Sunday, October 13, 2013

Leymeah Gbowee’s Lessons on Domestic Abuse

Last month The Savvy Reader Book Club read Leymah Gbowee's book Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War.

There are so many lessons to be gleaned from this book. The very first being:
Life seldom goes according to plan:
When Leymah Gbowee was a young girl in Liberia she dreamed of becoming a doctor. Her plan was to study, work, marry, have children, and maybe someday live in one of the sprawling brick air-conditioned mansions that lined Payne Avenue. Six months after graduating from High School all of her dreams would be gone. By age 19 she found herself pregnant and in an abusive relationship with an older married man.
Gbowee is not afraid to write about her flaws and the mistakes she made in her early life. In doing so she shares important lessons she learned about domestic abuse. 20 years after meeting the father of her children she still has hard time thinking or talking about him. He almost destroyed her. She was never in love with him.

Why did she make such a bad choice?
  • Financial security – At a time when almost everyone she knew was out of work and struggling from day to day, Daniel made eight hundred US dollars a month- the equivalent of tens of thousands of Liberian dollars – working as a logistics officer at the American embassy complex, and he freely spend money on her: gifts of jewelry and perfume from the Lebanese merchants, meals at Angel’s, his favorite restaurant. (Pg. 42)
  • Intense and passionate sex.
  • The war – without it she would have been in school and living at home. Rebellion – She was tired of being the good girl who took care of her parents’ house when relatives crowded in, who went out into dangerous streets to look for food so everyone could eat, and carried hungry kids on her back. She’d seen so much destruction and death, felt so much rage and misery. (Pg. 43) 
  • She was only nineteen and wanted to have a little fun.
She shares what she has since learned about domestic abuse:
  • Pregnancy never solves anything, and more often it makes things worse. Now that I was “his,” Daniel’s need for control tightened. He didn’t like my friends visiting. Which Boyfriend are they bringing a message from?” If we needed food, he had me wait for him to come home from work so we could shop together. A moment of rebellion, and now I was caught. It’s hard to explain. You start with fantastic sex; you give another person that power over your body, then gradually, you give him other powers, too. I’d always vowed never to be like some of the women I’d seen when I was growing up, who had babies with multiple fathers. The father of my children would be my husband, and I would stay with him. (Pg. 44)  
  •  Men like him always want you to believe no one else wants you. (Pg. 47)
While still in her abusive relationship Gbowee enrolled in a program run by UNICEF training people to become social workers. She learns the following in a class on marriage and social life:
The Cycle of Domestic Violence:
In an abusive relationship there is a romantic honeymoon period followed by hitting, which led to apology and making up and another honeymoon period.
While working as a social worker with Sierra Leone refuges Gbowee meets women with troubles much worse than her own. Slowly she is able to build up her resolve; while pregnant with her fourth child she leaves her abuser for good.
Leymeh Gbowee's story provides an inspirational account of someone who was able to tap into her inner strength leave her abuser and go on to achieve great things.

Have you read this book? If so, what were your thoughts?

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  1. I haven't read the book, but I don't think it's a good idea to stay with someone abusive simply because they are the father of your children.

  2. Stefanie,
    I couldn't agree with you more.