Sadiya’s father has a habit of marrying her off whenever he senses she is pregnant; like most parents in Nigeria, this move is usually orchestrated to “protect the honour” of the woman and her family but that is not exactly the case with Sadiya. Her father marries her off because he is responsible for the pregnancies.
It started ten years ago after she returned home, freshly divorced from her first marriage, she says.
Sadiya’s first marriage, a loveless union with an elderly man who already had wives and children was a miserable ordeal she had to endure day after day despite the difficulties and challenges that she had to live with.
Once, she ran away from her matrimonial home and when she did it a second time, her husband divorced her.
But Sadiya’s hell was only beginning because with the end of the marriage came a series of ordeals whose aftermath she still grapples with.
“My father sexually abused me, even in the presence of my mother,” Sadiya said, explaining that it was so bad that he once raped her while they worked on his farmland.
Even though Sadiya’s mother was aware of the abuse meted out to her daughter, she could not be of help to her as she too was not only a victim of domestic abuse by her husband, but had even become mentally unstable as a result of it.
Sadiya’s siblings did not initially know what was happening but when they found out, they ran away from home.
“We (the entire family) have not seen them to date,” Sadiya explained.
A few months after she came home, Sadiya became pregnant and when her father found out, he married her off to yet another man against her wishes. This time, however, Sadiya’s marriage lasted only a few weeks before her new husband sent her packing.
“Some weeks after the marriage, he noticed that I was pregnant and divorced me,” Sadiya narrates.
Sadiya returned home to more pain because even though she was with his child, her father kept sexually abusing her until she gave birth, and even after that, he did not stop.
Sadiya’s child would later die at the age of six.
The barbaric act kept happening until she conceived once again and he married her again to someone else.
Like the one before him, Sadiya’s third husband also divorced her after he realised that she was pregnant even before she came to his home, and just as she did with her now-deceased daughter, Sadiya went home where she stayed till she gave birth to another child; this time, it was a boy.
“My son is now four years old, I don’t know what to tell him when he grows up, asking of his dad,” Sadiya says.
In those four years, Sadiya had to endure sexual and physical abuse from her father.
“He beat the hell out of me whenever I did not cooperate,” she narrates.
Sadiya did not have any form of education and neither did she have the financial means to make her way so she remained at home. But things became worse with time because not only was her father abusing her, he also refused to let her get married by repeatedly denying suitors that came to her.
Research has shown that abusive relationships are extremely complex situations and it takes a lot of courage to leave. Abuse is about power and control. When a survivor leaves their abusive relationship, they threaten the power and control their partner has established over the survivor’s agency, which may cause the partner to retaliate in harmful ways.
It’s not as easy as simply walking away.
As a result, leaving is often the most dangerous period of time for survivors of abuse.
Unable to take any more of the suffering, Sadiya ran away to seek refuge in an Imam’s house.
She told the Imam all that had happened but her father refused to admit it and let her go.
When all else failed and he refused to see reason, the Police were involved and Sadiya’s father was detained.
After a series of investigations, the complainant, survivor, and the perpetrator were called for a hearing where the victim said she did not want him sued because he is and will always be her father.
“I don’t want to take him to court, I just need to be free from him, get married, and settle,” Sadiya said.
After she made the decision known to all parties, an agreement was signed to the effect that he would never repeat to Sadiya what he had been doing for years, and with that, the Imam took in Sadiya as his child and promised to ensure her comfort and safety until whenever she is ready to get married.
Presently, Sadiya is seeking help at a resource centre as she is heavily depressed from all that has happened to her over the years.
Shamsiyya Barde is a 2023 HumAngle Accountability Fellow.
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