The following is a guest blog post from Kate, whose name and identifying details, as a survivor of GBV, have been changed to protect her privacy.
Every woman dreams of growing up and having a life of bliss, but that is not always the case.
As a 34-year-old mother in Africa, one who has been in a psychologically abusive relationship for 17 years, I feel it’s time to share my story for the women who can’t.
Whenever I speak out about being abused, no one seems to understand because they cannot see the scars. When we speak of abuse, the first thing that comes to mind for many of us is physical and sexual abuse. Psychological abuse is often forgotten.
Psychological abuse includes emotional and verbal abuse; it eats you up inside and no one can see it until it’s too late.
Over the years, I have been denied the freedom to have friends, to go to social outings, to work or study, even to choose my own clothes.
I’ve been cursed, called names, told I am useless, and blamed for any wrongdoing.
When I confront my partner, he threatens to beat me up, to kill me, to burn my father’s home, to ruin my relationships and even gloats that he can get away with it. And on some occasions, he threatens to commit suicide if I leave him.
I live in fear each day, for my life, my son’s life, and those of my relatives. Being abused emotionally has deprived me of my courage, my self-esteem, and mostly my freedom.
Whenever I complain to elders, I am told every woman goes through the same thing, I’m told it’s normal and I just have to endure it. Some say I might be the problem because he makes sure our child is taken care of and that we have food on the table and a roof over our heads, but no one knows that I am dying inside. It makes me feel hopeless. But with the #Africa4Her campaign I now have a voice.
It’s time for other women to take a stand. This form of abuse happens every day, to women of all ages, and its repercussions affect so many of us.
We need to put a stop to it. It’s time to take a stand and speak out. We need to reclaim our freedom.
If you or someone you know is in a psychologically abusive relationship, the first step to recovery is reaching out to parents, teachers, or community elders, as Agatha Levi, a 2017 Mandela Washington Fellow and Sierra Leone RLC Alumna, suggests. After this is done, Agatha recommends taking one’s case to a women’s advocacy group, such as the Rainbo Initiative in Sierra Leone, where survivors receive medical attention, psychological support, and access to additional resources (e.g., legal support, safe housing, and ongoing medical care).
For more information, explore our course Understanding the Rights of Women and Girls, our video vignettes on addressing and ending gender-based violence, and our blogs “How to Facilitate a Conversation on Gender-Based Violence in 5 Steps” and “How Young Leaders Can Fight Female Genital Mutilation: Ways to Empower and Protect Young Women.”
The views and opinions expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the YALI Network or the U.S. government. YALI Voices is a series of podcasts, videos, and blogs contributed by members of the YALI Network.