wanted me to be their mistress, but that wasn’t what I wanted. Then, in 2008, I received an email from a Nigerian man who was based in America. He got my email address from his friend, who was also my cousin.

“He was looking for a wife, and my cousin showed him a group picture of his sisters who were single. He said that when he saw me in that picture, he knew I was the woman he had been seeing in his dreams. So, he came back to Nigeria in May 2008 and married me. We have been together for more than 15 years. He also adopted my children and relocated us to America. In fact, whenever I count my blessings, I count him over and over again.”

I remarried in 2008 and my husband adopted my children and relocated us to America. whenever I count my blessings, I count him over and over again

Conclusion
When asked to leave a word of advice for women experiencing domestic violence, Elizabeth said,
“Living in a toxic environment can affect both your mental and physical health. My former husband used to hit my head on the wall, and that made me develop a chronic headache, which I still experience till this day.

“At the age of 22, I had developed high blood pressure and was taking drugs to regulate it. I even attempted suicide twice because I was depressed and felt I wasn’t worthy of anything good.

“The truth is that there are still some women who are enduring the worst situations in the name of marriage. If you are such a woman, I pray you learn to value your life and leave before it’s too late.

“Yes, life as a single mother can be very challenging, especially when you have no support system. So, upgrade yourself by getting a skill, pursuing your education, or starting a business.

“Finally, pray fervently, work hard, and keep believing that all your dreams will become a reality.”

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