By Lakhram Bhagirat
Domestic violence has been an epidemic in Guyana for a number of years, but very few strides have been made in combating the scourge. Every day, there are reports of women suffering at the hands of men who promised to love and care for them.
In her young life, Vashti Mahase has had two relationships and both of those relationships could be considered as outside of the norm. Vashti’s story came to the fore earlier this year when it was reported that she was severely chopped by her reputed husband after serving him with a restraining order.
Vashti’s life has always been filled with challenges and, according to her, they have somewhat shaped her path. She grew up in the village of Good Hope on the East Coast of Demerara with her six siblings and single mother Zorina Mahase. Being the youngest child did not mean that she was spoiled or showered with privileges, rather she, like the rest of her siblings, felt what it was like to live below the poverty line.
Their mother worked hard to ensure that there was food on the table and clothes to cover their backs, but their education had to suffer to facilitate that. Vashti only attended school until she was in Grade Six and she came out, because the family could not have afforded it.
“I had a rough time growing up, because my mother was a single parent, but she was trying for me. I went to the Lusignan Primary School, but when I was in Grade Six, I had to come out because of my mother’s situation; she did not have money to continue to send me to school, so I come out,” the now 22-year-old recounts.
While she was out of school, Vashti became social and at the age of 15, she began her first real relationship. That relationship would result in two children, but the amount of suffering she would eventually endure was overwhelming. She had moved in with her lover when she was 17 years old and at first, everything was fine.
She knew that her lover had a mean streak, but never thought that she would become the target of that aggressiveness. The first few months of their new common-law relationship was everything she could have dreamt of, but soon her world would become grey.
It started with mean words which later transformed into actions and it was then she knew that she was in trouble. So, after enduring endless nights of beatings, verbal assault and financial abuse, Vashti decided that enough was enough and she packed her bags, took her children and left.
“He was always abusive and used to punish me for money and food and all kind of things. He used to accuse me of cheating and all kind of things. He would sit down just so and then fly in a passion and want to beat and cuss me. I never get no peace. One day he beat me so bad that I could not take it anymore, and I just leave and walk out. I went back to my mother house and I was living there with my children.”
After she walked out on the father of her children, Vashti thought she had another opportunity at starting over. She did exactly that.
Shortly after, a neighbour realised that she was back home with her parents and seized the opportunity to arrange a marriage. The woman went to Vashti’s mother with the idea of getting her settled with her single brother, Fazil Oosman which would later turn out to be a train wreck of a relationship.
“This lady lived two houses away from my mother in Good Hope and one day she come home and tell my mother that her brother looking for somebody to settle down with. She said that how he got two children, but when me mother find out, she realise that he had more than two children,” she said.
Nevertheless, the ball was placed in Vashti’s court and she chose to embark on a new journey with Oosman since he seemed like a person who was capable of building a life with her. She moved out from Good Hope and went to Lima Dam, Mahaica to live with Oosman.
There, she was isolated from her family and it seemed like déjà vu’ all over again.
“He used to live good at first, but then he never used to treat me children them right. He always used to beat them and don’t want give them food on time and everything else.”
The maltreatment of Vashti’s children pushed her over the edge and she began retaliating. However, Oosman did not give up and went as far as falsifying a report to the Child Care and Protection Agency (CCPA) against Vashti that resulted in her children being taken away.
The children were returned to their father’s custody much to Vashti’s dismay. Their father had no interest in their well-being which meant that she would have to visit them often to ensure that they were taken care of.
One day as she was preparing to go and visit her children, Oosman was in a foul mood and intensified his antics to prevent Vashti from going. But she was having none of his attitude and in the end, called her mother to rescue her.
Before her mother could have gotten there, Oosman took a cutlass and broadsided her resulting in visible marks and intense pain. She was rescued and returned to her mother’s house, where she decided once again to end another relationship because of the abuse.
Oosman continued to call Vashti and threatened her life. So, she decided to make a report to the Police as well as visit the Social Protection Ministry’s Welfare Office.
“I went to the welfare and they give me two paper. One to take to Vigilance Police Station and one to Mahaica Police Station and when I go to serve him the restraining order on 22nd February, they told me to go back the 24th to serve and when I go to serve he, that is when he chop me up.
“I went there with a female Police and he wasn’t around and he mom call him and told him that a Police Officer is there to carry the protection order against him. He come with a bicycle and while she (the officer) was reading it out, he started to cuss up and I just turn away from him and when I turn away from him, my friend scream ‘run’ and I couldn’t even get chance to run and there was [when] he started to chop me up in front of the Police,” she remembers.
The years of abuse never prepared her for that day and Vashti said it was perhaps the most horrifying experience of her life. She was chopped 15 times and her wrist was broken. After he chopped her, Oosman escaped, but was later apprehended and charged with attempted murder.
He is currently on bail and Vashti fears for her life. Nevertheless, she is trying to pick up the pieces and recover.