Recently a colleague became the butt of a few newsroom jokes after we discovered that the bulk of the stories he had written this year were largely comprised of brutal murders and horrifying acts of domestic violence and assault.
Among the tidbits of advice that were generously proffered was a cheeky suggestion that he compile all his stories for the year and write a best-selling horror novel which, it was said, would likely rival Stephen King’s fear factory of literature.
Typically, I couldn’t just let the matter rest but went on to the library and went through his gory stories one by one and read one narrative after another of gruesome killings involving married couples.
One thought that kept crossing my mind was that all of the dead spouses would probably have never thought that when they died, the person they married would be the cause and that they had literally spent all their married life ‘sleeping with the enemy’.
My first recollection of the marriage institution as a potential deathtrap is nearly a decade old and involves the tragic deaths of former soccer chairman after his wife set their home on fire following a domestic dispute.
I remember thinking at the time that it would have been better if they had had a divorce rather than staying in a situation that had potentially become dangerous and life-threatening.
I site this example only as a way of establishing how disturbing I have always found these incidents of spousal murder to be and not to be critical of a couple I know virtually nothing about.
Having said this, I find it unsettling how blood is shed almost willy-nilly within the domestic sphere and have wondered what really could be done to curb these tragic and horrifying incidents.
I have often found that the average wife is a conformist, accepting miseries and disasters with the stoicism of a cow standing in the rain.
I have also found that it is this kind of wife that society embraces, eulogizes and celebrates, our mothers feeding us the tedious dictum of being ‘patient, enduring and long-suffering’ – kuyabekezelwa emendweni.
While circumstances vary, it is almost predictable that the stoical wife may one day be pushed too far – beyond her control, snap and do the unimaginable, a person can only take so much pain.
This is not to excuse such behavior but it is to say that in all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things we have long taken for granted, things like a wife’s ability, willingness and capacity to endure cruelty, abuse and neglect.
I think there are many who will dismiss this article arguing that it is premised on incidents that are rare, few and far between – but those readers would be gravely mistaken because crimes of passion are frighteningly on the increase and our coverage of them represents only a tip of the iceberg.
I am one of those people who believe that a woman must know when to call it a day and for those who want some pointers – call it a day the very day he sends you to hospital with a cracked rib or two.
Crossing over the boundaries we’ve been taught to live within is a tough business. But I’m getting used to the idea they’re not so formidable.
Any man who knows he has been cruel to his wife must know that every act of cruelty, of malice, of neglect and abuse is being laid up in her heart and one day when you least expect it – she’ll turn on you and lash out in retaliation.
At the risk of sounding clichéd, I have to state that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.
I recall a book I studied and critiqued in my final year at varsity entitled ‘A Tragedy of Lives: Zimbabwean women in prison’ which was a collection of testimonials by female inmates held at Chikurubi.
I remember my friends and I took special interest in the chapter that had testimonies of women who had murdered someone and found much to our shock that more than ninety percent of them were in jail for killing their husbands!
Usually the act itself was neither premeditated nor intentional but it was usually the culmination of years of frustration, pain, anger and despair endured by these women in relationships that were unfulfilling, oppressive and abusive.
Why did they not leave? We asked ourselves at the time but the answer is one we only uncovered now as we came of age ourselves – they couldn’t act in manner contrary to what they had been socialized into.
So they stayed, endured, cracked and killed.
As the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence campaign commences these blood chilling acts of domestic violence require us to stem the tide of bloodshed and Commit. Act. Demand. We CAN end violence against women!
Parting shot: The moment a man claims a right to control the will of a fellow being by physical force, he is at heart a slaveholder. ~Henry C. Wright