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Keeping silent in the face of tyranny

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By Chioma Gabriel

Last week, I received a call from a member of my church who said she was on admission in the hospital. I didn’t have the time to visit her until last Friday after she was already discharged.

I went to her house and she was wearing a neck collar. Jokingly, I asked when she became a reverend and she started crying.

I asked if she had an accident and she said no. She said it was her husband that beat her and pushed her down the stair case. I was surprised. Her husband is a pastor and what pastor would deal with his wife that way. She often came to church with bruises and often lied about how she sustained the injuries.

And what did she do this time?

It was not something they could have resolved amicably. She went for a women’s retreat in another church and the programme lasted longer than anticipated. She sent her husband a text that the programme would last longer than anticipated and when she eventually got home, he was in a very bad mood and kept shouting.

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And obviously tried to show that ‘two can play the game’ and shouted back. He reacted by trying to push her out of the house and she resisted. He applied maximum force that saw her rolling down the staircase of their three bedroom duplex, leaving her with twisted neck and large patches of bruises. He rushed her to hospital where she was admitted for three days. The police was not involved and she has returned home to the same man.

It wasn’t the first time. On several occasions, the man had dragged her down the staircase naked and in the process, left several bruises on her. He had also chased her out of the house on many occasions and she slept in her shop. The woman has often confided in some church members and many don’t seem to believe her and those who did often fail to do anything because of the man’s position in church. He is also a ‘big’ man.

On many occasions, select members of the church often intervened in their matter. The church has often managed their case in such a way that it wouldn’t go to the police. But the matter is getting beyond the church’s control and one day, something worse could happen.

It’s so painful having to watch this man preach fire and brimstone from the pulpit and knowing he is a wife abuser and batterer. It’s a pill too difficult for some of us to swallow and the church seems too weak to handle the case when the man could be dragged to court or the police and made to pay.

Domestic violence is not something to wax spiritual over.

As often defined, domestic violence include “all acts of physical, sexual, psychological or economic violence” that may be committed by a family member or intimate partner. Violent or aggressive behaviour within the home, typically involving the violent abuse of a spouse or partner is not something to play spiritual politics with. Abusive, violent, coercive, forceful, or threatening act or word inflicted by one member of a family or household on another should be treated seriously.

From records, domestic violence, once considered one of the most under-reported crimes, became more widely recognized during the 1980s and 1990s.

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It includes everything from saying unkind or demeaning words, to grabbing a person’s arm, to hitting, kicking, choking, or even murdering. Domestic violence most often refers to violence between married or cohabiting couples, although it sometimes refers to violence against other members of a household, such as children or better halves. It occurs in every racial, socio-economic, ethnic, and religious group, although conditions such as poverty, drug or alcohol abuse, and mental illness increase its likelihood.

Since the 1990s, domestic violence involving married or cohabiting couples has been receiving vast media attention. In the United States, the highly publicized 1995 trial of former professional football player and movie actor O.J. Simpson for the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Lyle Goldman thrust it onto the front pages of newspapers for many months.

Simpson was acquitted of the murder charges, but evidence produced at his trial showed that he had been arrested in 1989 for spousal battery and that he had threatened to kill his ex-wife. The disclosure that a prominent sports figure and movie star had abused his wife prompted a national discussion on the causes of domestic violence, its prevalence, and effective means of eliminating it.

In Nigeria, cases of husbands killing wives and vice versa have often adorned the front pages of newspapers. The report varies and the victims often don’t live to tell their stories.

But despite the reported cases of domestic violence, instances of domestic violence continue to occur. Those that involve celebrities and professionals continue to attract the most attention. We are familiar with the cases of Nollywood actresses, Mercy Akhigbe and Tonto Dike.

People who are repeatedly victimized by spouses or other partners often suffer from low self-esteem, feelings of shame and guilt, and a sense that they are trapped in a situation from which there is no escape. Some who feel that they have no outside protection from their batterer may turn to self-protection.

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Increase in reports of domestic violence has led to a widespread legal response. Domestic violence is now treated as a criminal offence. People in relationship should stop overlooking the matter and report their cases to the police.

Your partner apologizes and says the hurtful behaviour won’t happen again but you fear it will. At times you wonder whether you’re imagining the abuse, yet the emotional or physical pain you feel is real.

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