Domestic abuse – when will it end?
Recently there’s been a spate of extreme domestic violence in Nigeria. I don’t know if this is because there’s been a sudden increase in the incidents or they are simply more widely reported now. Whatever the case, it is an alarming state of affairs.
Reported cases that I’ve read or heard of include;
- Augustina Jimoh who suffered second-degree burns when husband, a police inspector, set her alight after an argument.
- Titi Arowolo, a banker and mother, whose husband killed her and mutilated her body.
- Ogochukwu Onuchukwu who suffered many years of emotional and physical abuse, not just from her husband but his family too.
- An unnamed friend of the well-known Nollywood actress and TV presenter, Stella Damasus of whom she writes about here.
- And countless others who may or may not be known to us.
A common thread that seems to run through most of these cases is that when the victim reports it to their family, their church leadership and/or the police, they are told to hang in there. Their families do not want the ridicule and shame of having one of theirs a product of a broken home so tell them to be patient with their violent husbands and try not to antagonise or incite him to further violence.
Their pastors tell them God hates divorce and advice them to stick it out and pray for their husbands to change. The police tell them they cannot interfere as this is a domestic matter within which they have no jurisdiction.
When we read these stories, we wonder why the women involved didn’t just up and leave. We ask ourselves how they could stayed and taken the abuse for so long. We blame them for not being stronger or bolder and for not having enough self-esteem to refuse to be a victim. We struggle to reconcile how it is possible to have remained so passive in such volatile circumstances.
It’s easy to sit in our comfortable homes and make judgments of a situation of which we have no personal experience but we need to try to see things from the victims’ points of view to get a more accurate picture. I doubt very much that any of these women was a masochist. They must have felt pain and discomfort from the repeated abuse and most probably sought to end it in one way or another.
However, we need to consider the other possible factors to these cases. If the people and organisations who should have provided these women a way out, a safe haven, a strong support system and an escape from their abusive husbands refused or shied away from doing so, how then could they have felt confident about walking away? If the justice system which should have offered them recourse failed them so miserably, how on earth could they have escaped, so lacking in the confident knowledge that their abusers would receive their just deserts?
I know there are two sides to every story. If you ask the men involved, they would probably recount a long litany of the wrongs these women did them. However, nothing can justify this total disregard for another human being, much less your wife, and probably, mother of your children.
Every time I read or hear about one of these cases, I’m overcome by a deep sadness. I mourn the loss of a young life, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a friend, a colleague. I’m sad at the thought that this kind of abuse is still going unpunished in the 21st century.
It is alarming and heart-wrenching to know that in spite of these well-publicised cases, many men will continue to manhandle their wives knowing that the consequences are as elusive as the unicorn.
Some pastors will continue to dole out unbiblical advice and encourage battered wives to stay and pray. Some parents and siblings would rather hand their daughters’ heads to their violent husbands on a platter than suffer the ignominy of having a divorce in the family. The police will continue to refuse to intervene in domestic disputes whether they be mere tiffs or full-blown boxing training sessions with the woman being used as the punching bag. Our legislators will be more concerned with lining their pockets from the national coffers than creating and enforcing legislation to prevent such abuse at best, or ensuring the abusers are duly punished, at worst.
It’s time for us to take a stand against domestic violence. It is not OK for a man to hit out at his wife in anger irrespective of the provocation. It doesn’t matter who he is or what he does for a living. There is no justification for this sort of behaviour. It’s time we stood up to these bullies and start turning this trend around.
Violent husbands, please deal with your anger management issues in less violent ways. It isn’t right to take out your frustrations, insecurities or whatever other issues you may have, on your wife. Get help. If you need to hit out at someone else to feel superior, you really are inferior and no amount of wife-bashing will make you any bigger. There are people you can talk to and who can help you. Go to them. If you cannot bring yourself to admit you have a problem, then you have an even bigger problem than you think.
Wives, if he’s hit you once, there is a very high probability he will do it again and that over time, he will get more violent. Seek help. Get counselling for both of you. If he won’t go with you, be prepared to vote with your feet. I’m not advocating divorce but I do believe desperate time call for desperate measures. It may not end up in divorce but you will also probably not end up as a statistic of domestic violence mortality.
Friends and family, don’t just sit and watch as wives are battered and bruised. Speak up. When you see your friend or sister with another black eye, don’t just accept the “I walked into the door” explanation. How many doors does she need to walk into or how many times does she have to fall down the stairs to get a reaction out of you? Surely she can’t be that clumsy!
Challenge the husbands. Let them know they can’t mistreat your person and get away with it. I am no advocate for violence but I make an exception in this case. If gentle persuasion doesn’t do the trick, give him a dose of his own medicine. Bullies usually back down when they are recipients of their own bullying tactics.
Policemen, I know you’ve got your work cut out for you in our dear country but you cannot keep hiding behind a lack of jurisdiction. It is not true. If a person is in fear of their life and comes to you, you have a duty to protect them. Pay the home a visit. Have a friendly chat with the fellow. If further reports are made, throw his sorry ass in a rodent-infested cell for a couple of days. He will come to his senses soon enough. If he doesn’t, get her to press charges and let it become a matter for the courts to decide.
Legislators, please create laws that protect women and children from domestic violence. Establish strong punitive measures for any defaulters and see to it that these are doled out duly, promptly and with no respect of persons.
Dear pastors and church leaders, please acquaint yourselves with the Bible. There is no portion of it which advocates that a woman remain in a potentially fatal situation whilst praying. That is suicide which it doesn’t encourage at all. On the contrary, it encourages us to be “as wise as serpents” while being “as gentle as doves”. It tells us to “wage war with wisdom” for “wisdom is a defence”. The Bible is unequivocal in demanding that men love their wives like Christ loved the church and laid down his life for her. It exhorts men to treat the wives with dignity and honour, preferring them in love.
If a woman comes to you seeking help from an abusive husband, please do not send her back into the lions’ den. Confront the husband. By all means, seek and facilitate reconciliation but please do not turn a blind eye and pretend that change will come to said husband overnight. Keep an eye on the couple. Make the man accountable. If he refuses these overtures and carries on in his evil ways, please remove the woman (and children) from the home.
We all have a responsibility to end this violence and it’s about time we took our duties seriously, onerous though they may be. For if we keep silent, we are only helping to perpetuate it as a large percentage of children from violent homes will themselves become perpetrators or victims of domestic abuse.
Let’s save the women of our and future generations the heartache and anguish of this great evil. Let’s end it. Now!
Thanks for stopping by.