By Yetunde Arebi
Violence against women has been described as gender-based crime impacting on women’s physical, emotional and psychological health. Because most of these crimes are perpetuated against women by the people known to them and/or are related to them, most recorded violence against women is called domestic violence.
Domestic violence is abuse by one person in a relationship, to control or manipulate the other person and it can take very dangerous and unhealthy forms in many cases, including emotional and psychological abuse.
Even though people generally think of violence as beating or hitting a partner but according to Helpguide.org, a non profit resource on its website against abuse, emotional and psychological abuse oftentimes pose more danger to the abused partner and may also eventually lead to violence.
Unfortunately, these two forms of abuse are not easily recognized. Most abused partners often do not know they are being abused. Many simply think they are unhappy with their partner’s behaviour while some others believe it is a way of life and the accepted practice or societal norm, so they just stay there and bear it out.
Often, grave damage might have been done before the abused partner recognizes his/her condition and seeks help. Even then, help might not readily be offered because most people are more concerned about the physical than the other forms of abuse. Questions often asked by potential helpers may include; does he beat you, does he beat the children, does he pay school fees for the kids? If all these are negative, then, there must be no problem.
Ironically too, many abusers do not know they are abusers. Abuse or violence in relationship or marriage may destroy a person’s self-worth, confidence and well being, causing depression, loneliness and helplessness. Many abused persons also pass on these feelings of insecurity, low self-esteem and complacency to their offspring, ditto, abuser, making them believe that it is the norm or the socially acceptable way of life.
Thus, daughters of an abused woman often grow to find themselves in abused relationships while sons of abusers turn to abusers too. The apple does not fall too far from the tree, the saying goes. So, how do you know you are in an abusive relationship? Let’s check out these few tips and if you can try to answer the questions truthfully, you should be able to tell.
*Do you feel afraid of your partner most of the time? If you have to constantly think of how your partner will react to something? If you have to constantly walk on eggshells around them, minding what you say or do so as to avoid a confrontation, then you are in an abusive relationship.
*Do you feel that you can’t do anything right for your partner? If you are put down by your partner no matter how much effort you have put into trying to please them or do right by them, then you really need to evaluate yourself or the relationship. In evaluating yourself, you do not have to devalue yourself or your effort if you know you have done your best.
If it is a common pattern, then your partner needs to be told. Abusers, especially emotional and mental abusers often do not realize it themselves. It is your duty and right to tell your partner what he/she is doing that you are not favourably disposed to. If there are no positive changes after this, then, there is need for counseling.
*Do you believe that you deserve to be hurt or mistreated? Abused persons may sometimes feel responsible for the way their partners treat them, especially when abuse becomes a pattern. The abused person feels guilty and blames herself for the vile treatment.
Besides, abusers often tend to blame their actions on the abused, insisting that if they had not done this, then, they would not have reacted in that manner. You might hear excuses such as these; “You see what you have made me done to you”?
“Why do you always argue with me when I talk”? “If you don’t do this, then I will not have to do that to you.” It is a systemic manipulation which the abused might come to accept. Do you feel emotionally numb or helpless? Many factors contribute to this.
Where there is no support, that is, family, friends and community or law enforcement agents, then victims of abuse may feel there is nothing they can do but adapt and learn to live with the situation. Pity, this is often the case in many Nigerian families. Marriage is seen as the final exit of a female child from her family.
She is expected to do everything to ensure that she remains in the marriage, no matter the challenges. Parents often forget that marriage is a partnership or union involving two individuals. Remaining in the union, or determination to make things work, often does not depend on one but two of the partners.
Many parents often refuse to offer assistance to their abused daughters, sending them back to their abusers all in a bid to protect themselves from public ridicule. Another common factor is lack of financial independence.
Women who lack the financial capability to provide adequately for themselves or their children, or who wish to maintain a particular lifestyle that they will not be able to afford on their own, are more likely to stay with their abusive partners rather than walk out of the relationship.
*Does your partner see you as property or a sex object rather than as a person? Sex must be of mutual benefit and enjoyment for the two. If your partner insists on having sex, with or without your consent; is disrespectful about the style and manner of sex and insists on having his way all the time, then you are in a sexually abusive relationship.
This is a silent killer on many marital beds. Many wives have devised their own way around this, apply a lavish amount of lubricant and let his ego hump away in oblivion! Unfortunately, this is at the expense of their sexual satisfaction and happiness.
*Does your partner ignore or put down your opinions or accomplishments? Partners must celebrate and help to improve each other in every sphere of their lives. It is not in all situations that a man must be the successful or famous of the partners. Being a man does not also mean that he is more intelligent or has the best answers and solutions to all things.
Most times, an abuser will do this out of selfishness, envy, pride and bitterness at their own shortcoming or failure. Unfortunately, some of the blame may perhaps go to the grooming and social orientation that men are given from childhood, men are told that they are the head of the family, they must be providers while their wives must be managers of whatever they provide.
Wives must be submissive while husbands must give directives which must be obeyed. Men who find themselves at the other end of the stick may find it difficult to adapt to the situation. Indeed, there has to be a re-orientation in the grooming of young boys in modern times. Partners must learn to lift each other and not play God.
*Does your partner treat you so badly that you are humiliated or embarrassed for your friends or family to see? Does he criticize you and put you down? Does he humiliate or yell at you at every little thing? In 2014, an Indian lady was granted divorce by a court because her husband raped her in front of her children!
Another, finally got the attention of the court to seek permission to drag her husband to court. She was not only seeking divorce but justice from the court against her husband but also a family friend and her brothers-in-law for gang raping her. For her sharp tongue and disrespect towards him, her husband had invited these other men to their home to help teach his wife a lesson!
To help a husband whose ego had been seriously bruised when his wife eloped with another man, the court granted permission that the sisters of the lover be raped! Ridiculous! Sometimes, I wonder what life must have been like for women in the Stone Age era.
*Does your partner blame you for their own abusive behaviour? It is one of the strategies abusers use to shift blame and responsibility for their actions or behaviours on their partners. Always remember that you are only responsible for your own actions and not that of your partner. Look at it this way: If someone else does that to him, would he react in the same way?
Abusers can behave better and have only picked you out to abuse simply because they can and you have also allowed them to continue doing it to you. Does your partner have a bad and unpredictable temper? Does he hurt you, or threatens to hurt or kill you?
Does he threaten to take your children away or harm them? Does he threaten to commit suicide or harm himself if you leave? Does he destroy your belongings at any opportunity? Does he act excessively jealous and possessive? Does he control where you go or what you do? Does he keep you from seeing your friends or family?
Does he limit your access to money, the phone, or the car? Does he constantly check on you? Then, you are systematically being abused and you need to sit down and talk things through. Often, women who find themselves in this type of relationship deceive themselves that these actions are borne out of love for them rather than the insecurity of their partners.
However, do bear in mind that there is a thin line between being abusive and protective and you will need to figure this out rationally on your own. Do have a wonderful weekend!