Violence beyond belief

This week we saw a patient at the Family Support Center that left us feeling quite disturbed. It was a 24-year-old woman from a village quite far away from Tari who came to our clinic after having been severely assaulted by her husband.

Some weeks ago the husband married another woman (polygamy is common in the area). When the wife complained about this, the husband chased her out of the house. The wife travelled to her family’s village and spent two weeks living with them. Her husband called her family members repeatedly and begged the wife to return home.

When she eventually did and entered their house, he grabbed her arm, started beating her to the ground and kicked her as she was lying down. She was screaming and trying to protect her face. The husband accused her of having affairs with other men and “sleeping around”. After kicking and beating her, the enraged husband tore off the wife’s clothes, grabbed a burning stick from the fireplace and sexually assaulted her with it. Then he sexually assaulted her with his hand, and tried to tear her uterus. I can imagine how distressed the children in the garden must have been, being forced to hear their mother scream in agony.

The woman presented at our clinic with bruises and multiple burn wounds on her body and genitals. At the Family Support Center she received medical care for all her injuries and necessary medication. Also she was given much psychological support in order to help reduce her fears and anxiety.

An important step in counseling violence survivors is to educate them about trauma symptoms; it feels reassuring for most survivors to hear that strong anxiety and fears are common reactions to trauma, not a sign that they are losing their mind. Another important part of counseling domestic and sexual violence survivors is to let them hear that whatever violence was done to them was wrong and it was nothing that they deserved. After completing the treatments, the Family Support Center staff helped the woman contact relatives who could provide her with a safe place to stay, away from the husband.