My baby’s father and I were together for nearly four years. In the first couple of months into our relationship, he became verbally and physically abusive, and after every altercation, I would lock myself up and weep, replaying some of the gruesome moments in my mind. In the second year, I was blessed with a baby girl. Life with him went on as usual but I thought that someday he’d change, that he didn’t really mean to hurt me.
Two weeks into lockdown, the abuse increased in intensity and regularity since neither of us could leave the house. Before the coronavirus struck Zimbabwe, I hid behind work, carrying on like nothing happened. This time around, I had nowhere to go because of the restrictions. I couldn’t go to church where I would carry all my burdens to the Lord or visit relatives and friends to share my ordeal. And with my daughter now in the picture, pretending domestic life was healthy became difficult as she often froze when my partner turned violent.
As the months went by and covid-19 cases increased, I saw messages advising citizens to “stay at home, stay safe.” But was I really safe at home with an abuser, I wondered.
Finally, I had had enough of the abuse and opened up to my mother. Because she lives roughly 500 kilometres away from Zimbabwe’s capital city of Harare, where I live, and couldn’t visit due to travel restrictions, she encouraged me to reach out to organisations catering to survivors of domestic violence for help. While they expressed support, I received none after mentioning that I couldn’t come to their office because my abuser monitored my movement and kept track of my WhatsApp messages and call records. All they advised was that I visit their office when I can.
In July, when lockdown eased, I managed to dash to the civil court and apply for a protection order and custody of my daughter but couldn’t return a month later to follow up because my daughter’s father decided to escort me to my “hair appointment.”
“You can go ahead and do your hair while I will be parked outside the saloon with the child,” he said.
Watching my plans go down the drain crushed me. But I remained hopeful, determined to free myself from the abusive relationship.
I got another opening to return to the court and reapply for a protection order and custody. Days after submitting the applications, I packed two sets of clothes for my daughter, a jacket, and diapers in my satchel, which I hid in her stroller, then left the house under the pretext of going for a walk. I never looked back and never returned.
While my protection order was dismissed on the grounds of lack of evidence, with the support of my family, I soldier on.
Today, life is pleasant. I suffered withdrawal symptoms, followed by guilt, fear, anxiety and low self-esteem. But all in all, my self-confidence is slowly rebounding, thanks to counselling and family encouragement. This new lease on life motivates me to lead a life without fear, to pursue my dreams, to raise my daughter in a sane, loving environment. I am happier now, and like a bird uncaged, ready to soar.