I know this is out of the ordinary for me, but I just had to say something. It’s like we talk about domestic violence everyday and still yet, the percentage of deaths linked to domestic violence keeps increasing. All over social media you see #saynotoviolenceagainstwomen or #stopdomesticviolence, yet you hear stories about how a lady was beaten to death, or how a boyfriend choked his significant other to death.
Did this become a trend or is it that domestic violence has always been there but people, particularly women, are willing to come out and tell their stories? Which is it?
The reason why I felt the need to write about this is beacuse of Karabo Mokoena, the beautiful South African lady who was allegedly burnt to death by her boyfriend. Her sin: she was no longer interested in the relationship, and could not endure being a punching bag.
All over Twitter and Instagram #RIPKarabo was trending. As you would expect, vituperations were poured on the boyfriend, domestic violence became the most talked about thing, then gradually, silence. This has unfortunately become the trend. Something terrible happens, we are all up in arms shouting “Say No To Domestic Violence”. After a few days, the attention dies down, and we move on to the next topic, till someone becomes a victim again.
According to Webmd, domestic violence is abuse that happens in a personal relationship. It can happen between past or current partners, spouses, or boyfriends and girlfriends. Domestic violence affects men and women of any ethnic group, race, or religion; gay or straight; rich or poor; teen, adult, or elderly.
The following are examples of domestic violence. Bear in mind that this list is not exhaustive.
According to Women’sAid.Org, women are more likely than men to experience multiple incidents of abuse, different types of domestic abuse (intimate partner violence, sexual assault and stalking) and in particular sexual violence. Any woman can experience domestic abuse regardless of race, ethnic or religious group, sexuality, class, or disability, but some women who experience other forms of oppression and discrimination may face further barriers to disclosing abuse and finding help.
With all these information about domestic violence, why do we keep hearing more stories day in day out? What can you and I do to help?
I was discussing this issue with a friend, because, for the life of me, I couldn’t understand why people stay in abusive relationships. And she said something that resonated deeply, “maybe they don’t know that they are in an abusive relationship. Maybe, they are so used to it, or grew up seeing it, that they have assumed that this is the norm“.
The following questions on Women’sAid.Org may help:
1. Has your partner tried to keep you from seeing your friends or family?
2. Has your partner prevented you or made it hard for you to continue or start studying, or from going to work?
3. Does your partner constantly check up on you or follow you?
4. Does your partner unjustly accuse you of flirting or of having affairs with others?
5. Does your partner constantly belittle or humiliate you, or regularly criticise or insult you?
6. Are you ever afraid of your partner?
7. Have you ever changed your behaviour because you are afraid of what your partner might do or say to you?
8. Has your partner ever hurt or threatened you or your children?
9. Has your partner ever threatened to take your children away, or said he would refuse to let you take them with you, or even to see them, if you left him?
10. Has your partner ever forced or harassed you to have sex with him or with other people? Has he made you participate in sexual activities that you were uncomfortable with?
11. Has your partner ever tried to prevent your leaving the house?
There are so many other ways of finding out if you’re being abused. If your answer to all the questions above is yes, then my dear, it is time to get out and get help.
1. By raising your children right. Teaching and showing them that any form of abuse is totally wrong and unaccepted. It is also illegal in most countries. As we all know, charity begins at home. Whatever societal change we seek must first start from the family, the most important nexus in the society.
Outside of the immediate family, there are other factors that impact, positively or negatively, the upbringing of a child, one of them is the child’s immediate environment. In my post “It Takes A Village To Train A Child“, I talked about the other members of the community that help, both directly and indirectly, to bring up a child.
That said, you have to ensure that the message that your child is getting from his environment is not detrimental to the child.
2. Speak up. I’m very happy that a lot of people are talking about it, either from experience or from seeing it happen to a loved one. We need to keep the conversation going. If you see something, say something.
If you know someone who’s being hurt by their partner, you have to remind them they deserve to be safe and respected. Due to the high incidence of domestic violence, the government in many countries, including Lagos, Nigeria, have created help-desks. These are the agencies you call when issues of domestic violence arise.
Also, if you know someone who’s hurting their partner, remind them that they are the only ones who can change their behaviour. Ask them to get help, or direct them to qualified professionals who can assist.
3. Check in regularly. I know a lot of people, me inclusive, do not like people to be all up in their business, but issues of domestic abuse requires meddling. If you fear for your friend, co-worker, or family member’s life, call or text her once a day at a random time to see if she is all right. Visit randomly if you can just to confirm that he/she is alive and well.
4. Report to the police. It’s very unfortunate that most victims of domestic violence will not report the case to the police either as a result of fear or shame. When the matter is finally reported by a concerned friend or family member, the victim refuses to press charges.
We need to encourage victims to speak up and report all abuse cases to the police. Frequent conviction of offenders may help deter would-be abusers.
5. Listen. If a victim of domestic violence reaches out to you, please listen. Let her know that you believe her and do not judge her choices. It is important to enable her to feel safe when confiding in you because eventually, she may well be able to gather enough courage to tell you exactly what is happening and to ask for help.
Another one that annoys me is when victims finally summon the courage to leave, family members and “friends” put unnecessary pressure on the victim to forgive. You begin to hear things like, “you made a vow to God for better for worse“, “forgive him, he will change“, “the devil is trying to break your home, don’t let him“, or my favourite “your father used to beat me as well, but I stuck to my guns and we worked things out. You are not the first person. Don’t ruin your marriage”.
We need to work collectively as a society to end domestic violence. And if you are a victim, please leave that relationship. Even if you do not know where to go to with your kids, still leave. Anywhere is better than where you are.
So, let’s discuss. Do you think domestic violence is on the increase, or it has always been this way only that more people are talking about it?