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Scars of violence – Janet Mwihaki suffered 85 per cent burns

Janet Mwihaki suffered 85 per cent burns after her husband set her ablaze. Though she survived, recent rise in spousal killings show that some are not lucky as her. So, what are the red flags that the man you are dating could turn abusive?

Wambui Virginia @kuivigie

She was once a beautiful, vibrant woman who was ambitious and full of life. But now Janet Mwihaki is full of scars and pain. She was married young at only 16 years. She met her ex husband while she worked as a waiter at a local hotel.

The problem started soon after her third born was born. It was verbal abuse, before it got to physical. Her relationship was on and off as she kept going back to her parents’ home. “He was financially stable and never wanted me to work.

He wanted us to have house helps so that he could have affairs with them. He also had affairs with other women and sometimes brought his mistresses home and made me tend to them,” she claims.

The physical abuse became too much and one day she decided to leave her matrimonial home. She opted to start a business at Gikomba market. “I once met my ex husband on my way to work. He told me that he had sent word to me to return home, but I had declined. He grabbed me and stabbed me three times on my back and one on the stomach and left me for dead. Well wishers took me to hospital.

But even before I healed I went back to work to fend for my family,” Janet recalls. Soon after, he kept stalking her and in 2006, he warlaid her on the road, poured petrol on her and set her ablaze. She had over 85 per cent burns on her limbs, ears and hands and also left her partially blind.

She stayed in Kenyatta National Hospital for three years and after being discharged, her family rejected her until a church decided to help her. The man was arrested and in 2011, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for attempted murder.

But defending himself, he said that Jane was too beautiful and had many men lusting after her. He also claimed she was cheating on him. Janet’s life has changed for the worst and she now depends on well wishers to support her as she cannot operate her limbs. She has since reunited with her sons who had become street urchins. She has also been spreading awareness on gender-based violence.

Domestic violence has been on the rise. However the law is clear on such acts of violence, especially Protection Against Domestic Violence Act. Abuse include economic abuse; emotional or psychological abuse; harassment; physical abuse, sexual abuse; stalking, verbal abuse; or any other conduct against a person, where such conduct harms or may cause imminent harm to the safety, health, or well-being of the person.

Many victims of domestic violence don’t even know that most of these offenses listed are crimes punishable in the court. Unaware of their rights, they suffer in silence, hoping against hope that the actions will end in due course.

Incidences of spousal killings have been on the rise in the recent past. But in some cases, some relatives have confessed they saw it coming. So is it possible to tell that your fiancé may turn abusive before you enter into that marriage? Psychologist James Mbugua says, “Yes”.

“If your partner is the jealous type, stalking you on social media, checking your phone and watching your every move that’s a red flag,” he notes. If someone is possessive and controlling, who always wants things to be done their way, can also turn abusive. “In extreme cases, they may want to control their partner’s finances, forbid them from pursuing a career or even investing,” he adds.

Another warning sign is when a partner is not comfortable with you interacting with your family and friends. If he’s not with you then you should not be with anyone. If he blames you for his misdeeds, be warned.

“He will say he cheated because you pushed him to do so, that shows he is not willing to own up to his actions,” he says. And if you are always afraid to tell your partner anything because you are afraid of their reaction that’s a red flag. And if he lift his hand on you once, be sure he would do it again and again.

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