I am an iTaukei woman, been married for five years and a mother to two amazing boys. My husband was the sole bread winner of our beautiful small family, covering all our expenses, including bill payments, house rent, and putting food on the table for the family. I, on the other hand, stayed at home to clean, wash, cook, look after the children and do all the domestic chores. My husband and I had many happy times together, and we had a good relationship generally, with the exception of the times he got drunk.
Abuse started when my husband began bonding with his friends after working hours on drinking sprees. “When he returned home from his drinking parties, we would argue over family matters, like why there was no food on the table at 3am. He would get really angry and swear at me, belittle me, shame, criticise and abuse me verbally and emotionally. This was done while he was physically beating me and our children watched”.
I went to the Police Station three times but all I would ask the Police Officers was to “Please warn my husband to not touch me again”. He was the sole bread winner of the family and I could not bring myself to report or file a complaint. More than the beatings and abuse, I was afraid of what the future might hold if I reported my husband. I could not stop wondering who would take care of our bills and provide for us if he were to be imprisoned. These thoughts held me back and being verbally, emotionally and physically abused every payday became the norm for me.
I also neglected the impact it had on my children. I noticed my boys had started fighting and punching each other and it was becoming difficult to manage their behavior. One particular day, when my boys were fighting, I tried to calm them down by telling them, “E tabu na veivacu” (it is ‘taboo’ (forbidden) to punch each other). I can still clearly remember my 7-year-old son interrupting me and saying, “But mom, you and daddy always fight and daddy punches you too.” This struck a chord with me; but I did nothing because that was how I responded to the abuse—I did nothing!
During COVID-19 pandemic, I was approached by a friend of mine, asking if I wanted to do some volunteer work. Without a second thought, I responded “YES”. After a year of volunteering, I began to step outside of my comfort zone, seeing and understanding things from a different perspective. Through the encouragement and empowerment from my colleagues, I was inspired to speak and share my story.
One evening, my husband came home from work intoxicated and immediately started abusing me verbally, emotionally, and physically. His punches left me with severe injuries, including a black eye, and bruises all over my body. In the dead of night, while most people were soundly sleeping in their homes, I fled from mine without considering my safety, my destination, or how I would survive.
I sought help from the Legal Officer at MSP. I said to myself, “This has to stop”.
On my behalf, MSP Legal Officer reported the incident to the Police. I received referrals for a medical examination at the Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MOHMS) and was provided with psychosocial support from MSP Counsellor. I will never forget the support, kindness and consideration I got at this difficult time. My husband is currently in jail because I followed through on the report, which led to me being called to court and testifying. If I knew that I could reach out to organisations in the county, I could have ended my suffering sooner.
For the first time in five years, even with my injuries and bruises, I was at peace and slept well.
Through the support from Medical Services Pacific, MOHMS, Fiji Police Force and other organisation, my children and I are now safe. I do not live in fear or shame! I am more independent as I have a paid job now, allowing me to pay for my expenses such as food and rent. It has been a difficult journey, but I am safe, happier and content.
I would like to encourage other women who are struggling in silence to come forward and seek help. Organizations, such as MSP, can offer you the assistance and support that you need. You are not Alone!
* MSP was able to mobilize resources fast to cater for the survivor’s emergency needs due to the support from the European Union in the Pacific.