By Fidel Elizchrist Ujunwa
Domestic violence can be described as an attempt by one partner in an intimate relationship to dominate another. It is the misuse of power by one partner over another through verbal abuse, threats, physical abuse, and other forms of abuse. Domestic violence can happen to anyone, male and female inclusive but victims are mostly females.
Domestic violence against the female gender is one that can be traced back to an early age. The female gender was always seen as weak, inferior, and vulnerable. Hence, in a position to be exploited by the male gender. This age-old phenomenon which became a norm is the major reason the males who feel they are superior began to treat the female gender with disdain. They see them as their subject and will try all possible means to bring them under their control.
Another major reason for domestic violence is the issue of partners marrying not because of love or compatibility but because of parents’ pressure, peer pressure, influence, wealth, status, lack of patience e.t.c. The result is that we see more of incompatible partners and a union with no love. In an attempt to vent their frustration, constant fights and quarrels become a norm in the marriage.
Domestic violence is something that has become so rampant in our society today. The increasing cases of this act are disheartening. Most victims due to fear have refused to voice out the pains they are going through in the hands of abusive partners. But, it’s time to break the silence. Victims of domestic violence should be properly enlightened that abuse of whatever form is not something that should be condoned and there is no justification for an abusive partner. They should know that they should not delay reporting an abusive partner to respected authorities and if possible leaving the partner.
Also, we at our only little corner should be observant to know victims of domestic abuse and show love, listening ears, and care to them. We should make sure that all perpetrators of this act are apprehended and punished for their evil deeds.
There are several warning signs you can look for if you suspect that someone you know is a victim of domestic abuse and violence. I believe when you are conversant with them, you will be able to spot these victims and render help.
Warning signs of domestic abuse and violence:
1) They have frequent injuries.
2) They usually were clothing designed to hide injuries and scars.
3) They are usually anxious and afraid whenever they are with their partner.
4) They tend to be withdrawn and avoid social gatherings.
5) They are usually sad.
6) They usually complain about their partner.
7) They have low self-esteem.
There are several types of domestic violence in which one can fall victim. From my own end, I have observed that a lot of partners are in an unhealthy relationship and are victims of domestic violence but are ignorant of it simply because of a limited mindset. They are governed with the mindset that domestic violence is only when their partner abuses them physically through fights which leads to serious injuries and complications. And many are suffering in silence and confused about how to react.
Now, if you are a victim of this and you are still dwelling in ignorance about what domestic violence truly is. I am here to tell you that domestic violence and abuse is beyond just physical violence. It’s way more than that. It often escalates from threat and verbal abuse to violence. When you are scared of your partner and feel like a subject under him, it shows that your relationship is unhealthy and this often leads to domestic violence. That you are not battered or injured by your partner doesn’t mean that you are not abused. Domestic abuse takes a different form which can either be physical, sexual, psychological, and economic abuse.
Physical Abuse: Physical abuse can be seen as the situation when one partner uses physical force on another in a way that endangers life and leads to serious injuries/complications.
Sexual Abuse: Sexual Abuse can be termed ‘Forced Sex’. It is when one partner forces another to participate in a sexual act against their own will. When you engage in a sexual act that you never wanted at a particular time simply because you were being forced and manipulated into it. It is sexual abuse and a form of domestic violence.
Psychological Abuse: Psychological abuse usually have a great effect on the mental health of the victim. When your partner threatens you, abuses you verbally by using insulting words, yells at you, blames you at every slight instance, complains, exert total control over you, and nags a lot. Over time, all this begins to affect your emotions and psychological well being. It’s psychological abuse and also a form of domestic violence.
Economic/Financial Abuse: This is when your partner withholds basic necessities from you. It includes the refusal to take care of your needs, withholding money to buy essential foodstuffs/commodities in the house, seizing your ATM, controlling what you do, choosing your career and workplace, controlling your finances, refusing you from attending social gatherings and many more. All these are a sign of economic abuse and a form of domestic violence.
When you are a victim of any of the above abuse from your partner, it is domestic violence and it’s your right to speak out, leave an abusive relationship, or report to constituted authority on domestic violence.
How to protect yourself from frequent abuse:
While there are many victims who immediately leave an abusive relationship once they notice the sign or immediately the issue of abuse becomes a chronic one, there are many others who would still love to stay.
This could be because of many factors including the fear of stigma from the society or the lack of finances to take care of their well being or that of the children.
Now, whether you are ready to leave your partner or not, there are a few steps you can take to protect yourself while still in an abusive relationship. This will be most applicable to those who chose to stay. Though it’s not advisable to manage an abusive relationship especially from a partner who is not ready to change. However, there are precautions you could take to avoid the persistent abuse from your partner and reduce the severity of damage that will be caused especially in the area of physical abuse. They are;
1) Take note of those things that prompt anger from your partner and avoid doing them. Be alert of clues that your partner is getting annoyed and may abuse you. Then, go far away from the environment.
2) Have a safe house – A place within your house where you can run to when there is an attack or argument that may prompt one. Avoid places where there are no exits, instead, your safe house should be wide and also have an exit door where you can run off when the situation becomes so critical or he finds you.
3) Establish a word or signal to alert either your children or neighbours when in danger and make it known to them.
4) Have emergency contacts – You must know off-hand the number of all trusted contacts you can quickly call or run to when under attack.
5) Practice and know your escape plan – This is knowing exactly what to do and the next line of action to take when under an attack.
5) Contact the national domestic violence hotline with the code -1-800-799-SAFE or the domestic violence helplines in Nigeria – 08057542266, 08102678443. You can also call 911 or your local emergency service.
Effects of Domestic Violence on victims:
Victims of domestic violence go through a lot especially in regards to their mental health. The trauma the victims face is one that is so deep and can stay for years even after leaving an abusive relationship. Some of the effects of domestic violence on victims are:
1) Frequent injuries
3) Suicidal thoughts
4) Drug addiction
5) Overly aggressive
7) Disconnection from the outside world.
Domestic Violence also has a huge effect on partners’ children. Children who grew up in an abusive relationship where they watched their parents constantly fighting and raining abuses on each other tend to emulate such behaviours, become stone-hearted, violent, and more likely to become abusers later in life. So, all hands should be on deck to stop this evil menace because the effect is not only on victims but on the innocent children. It’s more like a cycle – Abusers – victims – children – future abusers.
We all have a role to play in preventing domestic violence ranging from the perpetrators, abusers, children, non-victims, and the government.
To perpetrators, you must know that domestic violence is not right. It’s morally wrong to abuse your partner. If your partner is doing something that is annoying or provoking to you, sit down and talk it out. Practice self-control and seek counsel if your constant abuse is beyond your control. Settle your grievances with each other.
You must know that Karma exists and at the right time, you will pay for your evil deeds. You must have the fear of God in you. The fear of God will help you to abstain from abusing your partner.
To victims – You must know that there is no justification for an abusive partner. Do not allow self-pity to stop you from speaking out or leaving. Do not allow fear make you to be constantly abused by your partner. Break the silence, report to domestic violence authorities, seek counsel. These agencies are also available to help out, reach out to them when you are abused:
1) Domestic Violence hotline
2) Domestic & Sexual violence Response (DSVRT) Lagos State
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hotlines: 112, 08056268573, 07080601080
3) Helpline Domestic Violence
To children – Speak out when you notice that mom or dad is abused. Reach out to a trusted person. Do not allow your environment or circumstances to affect your behaviour. Embrace positivity and know that domestic violence in your home is not your fault in any way.
To non-victim – Master and know the warning signs of domestic abuse so you can easily spot a victim. Render a listening ear to victims when they reach out to you, encourage them to speak out, show them love, care, and support. Assist them in making sure that the perpetrators are cautioned or apprehended.
To Government – Establish several constituted authorities that will be in charge of Domestic Violence cases and make sure that perpetrators are given the justice they deserve so it will serve as a note of warning to others. There should be proper awareness and enlightenment on the effects of domestic violence and the need for victims to speak out.
Let’s all say ‘No’ to domestic violence.