OPINION: We All Failed To Protect Osinachi
By ABIOLA OLAGBAMI
Until Sunday April 10, 2022, I never heard the name Osinachi Nwachukwu. I never heard her sing or knew anything at all about her. When I read that she had died as a result of injuries sustained from possible physical assault by her husband my heart sunk. How could a woman endure so much and die by the hands of the man who promised to love and cherish her? How could so many people know so much and say nothing? How could her spiritual family leave her to die in the hands of the man who was supposed to be her protector? The sadness has ripped my heart especially when, in death, this 42-year- old mother of four children is now the symbol of something that should never have happened in the first place. In death, everyone who knew something was wrong is now sharing what they knew. My heart breaks because those concerns and secrets could have been shared to save her from so much pain and save her children from being motherless.
Osinachi’s family knew she was being assaulted by her husband; members of her church knew she was being assaulted; her children were aware of her abuse; her friends were aware because she confided in them or witness specific incidents of assault/abuse. Each person is excusing their inability to act by stating that the battered woman begged them not to say anything.
For more than 10 minutes I listened to her pastor talk about what he knew because he wanted to set the records straight. I listened for the humility in his voice and the pain of the loss of a woman whom he stated was a “kingdom asset.” He dropped a lot of names and places but I never heard him say that he asked God for discernment. I heard him blame everyone who knew something and said nothing and even went as far as to say there was no way for him to know.
A pastor is a shepherd, and a shepherd watches over his sheep; senses the needs of his sheep and meets those needs; feeds them when they are hungry; cares for them when they are hurt. The reason for my writing today is not what a pastor is so I will leave it at that. I am frustrated with the pastor of her congregation who blames others for something he failed to discern. In his speech, I did not hear him take responsibility for the church failing this woman who used her gift to bless the congregation. When she was alive, she probably referred to her pastor as “Daddy” and his wife as “Mummy” yet these “parents” watched as her life was snuffed out of her because a man’s family is his business.
Victims of domestic violence typically have their emotions and self-worth broken before they have their bodies battered. They are told that they are worth nothing and can only be worth something with the involvement of their abuser. Abusers get gratification from belittling and isolating their victim. If everything that is being said is true, the signs were glaring and could have been identified 100 miles away. Osinachi was isolated from her family and friends—that is a classic tactic of the abuser. Even when she was around people, she was isolated because of fear. When a victim tells you not to share what they are going through, that is when you know that the person is in grave danger. When you witness a grown woman being hit in the face by her husband, you do not just “mind your business;” you do something.
For those who blame Osinachi and many like her — let it be known that society leaves women with few choices because of how our successes are defined. From what I hear, she loved to use her gift to the glory of God and she was good at it. If she had been brave enough to leave her abuser, she would have been stripped of the opportunity to do something that was dear to her and possibly gave her a purpose. She may have been ostracized by the congregation she served and given names I dare not repeat. She will have been told that God hates her because she is divorced (which is not what the passage says because it is divorce that God hates). Societal pressures abound because marriage remains the only way women can prove our worth. Don’t get me wrong, marriage is a good thing. My Christian faith teaches me that marriage is the picture of the union between Christ and His Church. That is the point. Christ did not batter His Church; He loved her, served her, cherished her and laid His life down for her. All those who knew what Osinachi and many others like her suffer and do nothing perpetuate the belief that it is good to be battered.
I am frustrated at all those who are now testifying that she was an angel but failed to do all they could to save her. I am frustrated that the four children she left behind will forever be traumatized by what their mother experienced. Her sons have learned that men beat their wives and the daughters have learned to expect it. Children learn how to be men and women from those who raise them. If you know a child—boy or girl—let that child know that he or she is precious. Let them know that they are worth so much and none of their worth includes being battered physically or emotionally. Teach them the right ways to treat each other and themselves. We all failed Osinachi while she was alive. The least we can do is make her death worth something. Let us educate ourselves to recognize the subtle signs of power and control. Let us begin a movement that makes intimate partner violence a crime. Let us build in our boys and girls high levels of God-worth and teach them to identify the power and control that precedes the physical violence. Let us support those who remain single so that women can make safe choices when their lives depend on it. Let us learn to identify silent screams of desperation. Let Osinachi’s story not end with the fact that she died by the hands of the man who promised to love her.
Another Osinachi is screaming for help in wounded silence. Let us not fail her too.
- Abiola Olagbami is a licensed Social Worker. She has post-graduate degrees in Theology, Social Work, and Education as well as a PhD in Leadership Studies. She currently works in Child Welfare and Family Services.