My last post on my personal journey through domestic violence brought a lot of pain, anguish and fear. With the graphics being provided in the New York Times film by Carey Wagner, my mind took a long trip to many forgotten places where the monster lived.
I have taken some time to work through things I kept to myself for a long time but in response to the article, many kind words have been spoken by friends, family and even caring strangers both here, personal emails, phones and my Facebook Page. It is a long hard walk to the end of violence against women but we have to continue to talk about it and fight the monster.
I have two very important people in my life; my sons Nathan(18) and Chris(15). As a mother I always worry that whatever actions I take that the boys would be watching me and there would be consequences. I always worry I may hurt them emotionally. This is one of the things we need to teach our boys and young children in PNG if we are serious about starting at ground level.
For my own case, all these years, I did not speak much about my life with the monster. I felt very strongly about many things and my priority was always to protect sons. I knew they would soon learn about me and the culture they are part of. Because they were born into a combination of cultures and parents the responsibility comes back to their father and I to teach them about what is expected of them and how they should treat others.
My past did involve my sons but only just. I recall a confronting incident in 1999 that involved my children and my past. I had fled from the monster in 1988. I changed my life, settled several years later in a very happy relationship and had my sons.
Our family went to a friend’s place one day. My sons were barely 3 and six-months-old. We were invited to the friend’s place for Sunday brunch. When we arrived, the boys my partner and I, in front of my friend’s house was the man who had beat me for four years. He was invited! It was absurd. However, when you look at the big picture, which took me a long time to see was that – everything was ok. Even friends accepted that what this man did was ok.
I was shocked but having my baby (Chris) in my arms, I pretended to ignore the beast and proceeded forward. What I did not expect was he came forward, passing me, to pick up a ball my three-year-old had dropped. Stunned, I watched him hand the ball back to my son. Then the man did something that made me want to kill him. He gently touched my son’s head. I nearly fainted.
We left the party and returned home because my partner and the father of my sons could see that clearly, I became very ill. We never spoke about this incident but I knew that I could never let that person come near my children.
Like all families, life continues and we grow as people and as a family, we take on life’s challenges together. I believe as a parent, I must always do my best and show what is in my heart. Show love. This love that I teach and show is the greatest conqueror of all hardships and it teaches my sons to love others and treat them as they would want to be treated. That was what my late grandmother, Geyam Kauc always said. I tell my sons to always treat people with love and respect. And when they are older, especially in relationships, treat women with the same love and respect and the women will appreciate and reciprocate.
Thank you to all those people that commented on the “PNG Women: When can we be safe in our own country” post and I hope that what I wrote made a small contribution to help in creating more awareness and also give hope to victims of violence.
As promised, I am sharing a story I wrote based on a true story of another woman who was a victim at the hands of the monster. This story hopefully one day will be published in a book of short stories. I thank my teacher Isabel D’ Avila Winter for editing and formatting this story. If you have any comments about the story, please let me know. Pictured below is a picture of women I worked with in Eniyawa Village, Suki, PNG where I was told this story. I met several very talented women weavers, leaders and also victims of domestic violence relationships. It was in the evenings after our weaving workshop that we would sit and discuss some of our own personal triumphs and how we got away from the “the monster”.
My Last Walk
By Joycelin Leahy
I could feel his eyes burning into my back as I struggled uphill and over the grass stubs. The air was tight around me. It is almost four in the morning and chilly.
This time I felt Bomoga’s heavy breathing, close and menacing. I longed for the day’s first warmth, for the softness of my three-month-old baby Boni and for the giggles of his older siblings. I felt extremely fatigued and wished I could stop walking. A sudden breeze brushed over the tall grass making a shoos sound. I shivered.
This was how Bomoga and I walked to the garden, except I walked behind him with a child on my shoulder, one in the bilum on my back, whilst pulling my eldest by the hand. Their father walked proudly in front with his spear, his small bag strung across his chest. This time I was in front, wearing my favourite red meri blouse. In haste, I had worn it inside-out. It hung loosely on me.
As I reached the top of Kasu Hill, I struggled for air.
I could feel myself sweat vigorously as my heart pumped wildly.
Kasu was the only hill in Domogu Village in the wallaby plains of Western Province in Papua New Guinea. The rest of the area was flat grassland hunters burnt often to entrap wild game.
As commanded, I marched a further three kilometers along the ridge and then descended gradually. I stopped feeling the mud and my sore right foot. Near Kasu Hill, NGO environmentalists were studying the tailings allegedly from Ok Tedi Mining. Along the river bank, hundreds of fish and plants had died. Usually there would be people here, but it’s too early – there is no-one.
I felt my milk starting to drip down my blouse. I hadn’t worn a bra, so my breasts were full and uncomfortable. My heart beat faster as I steered my thoughts from my baby. The sun rose and faint shadows began to form while warm air caressed my face. I was sure now: we had crossed the open country and left Domogu Village. Bomoga’s ancestors, nomads like mine, had decided to settle in this land because of its fertility.
We’re up high and it is clearer. My eyes scanned over the mountains where mining giant Ok Tedi explored. To the south, there was an airstrip; Airlines PNG flew in weekly. From the top, the village looked like an exquisite jewel, a deep jade opal, festooned with glassy lakes of various sizes.
“Move!” his voice cut through the silence.
I stumbled forward.
Soon, we entered a dark forest, the only obscure part of the land. Strangely, the birds were silent. I had never been here, but I knew sorcerers came here often for bush medicine. I looked for the outside light through the tree openings. I saw only the lingering fog, separating me further from my children.
“Keep walking,” he hissed behind me.
From the moment he’d woken me this morning, I had not looked once in Bomoga’s eyes. It was still dark and I had felt his sweaty hands touch my arm. His physical stench was almost invasive. I thought he wanted sex but he shook me roughly and ordered me up and out of the house. His shadow had loomed over me as I carefully took Boni off my breast and put my meri blouse on quickly. My baby stirred and nestled into his flannelette blanket, eyes still shut. Thank God, I thought, he didn’t wake up and cry for more milk. I hung on to the last touch of his tender little fingers. Eka and Maria were asleep. I heard Bomoga pick up something and then close the door behind us. The mood between us was chilling. He was quiet and cagey, unlike his usual loud and showy ways.
If we were not having sex, which was rough and unpleasant, we had arguments which would end with a sudden punch in my eye or stomach, sometimes causing me to blackout. I knew if I answered back or cried out, the beating would be worse.
He repeatedly told me no-one would help me because I was his wife. Not even his mother, sisters, or other villagers. I always felt like his prey, moving under his watchful eyes while I went about my daily chores.
My thoughts reached out to my children, then my mother. Our years of marriage had worked this way: while Bomoga ruled, I kept my mouth shut. My bride price had been paid and when my family left after the wedding ceremony, I knew I would never see my mother again. I ran after her. We cried and hugged for a long and last time.
The sobbing began from inside now, my eyes warmed and salted with tears.
I remembered a slight improvement in Bomoga at the birth of our first son. I’d made him a proud Melanesian man by having a first male child. Eka was my child of hope. I held this hope close to my chest along with the bible. Children can change a marriage, the village pastor had said. Sadly, Bomoga’s cousin came back from the city one day with SP beer and some other alcohol. The two had many days of stories. I saw a change aroused in Bomoga, followed by his old ways. When I had two more children and threatened that I would leave, I saw something new in his eyes. He started beating me.
Today his manners are different again. He is like a time-bomb, ready to go off at anytime. As I walked on, I remembered how no-one had seen us leave the house. Not even Tau, the old Papuan. I wish he had already opened his trade store. He was a kind man. If he or someone else saw us leave then, one day, they could tell my children. I did not leave willingly. It was not my choice to leave them behind.
As we descended through the gloomy thick undergrowth into a flatter area, I glanced across a small opening. I could finally see sunlight touching the mid canopy. It was a pretty sprinkle of luminosity touching various leaves and the moss. I caught a glimpse of a beautiful Bird Wing butterfly on a fern, just waking up. I felt a flash of hope.
We left the dense of the forest and approached a Y junction. I could hear rapids.
“Turn down towards the River,” Bomoga commanded.
I turned towards the sound of the rapids. My mind focused on the returning pain in my foot. In each step, I felt the sharpness of the rocks greeting me as I descended over each one. The rapids became louder. Before me was the belly of a fast flowing river and it was full from the rain last night. Is he going to drown me? Perhaps this was my last walk, I wondered.
I imagined villagers rushing to screaming children. My body laid there as the women rushed to the children. My laplap had been swept away and only my treasured meri blouse, still inside out, was clinging to my slim frame. I was dragged ashore with a paddle shafted under the hem of my blouse. Here, I was left on the pale silky banks of Suki River while everyone gathered to look. Then a woman ran up and started yelling and then, in a cry of recognition, she bellowed my name: “Sulita!, Sulita! It’s Suli!.” Everyone would turn and ask; “Who is Sulita?” They had not recognised me half dressed and impaled by a black palm spear. By then my corpse had been soaked pale and bloodless by the hours in the river.
“Stop!” he yelled over the rapids.
I stumbled and halted, snapping into reality.
On the river’s edge lies soft silky mud. The ground is pale and covered with smooth boulders of all kinds. In places there were no stones and the ground looked easy to dig. I kept my face down and turned away. My staggering feet were covered in mud and grass. I needed to relieve myself. Under my extreme state of duress, blood rushed to my head, causing a war of pins and needles.
“Turn around and face me. Look at me.”
Slowly, I raised my head, looking up into the point of his most prized black palm spear. In the background everything there was to see and hear faded.
Bomoga had speared the biggest pig, the fastest wallaby and driven the largest cull of deer. Many feared him because of his mastery with the weapon itself. My eyes shifted from the spear and held my husband’s eyes. Even after ten long years we stared at each other as if we were strangers. I finally felt at peace.
Bomoga’s eyes were wild, bulging and red. His nose flared and his eyebrows twitched in the anticipation of violence. He raised and pointed with the spear.
“Where would you like to be buried?” he asked.