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The emotionally conflicted life of a beaten daughter


An entry in the 2015 Rivers Award
for Writing on Peace & Harmony

I have yet to come across a Papua New Guinean woman who has not faced violence or abuse at some stage in her life. Mine is no different.

It is sad how many if not all of the perpetrators are people who play a significant role or hold a position of trust in the victim’s life. For my mother, sisters, brother, son and me, this person was my dad.

Even writing these few sentences brings tears to my eyes. I am afraid of what my siblings and mom will think of me because, despite it all, we love dad.

I am also sad that, whilst I’ve only recently decided to leave home, I am clueless as to how to remove my son from this situation. I don’t have a proper home to take my son to yet. It is work in progress.

It’s sad to think that, in the array of childhood memories, fun quickly gives way to violence. Mom crying out in the shower in the middle of the night, me being pushed down the stairs, mom’s blood on the floor, my brother unconscious on the back lawn, angry beltings, chord and plank bruises on our arms, backs and legs.

Remembering it angers me. It’s hard to stay angry, though, because from an early age we were told that we had to be belted for misbehaviour.

Dad did it for our good, or that’s what he told us and what we believed to be true. I grudgingly accept that I still do think it was true, no matter how much I would like to convince myself otherwise. Simply put, I would be the first to defend my dad.

The worst part for me, a quarter of a century later, is that my son is now exposed to the very same threat.

When I recently walked out of that house I called home, I didn’t have anywhere to go. I didn’t pack anything, not even a change of clothes. I just walked out. I had had enough.

I know his anger at my rebellion and desertion will mean my siblings and mom will go through hell. But I will only go back when I’m ready to get my son out of that place.

As I work towards making a home I can bring my son to, it troubles me that I do not know how his day has been.

I do not know if he got a belting today. I do not know if he was ridiculed today in front of his uncle and aunties. I do not know if he was labelled today. If he was labelled, I do not know what names he was called. I do not know how much psychological damage may have been inflicted on my son to date.

Still I defend dad. I know dad loves him. He will feed him, clothe him and play with him like he always does. He will spoil him rotten like most grandparents do. But that never justifies a beating.

So I have been away from home for two weeks. Two stress-free weeks away from dad and violence. Two lonely and painful weeks away from my son.

I don’t know how long this will continue before I have a home to bring my son to. But I know for sure I am not going back.

Watching my mother put up with the violence is something I don’t like to ponder on. And at his tender age of four, I am choosing not to put my son through it.

I will not let him watch me get kicked or punched or whipped. I will not let him see me accept and live with it. He is a child who should not be surrounded by violence.

Discipline should be given with love. It shouldn’t include ridicule. And violent discipline should never be permitted.

The angry bruise on my thigh has left a black scar that is slowly fading. How much longer it will take the scars in my heart to heal.

I wonder if dad will ever again gain respect from my sisters.

It has been years since my brother talked to him. I wonder if that will continue.

I wonder about such things. But for my son, I hope it won’t be long until all of this will be like a dream.

The author, who has asked to remain anonymous, is a single mum of a four year old boy. She is a science graduate and holds a responsible professional job. In her spare time, she works on a project providing support for young pregnant women. She loves sewing, cooking and reading.


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Daniel Ipan Kumbon

If a social or welfare officer is following this story please locate this family and help them. I feel for the whole family and more so for the father.

He must have loved his wife when they first met. And held all his children as babies, cuddled them, guarded their first steps as they grew up.

But what went wrong?

A story reuniting this family is fit for the Val Rivers Award. Because there must be peace and harmony in the family first if there is ever going to be peace in the wider community.

Arnold  Mundua

I think there are appropriate laws to put this kind of character behind bars. Why allowing him to continue with his habit?

Roseanne O'Rourke

Anonymous. You are one brave and courageous young lady leaving your child and getting away from violence. It then takes more courage to write your story.

Most impressive for me about your story is the fact that you are able to look beyond the violence and, I quote ...

"Discipline should be given with love. It shouldn't include ridicule. And violent discipline should never be permitted."

I hope in writing your story you are able to move forward. I wish you all the best in creating a safe space for you and your child and peace and safety for all those affected in your story.

Phil Fitzpatrick

I think I agree with Sil.

While it is very brave of the writer to recount her personal experiences the level of violence seems to be well-beyond anything that is normal in PNG, especially in terms of the grandchild.

This man has serious psychological problems and needs to be treated.

That said, I was appalled at the level of violence experienced by families in Port Moresby as recounted in Emmanuel Peni's new book 'Sibona'.

That book inclines me to think that the problems recounted by the writer are peculiar to societies in flux between the old ways and the new.

Another serious downside of so-called 'modernisation'.

Raymond Sigimet

This story express violent physical abuse within the family, nothing more, nothing less. I find it difficult to relate to what has been expressed in this story as discipline. It's purely violent, physical abuse from a very violent person. Sad to read this kind of story.

I had been disciplined while growing up. And my discipline had no bearing to what has been recounted here. This is completely another thing altogether. Sad!

Peter Kranz

My Simbu father in law can be a difficult man - swears a lot, claims to know everything and is not sparing in his criticisms. But he has a heart of gold.

Last week we were driving to town (POM) and sister's baby was crying. Daddy took her in his arms and started singing "Swing low sweet chariot".

She stopped crying and started laughing. He looked at me and smiled. "Peter, I never smacked or hurt my kids, that is why I have such a good family."

Rashmii Amoah

Daniel - I interpreted this piece to be a personal account of a woman who had been subjected to physical violence. 'Blood', 'beltings', 'chord and plank bruises' can hardly be categorised as discipline.

I hold the view that it is courageous for victims of violence to speak out about their experiences. By doing so, I think that it is a step toward achieving a society where peace and harmony prevails. Is that not what the theme of the Rivers Award?

How you've inferred that I've commended Anonymous on the written piece based on gender is beyond me!

If you have not read my previous pieces published on PNG Attitude, then I suggest you do. I am very clear that I am an advocate of equal support for both males and females (if not more for males) around issues of all forms of violence and mental health. Thank you.

Kela Kapkora Sil Bolkin

That is not common in PNG, who says its common to beat up everybody in the house. Only wife bashing is common.

Everybody in the house listens to angry sermons given by fathers but only the mothers get beaten at times and the kids occassionally gets a smack.

Sorry Anonymous, your father must have had an acute dementia problem. He needs to be referred to a psychiatrist immediately.

Daniel Ipan Kumbon

Forget the award Amoah. There have been many good honest entries made by a couple of women already. A spanking is necessary - but I can't understand why the father has been beating everybody in his family. Reveal why he does that.

Rashmii Amoah

Anonymous - all the best with your entry for the Award.

Honest words for an account which, as Robin has mentioned, is unfortunately far too common in the lives of PNG men, women, boys and girls.

It is a sickening cycle, one that Papua New Guineans are all so deeply entrenched in, either directly or through someone we know.

The bravery you demonstrate by writing about your experience and also taking a stand against the perpetrator is another step forward in breaking the stigma of the shame associated with all forms of inflicted violence. I wish you, your little son and all your family members the best.

We all, as victims and perpetrators; male and female, need help. Thank you.

Daniel Ipan Kumbon

Its hard to comment on this one without knowing the reason or reasons why everybody in the family has been beaten by the father whom the writer says they still love.

I remember the reasons why my father beat me and why I have spanked some of my own children.

`Robin Lillicrapp

A haunting story, all too common, unfortunately.
Hopefully, you sharing this trauma will encourage the wider community toward a greater degree of accountability for attitudes and actions leading to a more functional social setting.

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