It was a bright sunny day on November 13, 2002, when Assumpta Khalil decided to leave Lagos to check her OND final result from the satellite campus of The Polytechnic, Ibadan which is located in Eruwa, Oyo State.
On her way through Abeokuta, her vehicle was involved in a head-on collision with an oncoming truck at Papa-Ifo, 8 people were dead on the spot, and 7 people were rushed to the hospital.
Khalil didn’t regain consciousness until about the 7th day in the emergency ward at the Ogun State Hospital, Ijaiye. Everyone thought Khalil had died as she was already smelling like a corpse, though the doctors described the smell was as a result of her rotten crushed left hand.
After contacts were made with Khalil’s family in Lagos, she was directed to the National Orthopedic Hospital, Igbobi, where it was recommended that her left hand be amputated. Doctors explained that the hand had been crushed beyond surgery.
Acquiring a disability as an adult was a shock for Khalil, some of her friends abandoned her with all her hopes dashed. Khalil thought that her end had come and there was no reason to live. She couldn’t get a job and she was practically surviving and doing some petty business.
While doubting her existence, Khalil met a young man, tall, dark, and handsome, who restored her hope and made her believe that life is worth living again.
“He made me believe that I have every reason to live and that I can have another life. Shortly after we met, we got married, I didn’t see any reason why I should delay the proposal of this amazing young man, who was so kind and loving to have decided to marry an amputee like me,” Khalil shared.
While her heart was filled with butterflies and delights that she has met a partner who has decided to stand by her ‘for better for worse’, little did Khalil know that she was entering into a danger zone.
“A few weeks after our traditional wedding ceremony, my ex-husband changed from what I knew him to be and started to deject me, and his family members who didn’t want us to get married started pressurizing him and he was using that to act towards me. He told me to my face that he doesn’t know what he was doing with me and how could he have married an amputee,” Khalil recalled.
Khalil shared that her 2-year-old marriage was laced with different flavors of violence, from physical, emotional, verbal, name-calling, financial, psychological, and sexual.
The mother of 2 explained that it started with the late return of his ex-husband to the house and whenever she asked or complained, it would resort to a ‘beating’ session.
“He would insult me that I’m an imbecile and then the next would be to start beating me. I was so helpless and it got to a stage that I was already prepared to be beaten by him, and I tried to pacify myself that na beating go end am,” she added.
Khalil was vulnerable and helpless and she seemed stuck in the marriage, as her mother, whom she confided in, believed that marriage is meant to be endured, despite the pains and suffering.
“He had stopped my friends from coming to see me. My neighbors were aware of the maltreatment that I go through almost every night but they couldn’t do anything to stop it. I was always apprehensive whenever the sun was setting because that symbolizes another time for me to be beaten. It was an abusive marriage that almost took my life.
“When I reported to my mum, she told me to bear the marriage and she would rather blame me for being impatient with a man who could be so ‘generous’ to have married me as an amputee,” Khalil shared.
Khalil recalled that after she had an accident that led to the amputation of her left hand, her then-boyfriend denied he ever knew her. He didn’t show up at the hospital, despite being contacted several times, and neither was he willing to continue with the relationship after Khalil was amputated.
“This made everyone consider my ‘ex-husband’ as a savior. He made me feel he was doing me a favor by getting married to me. I was naïve and vulnerable, I’d just had an accident three years ago where I thought everything was over, and here was a man that was willing to marry me,” she added.
Sharing the deal-breaker for her, “the beating sessions became more frequent, no night would pass without being beaten. I was just a sex object and most of the time, he raped me. He brings women to the house and would be on romantic calls with other women right in front of me. I became dejected and there was nowhere to seek help.”
Jobless, broke, and suffering, Khalil was left to the mercy of her neighbors who had to contribute money for her so she could leave the house and seek adequate support.
“I left the house in Ibadan with my daughter and I went to my mother’s place at Ekpan in Warri. You won’t believe that my mother asked me to go back to my husband’s house. How’s that an option? I insisted I wasn’t going back but she chased me out of her house with nowhere to go. She said she cannot afford to be humiliated that her daughter is separated from her husband. I was worried because my mother would rather have me die in an abusive marriage than her ego being tampered with,” she said.
Running away from her husband for survival and being chased out of the house by her mother, Khalil had no choice but to go to her grandmother’s house at the Okere axis of Warri late in the night. The Ijaw and Ishekiri were fighting and it was dangerous to move around in the middle of the night, but Khalil who fled from Ibadan to Warri didn’t know the situation was so bad.
She almost lost her life that night because of the communal clash between the Ijaw and Ishekiri, all thanks to some local vigilante that were guarding the Warri border who came to her rescue after they saw that she is an amputee and also explained her ordeal. She stayed with them over the night and was taken to her grandmother’s house at dawn.
Explaining that her grandmother’s efforts to make her mother receive her into the house proved abortive, Khalil said, “I’d left my daughter with my mother before going to my grandmother’s place and you won’t believe that my mother took my daughter to my ex-husband, thinking that would make me return to his house. I made every attempt to see my daughter but my ex-husband would not agree. At that time, I was already pregnant with my second daughter and he told me to take the unborn child while he takes my first daughter.”
Sharing how gender-based violence had impacted her, Khalil shared that, “it made me feel alone, unstable, unfit and made me think of myself as a less human. It made me feel I can’t achieve my purpose.”
“For me, GBV has thought me to self-discover myself, know my worth, not to settle for less. I am the best woman, and I can aspire, it has made me sensitive around me, I don’t go into a relationship blindly. It’s a great price for me to know my worth. No man is doing me a favor to go to bed with me. I took my time to build my capacity,” Khalil shared.
Khalil mentioned that her vulnerability was exploited and her disability was the reason her husband violated her repeatedly. She noted that there are numerous women with disabilities who are stuck in abusive marriages and are not bold enough to take a step further because of their fears.
She believed that it is important to build a strong community for WWDs, build their capacities and make them comfortable with themselves which would not make them settle for less.
“It is also important to have support systems, awareness creation, counseling, and networking opportunities for these women. It is important to let a WWD know that she’s not alone and her disability is not the end of her life. As such, violating WWDs would reduce,” Khalil added.
Khalil is an example of a woman who has broken numerous biases, to become a strong advocate against gender and disability-based violence.
This article was produced by BONews Service in commemoration of the International Women’s Day 2022, with the campaign theme: #BreakTheBias