And how do you deal with her criticism of your race – her obvious racism – at the same time?
These are questions that have burned in me for a few days now, since Wednesday actually since a co-worker told me about how her husband hit her that morning. The same co-worker has been voluble in her criticism of my race ever since I met her.
How do you talk to someone like that?
What words do you use to help her get out of, away from, the abusive relationship knowing that she is totally biased against you because of where you were born?
She is a foreigner married to a local man (don’t ask me how they met) and in her own words “left everything for him, even a pet that I had, I had to leave with my parents and that’s what I’ve told him so many times. I came here because of you.”
When I heard that my first thought was: Is she comparing her husband to a pet? Maybe she was just too hurt to think straight and didn’t know what she was saying. I don’t know.
Yesterday (she understandably took sick leave on Thursday), I told her that she could try to see someone from the local Women’s Crisis Centre and they will offer her counselling. She immediately cut off my suggestion with “Yeah, I’ll just see if he wants to do that. I don’t think he’ll like it if I go alone. I’ll just sit with him this week-end when we are both relaxed and calm, maybe after shopping, have some coffee and just talk.”
So what do you do then?
Well, I can tell you that I was left wondering why I even bothered. But a big part of me wanted to find, to know, to say out loud the right words that would make her see that not everyone, not every Fijian man was like her husband. Not every man was like her husband.
I know that it is wrong for a man to hit a woman. Unless maybe if she was coming at him with a weapon intent to harm or even kill him. I have never been married but I do know that marriage is sacred where love and trust thrives, or at least should thrive.
But if a woman knew full well that her husband had anger problems before they got married and that he hit his ex-girlfriend so badly once that she ended up in intensive care? If she knew that he grew up with an abusive father who hurt him and his mother so badly that even now he wakes up startled in the middle of the night from nightmares about his past?
What do you say to the woman then? Do you still even want to say anything at all, especially when she say this, “I don’t know what’s wrong with him. I’ve told him so many times that he needs help but he just shuts down. The problem here in Fiji is that men are not allowed to show any emotions. They can’t cry, can’t show any weakness otherwise they won’t be men anymore. It’s not like back home where the men, yeah, they’re still men but like they do understand, they show emotion.”
Now, I know you will think I am biased but Fijian men are as emotional as any other men anywhere else in the world. Maybe that’s not saying much; maybe it doesn’t mean anything to anyone.
But that aside, where do I find these elusive words? Words that soothe and heal wounds, because after all that hard layer all I see is a woman in pain.