Unrevealed Domestic Violence

By: Maurice L. Galasa CICM

The author is a seminarian in vows of the CICM Congregation and is working at present in Zambia. He is from Bontoc, Mountain Province.

God had sent me here to Zambia and it was indeed a wonderful experience to integrate myself with the people. I listened to their noble stories of how God is actively present in their struggles of pain. It was in listening to these that I was ‘converted’ to God and became part of their journey. An encounter with Mrs Anne Banda in one of my house visits in Bouleni, Lusaka, helped me appreciate God’s calling me to be a missionary.

She recalled that when her daughter Shammah was admitted to Bouleni Clinic in December 2006 with severe nose-bleeding, she didn’t know that the doctors would diagnose a totally different ailment that would change her life totally and later lead her to the graveyard. Mrs Banda had rushed her 18-year-old daughter from Kawata Village to a nearby witchdoctor to have the excessive bleeding, swollen head and other complications healed. But his rituals achieved nothing. So she was forced to take Shammah to the clinic despite their lack of money.

The doctor managed to stop the bleeding but the other complications became so bad that during the subsequent six months of attending the clinic there was no improvement. After further examination, her doctor suggested that an HIV test be done. Her mother, after hesitating for some days, consulted Shammah’s husband. But he became arrogant and didn’t want to hear anything of that nature. He accused the parents of his wife of fabricating stories that he had made their daughter sick. As far as he was concerned, he was done with Shammah. After all, he had moved on and was now living with another woman.

After getting Shammah’s belongings from her husband, Mrs Banda went to consult her brother who suggested that the test be done to determine if indeed it was HIV that was the matter with her. Shammah herself couldn’t make a decision due to the degree of her sickness. The results showed not only that Shammah was HIV-positive, but that her heart valves weren’t functioning properly. The doctor told them that her mitral (bicuspid or left atrioventricular) valve wasn’t allowing oxygenated blood to move freely from the left atrium into the left ventricle. This is a form of rheumatic heart disease

Mrs Banda related, ‘When they told me about the results, I was very shocked. My mind was full of thoughts of where we were going to get the life-prolonging drugs, ARVs. We didn’t have the money. This was a double tragedy for me and my family. What would happen to her two children? The three-month-old baby needed lactogen, as Shammah was too ill to breastfeed. I wish we never knew the problem my daughter had. It makes me feel bad’, said Mrs Banda with sobs and tears.

Shammah was in and out of the clinic for six months while relatives tried to arrange money for her to buy the ARVs. Herbs couldn’t heal her. She lost so much weight . The doctors, seeing that she wasn’t improving, transferred her to a hospice where she died two weeks later, on 18 June 2007.

Mrs Banda lamented, ‘It’s so sad to see that my daughter’s light, slim body and pretty face that had swept many men off their feet, was no longer functioning’. Shammah’s husband never showed up at the funeral. Her family and cousins tried to locate him only to discover he had moved into the house of the woman he had married when Shammah was already sick.

At this point, the family and relatives came to know the truth from Kenan, Shammah’s two-year-old son, about the abuses of his father. He said that Shammah had been a ‘punching-bag’. She was beaten each time she asked her husband why he was going out with other women when he had her. When she kept quiet the situation was worse. He would say, ‘You don’t care about me. Why aren’t you asking where I slept so I can kill you too?’ Her husband would also force her to cultivate their field or she wouldn’t eat. Shammah couldn’t report her husband to the police or her family. She kept quiet because she had been forewarned that the man she was marrying was bad, despite his good outward appearance. Besides that warning, she didn’t report the domestic violence because she thought that what was important was to maintain her marriage at all costs.

After Shammah’s burial, when relatives were searching in one of her handbags, they found some STI medication, which suggested she had suffered sexually transmitted infections, possibly from her husband. Although Shammah said at one time that she had seen some signs of plunging herself into danger, she never thought she would die of an HIV/AIDs-related illness.

The hardest and most shocking part came five months after Shammah was laid to rest at the Leopard Hill Cemetery, when her husband resurfaced, wanting to have Kenan.

Kenan was now a big boy. Thank God, when he was taken for an HIV test, it proved negative. Shammah’s husband appeared and claimed the child. After hesitation, Shammah’s family forgave him after he paid an admission-of-guilt fee of ZMK200,000 (Zambian kwacha), the equivalent of US$500 or more than Php20,000. [Editor’s note: the Gross National Income (GNI) of Zambia in 2002 was $330 per capita, that of the USA $35,060 and that of the Philippines $1,020. Source: The World Guide, New Internationalist Publications Ltd, 2005.] He was forgiven and given custody of the child. The other reason that caused them to let go of Kenan was that they didn’t have enough money to send him to school as he grew up.

Six months later Kenan died of a high fever.

When Mrs Banda went to the funeral she was amazed at the story of the mistreatment the young boy went through, how he was a victim of beatings by his father for failing to tell him where his stepmother had gone at times. He was oftentimes sent to buy beer for his father, despite heavy rain that caused his illness and eventually his death. The burial of Kenan marked the end of the unspoken domestic violence.

Shammah and Kenan now rest in silence with God. They are gone but their message of justice and peace are not forgotten.

You may write the author at: CICM MISSIONARIES Kabwe, PO Box 81033, 844 Great North Road, Dallas, KABWE, ZAMBIA or email him at mauricegalasa@yahoo.com