“I’ve lost my self-confidence and I’ve lost my self-worth. I asked myself why these things were happening to me.” These are the words of Sherifat Abu Ismaila, a resident of Bwari, Abuja, who says she has suffered physical abuse from her husband since they got married in 2009.
The 39-year-old mother of three recalled that everything changed just a year after she married Nurudeen, her banker husband.
“The first time he hit me was after he travelled for work. When he came back, I was packing his bag when I saw a condom and asked him why he had one since we just got married,” she told newsmen.
“Before I could finish speaking, he slapped me so hard that I started crying. I didn’t know what to do because I knew the kind of family I came from. I couldn’t really tell my family what was happening. I’ve just been bottling up a lot of things. I’ve gone through a lot.”
Sherifat said she did not tell anyone about her predicament until two years ago during Ramadan, when her husband threw her out of the house. Her husband had just lost his dad, she said.
“The children were playing loudly in the house. I called them and said they should go and sit down since we just lost their grandfather. My husband heard me speaking and thought I was scolding the children. Before I could explain, he started to beat me and then chased me out of the compound without my hijab,” she said as she stifled tears.
The incident was particularly memorable to Sherifat because according to her, she adorns herself in a full hijab when outside her home.
“It was at this point I could no longer bear it and decided to call my older cousin who also lives in Abuja. He came and packed my things to his place. After everything, my husband came to beg and said he would change. I called one of my other cousins who is a lawyer and he took my husband to court where he promised to never do such a thing again and said the court should hold it against him if he did,” she said.
“My family members said since he has promised in court, I should go back home.”
Unfortunately for Sherifat, after she went back, “everything became worse than they were before I left”.
Sherifat also said she suffered sexual neglect from her husband, adding that she seldom had sex with him.
“My husband didn’t touch me (sexually) since December last year till March this year after which I took in. As we speak, I am seven weeks pregnant and he knows about it,” she said.
“When I need him, he’ll tell me to leave him alone and not touch him. When I ask why, he’ll say nothing. I asked him if this is what Islam said, he said yes, that Islamically when a man says something, a woman is not supposed to say anything.”
She explained that she stayed with her husband despite the abuse because “a child was already involved” when it started.
Sherifat also added that she has, however, decided to leave her husband. She said she made the decision after he beat her on Tuesday morning with a belt, despite her pregnancy.
Her offence, she said, was picking up a call from her sister who wanted to check up on her.
“My husband had stopped me from receiving calls from my family,” she explained.
“My family thought everything was now going fine since the last time until I told them about the beating of this morning. I said I cannot sleep in that house this night so I just went to my cousin’s house and that’s where I am now with my children. My husband has not called me till this minute.
“Today I thought I would leave this world so I even wrote everything that happened down.
“Right now I can no longer stay in the marriage. I cannot! There is no pleading in this world that can make me go back to my abusive husband.
“When I heard of the Osinachi story, I wondered if history is repeating itself so soon. I hoped my story would not end like hers because apparently, everything that’s happening in my life is just the same as what happened in her life. I’m sure if I go back, it’s my dead body my family will come for the next day.”
On whether she has reported the abuse to the authorities, the 39-year-old said she went to the sharia court to report the case on Tuesday, because she got married under Islamic law.
“They called him and said we should report to the court tomorrow morning by 9am. But I have decided to go back and my family supports me,” she added.