The cruel stepmom syndrome


A fourteen-year-old boy of Mozambican origin is missing after his stepmother beat him so badly that he fled from the home she shared with her a few days ago.

Roapfadzo Mapimhidze

Reports coming from Domboshava indicate that this is not the first time that the teen has fled from home, citing verbal and physical abuse.

Neighbours in Domboshawa said in telephone interviews that the teen is forced to do domestic work although a maid is employed, and gets beaten regularly over petty issues like forgetting a jersey at school.

The teenager is a pupil at Zimbiru Primary School in Domboshava. His father, a truck driver, works out of Zimbabwe most of the time, and is currently based in Tanzania.

Efforts to get a comment from the father were unsuccessful.
But he instead called his sister, a domestic worker in Tynwald North, saying he would be coming to Harare soon to find out what is happening at his Domboshava home.

Stories about abuse by step-parents seem to go unnoticed because there is too much focus on gender-based violence which is generally abuse by men on women.

But stepparents too are causing untold suffering to their stepchildren, a situation that calls for much attention.

Historically, the stepmother prototype has long been that of the Evil Stepmother, says a website on the Internet called The Examiner.Com.

Both fairytale princesses Cinderella and Snow White suffered at the hands of their wicked stepmothers. In the 1970s, psychologists coined the term, “The Cinderella Effect”. The belief behind the Cinderella Effect is that a stepparent cannot possibly love a child that is not his or her own as much as his or her genetic children, and, therefore, will not be as apt to protect or nurture the child.

Furthermore, the hypothesis goes that children are much more likely to be abused lethally, non-lethally, and sexually by a stepparent than a genetic parent.

Although the data represented in certain studies does seem to prove that the rate of homicide and battering is committed more often by stepparents, many studies also explain that this rate could be compounded by other factors.

“For example, divorce, separation, and abuse rates go up as the economic stability of a family goes down. Other studies also argue that some of the data doesn’t count for those injuries sustained in accidents.

“In the cases where abusers are stepparents, the eldest stepchild is most likely to be abused. In abuse situations involving only genetic families, the youngest is most typically abused.

“However, most studies also conclude that if abuse is occurring in a household at all, every child is subjected to it on some level.

“The highest majority of abuse by a stepparent has been reported as the biological mother’s live-in boyfriend or a stepfather. This higher rate is likely due to the fact that most children of divorce or separation reside permanently with their mother, rather than their father and a stepmother,” the website Examiner.Com  says.

The mother of the teenager in question lives in Mabvuku where she lives with her husband. The first time this boy disappeared, he walked to his maternal relatives that also live in Mabvuku.

There are all different types of stepmothers out there and abuse is of any form, and not just physical.

“Stepmothers can come across as a sweet nice parent and my stepmother was one of those. Eventually, she had my dad cut all his five kids off financially (meaning nothing) for college, weddings, medical although my step mom and dad are pretty wealthy people. They invest and own lots of property and homes.

“My stepmom became so mean that she would pull out her calculator at restaurants to make sure she did not pay for a dime for any of us kids. So, you can see that physically she did not hurt me. But, emotionally and financially and medically she did.

“She even got so bad that she sold us a home when I first got married knowing that the house was not worth what she sold it to us for, ripped us off by 100 grand [$100 000] and we lost the house because when we went to sell it, it would not sell because of the costs of the house and it only had one bathroom.

“So, I guess the real answer to the question would be, you can tell by the way your stepmother acts, comes across and takes care of you if she is abusive or not. Actions speak louder than words. If she tells and acts a certain way and does another, she is probably not a very good step mother. And if she calls you names, or hits you, then she is abusive a stepmom and needs to be thrown under a bus,” someone said on Internet.

Meanwhile, a final year student at the Women’s University in Africa (WUA) Isabel Masuka, was killed, becoming yet another statistic of gender-based violence that seems to be on the rise in Zimbabwe. Masuka was reportedly murdered on April 19 this year by her husband who committed suicide a few days later at his rural home.

It is against this background that a team of gender and women’s human rights activists are working with the WUA in making a public mourning of Masuka and other women who have died as a result of gender-based violence.

A march is scheduled to take place on Monday May 19 to create awareness on gender-based violence, and other forms of violence against humanity.

Masuka, who was born on August 6, 1974, was a BSc Sociology student who was in her final year and scheduled to graduate this year in October.
She was gainfully employed by the National Blood Transfusion Services in Harare whilst studying at WUA. She is survived by two children aged 15 and 9.