A Herstory Reflection; The Making of an Activist

The year is 2001. Aba. Appolonia is taking a nap in the airy yard behind her home after a long day of hard unrelenting labour. Her 26 year marriage has been one long nightmare of childbirth, manual labour, beatings and abuse. She has five or seven sons. I wish I could remember. She does it to be a good Christian mother.

Her husband sends all the young men out on errands. He is alone in the homestead with Appolonia. The youngest aged 20 comes back just in time to see his father crack his mother’s skull open with a machete where she sleeps. Even the hospitals think she’s dead.

I am seven. We have a female visitor from Denmark. She’s touring the US visiting old friends. There is a storm brewing between Lilia and my father. I take our visitor to the local shopping mall, a short stroll away.

We return to the apartment an hour later. My father is calmly mopping blood off the floor. Lilia is a blood soaked mess panting on the bed. I’m sent to my room. I day dream. No one is looking I sneak out and just keep walking. Its summer.

Agnes tells me he first hit her shortly after the wedding. They don’t speak for days. Eventually he apologises. Says it wouldn’t happen again. Is really nice for the next few weeks. Almost like a honeymoon. Until he hits her again.

Agnes is expecting their 7th child. She looks older than her 35 years. The beautiful woman in her wedding pictures is gone. One night I come back from lectures to find them fighting. I try to take her to my house. She pushes him inside theirs screaming ‘You must kill me today.’ Locks the door.

I feel myself flying across the room. I bounce off a wall. Land on the concrete floor. It occurs to me as if its happening to someone else that I’m getting the shit beat out of me. I don’t feel any pain. Just the impact of the violence to my body, senses reel, shock, disbelief. My body crumpling.

Its like a bad dream. This can’t be happening. I avoid the abusive type. The ones that remind me of my father. Or do I? When I see the blood on the floor I wonder if I’m going to die and mentally check who knows I’m here. I limp for months.

What else can I possibly do but try to stop or mitigate domestic violence? Then after seven years working with DV victims one day I realise I’m not happy anymore when a woman walks into the centre for help. I’m exhausted. I droop.

Compassion fatigue they say. Symptoms similar to PTSD. Flashbacks, anxiety, insomnia, irritability, hypochondria. The result of working with trauma victims. I need a break. I need to remember a time when men and women were happy. When I was happy. I re-assign my cases.

A brief career in international development works wonders. I support promising young social entrepreneurs, travel, build my skills, meet wonderful people and generally have a great time. I am witness to lots of beautiful healthy relationships.

But there’s no feeling like I get when a woman looks at me and her eyes speak volumes of her gratitude for saving her life. I’m saving lives again. With the very personal and immediate gratification that I thrive on.

I’m learning to manage the emotional burden of sharing other peoples trauma. I’m learning to manage my own trauma. I’m considering a degree in psychology. I think it would improve my effectiveness as a family lawyer and as a writer. Make me a better person.

I am five. In kindergarten they ask us what we want to be when we grow up and why. I say I want to be a doctor so I can ‘fix broken people’. I didn’t become a doctor because I can’t stand the sight of blood and gore.

I guess a lawyer/writer with a psychology degree can still do something to ‘fix broken people.’ And a social entrepreneur could fix the systems that breaks them. The future looks bright after all.

Posted by MzAgams with WordPress for BlackBerry.

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3 thoughts on “A Herstory Reflection; The Making of an Activist

  1. I’ve thought about becoming a domestic violence counselor and/or lawyer, etc. to help me fight this issue more. I fear the compassion fatigue, however. After many years as a paramedic, I’ve already been there, and it’s part of why I ultimately did not go on to medical school myself. And it’s part of why I’m not further involved in the issue now other than writing my blog. Bless you for the work you are doing.

    1. Thank you. I’ve learnt to put layers of protection between me and the emotional overload. Of course that would be nothing like work as a paramedic. I admire you for that.

      1. I think what you do is probably harder. Paramedics only see our patients once (usually, unless they are “regulars”), and typically for considerably less than an hour, so there isn’t the time to create the same kind of relationship a counselor of any stripe would. The big burnout danger is more from people who abuse the system, doing things like calling for an ambulance for a cut finger or vaginal discharge in the middle of the night.

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