I didn’t believe when I was told she was getting a divorce.
The initial thought that crossed my mind, in sectarian Lebanon, was the how, given her sect. I then asked the why. They said her husband was beating her up. I would have never told. I knew her for a very long time. I knew her husband for considerably less but he never gave the impression of being a wife beater.
Or that could have been the reason why she liked wearing longer sleeves than usual during the times when long sleeves were intolerable.
What will happen to the children? I asked. Nobody knew. They said they might split custody. Others said their father didn’t have time to take care of them. In a few weeks since she took her decision, she became a single woman with children to support in a country that doesn’t accept cases like hers.
And I couldn’t have been prouder of her: standing up for herself, her body, her bruised arms, her children, their sanctity and all of their well-being.
I figured things could only get better for her now: she had family that should help her get back on her feet, she had the support needed to recuperate from months or maybe years of abuse, she had the strength to make herself whole again.
How wrong was I?
Her father was a man of ambition. He sought office many times. Sometimes through proxies whose campaigns he orchestrated, other times by running directly. His ambition surpassed the confines of the town in which he acted but he knew he wouldn’t get farther than that. He tried nonetheless, expanding his repertoire of friends to a growing list of much more influential men who gave him purpose, who gave him lists to drop in conversation, who gave him fake importance which he mistook as influence.
And her father beat her up as well.
He beat her up when he knew she was getting a divorce.
He beat her up when he knew she was going through with the divorce.
He beat her up when he knew she had custody of her children.
He beat her up when he asked her to stop the divorce and get the children back to their father and she refused. He beat her up so much that her ailing mother came to stand between them and was slammed across the floor, as she was withstanding for years, despite the chemo coursing through her veins and the cancer killing her insides.
He beat her up because he felt it gave him power, because he figured it would straighten her behavior.
She feared he’d beat her up if she visited her mother in the hospital. So she didn’t visit.
She feared he’d beat her up if she visited her mother to take care of her on the days her husband had her kids. So she’d wait in the car until he left before she’d sneak in.
She feared he’d beat her up if she did anything that he would think was out of the ordinary so she never did.
Her husband beating her up was something. Her father, on the other hand, was something else.
His abuse diffused to her siblings who mentally abused her as well. He rendered her a doormat on which they stepped every time the woes of life overburdened them. And she took all of it anyway.
Then, when it all became too much to bear, she decided to seek help. So she went to a lawyer. How can I sue both my father and my husband, she asked while clutching the medical reports detailing the abuse she was withstanding. The lawyer advised her not to. If you sued them, he said, the law will say there’s something wrong with you because they both beat you up.
There was nothing she could do. So she kept on taking it, hoping that one day things will get better.
That father is one of the Lebanese fathers who hate their daughters, who don’t deserve their daughters, their wives or any of the women of their lives. Those are the fathers who should stand by their daughters, forcibly weakened by society and by law, regardless of whether their daughters are in the wrong or the right, but not only fail to do so, they stand against their daughters forcing them to go down to where society put them. Those are the fathers who perpetuate the weakness that society has inflicted in our women.
I hope for a day when she wakes up and find the strength she has, despite it all, somehow rewarded. Until then, may her god be with her.