Dealing With Domestic Abuse

We are tired of cases of people maiming, beating and subjecting to hunger, or all manner of hardship, people they are obligated to love and protect. Some cases appear so bizarre that one is forced to ask if the perpetrators were actually in the right frame of mind at the time of the act.
When people talk about domestic abuse,they often focus on domestic violence. Domestic abuse has to do with any attempt by one party in an intimate relationship, or marriage, to dominate and control the other. According to Dr Humphrey Amadi of ‘ Help Guide To Mental Health And Welness’, whether abuse or violence, the purpose is basically to gain and maintain total control over the other.
An abuser uses fear, guilt and intimidation to wear down a victim and keep same under control. While abuse remains no person’s portion, it occurs across all ages, ethnic backgrounds and all social levels as well as all sexes, especially verbal or emotional.
From threat and verbal assault, an abuse could escalate to violence. Physical injury poses the most obvious danger, this is worsened by the emotional and accompanying psychological consequences.
Abusive relationships do not only lead to anxiety and depression, it also destroys self worth, leaving victims lonely and helpless. Prof. Nkem Agbaso of the Department of Guidance and Counseling, University of Uyo, once declared that ‘ no one wishes to endure such kind of pain’.
For Dr. Nikki Williams, a psychologist, when a partner becomes unussually fearful of the other, to the point of feeling like walking on egg shell around him, constantly watching what to say or do in order to avoid being attacked, it is indicative of a relationship prone to abuse.
Dr Williams enjoins couples to look out for occasions when a party in a relationship begins to despise the dignity of a mate, to the point of exerting supremacy, and a feeling of self loathing, helplessness and desperation. It could also take the form of being afraid of one’s partner, avoiding certain topics for fears of annoying a partner. She warned.
According to the psychologist, being a victim or merely witnessing a scene of domestic abuse in childhood, can turn one aggressive in life. Such behavior could as well be learned while growing up in a family with abusive parents or relatives.
It is important to note that stress and aggression occasioned by economic problems, often lead to domestic violence. A high level of unemployment contributes to the point that people quarrel in families due to lack of basic needs.
Again, alcohol and narcotics have also been fingered as factors triggering domestic abuse. Most people who are addicted to the above hardly control their abusive instinct. Unfortunately, alcohol and other related drugs are wide spreading in Nigeria, a reason why domestic abuse and violence have become common.
Even where alcohol and other drugs are in short supply, some pockets of psychological disorder as a result of long period depression, could still produce violence. This is why it is important that people care about what family members or partners in relationship go through.
Excessive suspicion, distrust and jealousy cannot be exonerated from the catalysts of domestic abuse. Most break-ups in relationship today, are courtesy of it. Above all Dr. Williams warned that whoever wishes for a lasting happy relationship, must in addition to being wary of all so- outlined, guide against anger.
Dr. Angella Amadi, a psychologist, identified physical violence amongst couples in Nigeria as most worrisome. It includes beating, slapping, rape, murder, kicking, rejecting to eat, not willing to shoulder responsibilities, and denying partners sex at will. She also identified acid baths as a form of violence which has received a lot of attention in Nigeria. Sexual violence in Nigeria largely goes unreported because of the burden of proof necessary for conviction as well as social stigma it brings. The common loss of Women’s rights upon marriage in sub-Sahara Africa and the implicit obedience and deference towards men is socially encouraged in the society.
Dr. Angella stated that infertility is a serious problem as over 40 percent of women who visited her for counseling often complain bitterly about their husbands unruly behavior in relation to infertility. The perceptions of domestic violence varies based on religion, and class. The Tivs see wife battery as a sign of love “ that should be encouraged. She said: “if you are not yet beaten by your husband, then you do know the joy of marriage, meaning you are not yet married.” All the major ethnic groups in Nigeria have a strong patriarchal societal structures that lead to justification of domestic violence as inherent right of a husband. In her study in the nation’s capital Abuja, she explained that while domestic violence is a violation of fundamental human rights which the Nigerian constitution is against, there are still provisions that tend to legalise it. The provision of the Penal code application in the Northern part of Nigeria specifically encourages violence against women. Underneath its provisions, the beating of a wife for the purpose of correction is legal by the use of (section 55 (1) (d) of the penal code.
Dr. Martins Oyeyidah, a medical consultant proffers solutions to reduce domestic abuse and violence in Nigeria. “The first step to action is to familiarize individuals and the community with the possible signs and indicators of domestic violence.” These signs can vary and do always come with physical symptoms because domestic violence is not just limited to physical attacks such as beatings. Domestic abuse also affects every level and demography in society. So there is no typical victim despite the stereotypes. Someone who may not appear to be a victim of domestic violence may well be suffering in silence.
Nigerian women should rise to the occasion and support the home by engaging in activities that will bring productivity in the home. More than one-third of women and one in 10 men have experienced intimate partner violence in their life time, according to the National intimate partner and sexual violence survey.
Sometimes violence begins early in a relationship and other times it takes months or years to appear. It could be the jealous type, being jealous of your friends or time you spent outside.
“The lack of discussions of domestic issues creates a space in which an ostensibly socially unacceptable behaviour becomes allowable and even common place. Because conversations about domestic violence are off limit. Many women do not share abuse incidents with anyone. The taboo surrendering domestic violence discussion and accurate data reporting. It will be necessary to remove the stigma around domestic violence”, Dr Martins maintained.
He further suggested that this can be achieved through the creation of government -sponsored community programmes that directly address physical and psychological violence.
Mr. Frank Domino, a psychologist at a health Centre in Rumuigbo, Port Harcourt, observed social structure as the disparate status between men and women, as men have higher status in Nigeria than women. He stated that women should break out of traditionally engrained gender roles and expectations. With an increased sense of status, Nigerian women will no longer be bound to expected roles acquiescence. Given a voice, women will be able to challenge the established differences in status between men and women.
Igbe is a Freelancer in Port Harcourt.
Emeka Igbe