The Pride Nigeria Team answer a few questions on domestic violence, particularly in the Nigerian context.

What is domestic violence?

This is violent or aggressive behavior within the home, typically involving the violent abuse of a spouse or partner.

Are there other types of domestic violence other than physical abuse?

Yes, there are. Domestic violence can be:

  • Physical – this involves the use of physical force that causes injury
  • Sexual – this includes rape, sexual assaults, and sexual harassment such as unwelcome touching
  • emotional – this involves destroying a person’s self-worth through humiliation, criticism or persistent insult
  • psychological – this includes intimidating, threatening, or fear-causing behaviour, for example preventing someone from leaving the house.

Who experiences domestic violence?

Domestic violence is common in relationships where the abuser and the victim are currently or were previously dating, living together, married or divorced. It is the use of abusive behaviour or violence to control the victim. Though victims of domestic violence can be male or female, majority of the victims are women and young girls.

What are the danger signs to spot in a relationship?

Perpetrators of abuse and violence are often initially very controlling and dominating during courtship. Women mistakenly interpret this as petty jealousy, or consider it as a sign of true love. From a controlling behaviour, it progresses to emotional and physical abuse, then sexual and psychological.

What are the factors in society encourage domestic violence?

Domestic violence should be understood in the context of social structures, and inequalities between men and women in a given society, and not just the dynamics of individual relationships.

Can domestic violence in Nigeria be defined exclusively to be violence between husband and wife?

Domestic violence in the Nigerian context is violence that occurs amongst people with a familial relationship. Familial relationships include spouses, parents, children, in-laws, uncles and aunts, cousins, nephews and nieces, boyfriends and girlfriends, etc. We still maintain very strong extended family ties, therefore these relationships need to be included when we discuss domestic violence in Nigeria.

As a country and as a people, Nigerians can no longer afford to live in denial that domestic violence is prevalent, and is destroying lives and relationships. One in three women experience physical, sexual, emotional and psychological violence, usually from a male partner.

How can family members help victims of domestic violence?

A major challenge female victims of domestic violence face is a lack of family support. Due to economic constraints and cultural factors, a girl or woman may be ‘mortgaged’ for the benefit of the family. She is married off to a wealthy man who helps in catering for her family members, such as paying their house rents, school fees of her siblings, etc. Where this is the case, family members may not support her even if she cries out and seeks help from fear of losing their pecuniary gains.

Sometimes when an abused woman runs home to her family, she is pressured by in-laws, religious intermediaries, friends and relations to reconsider and return to her matrimonial home. This practice should not be encouraged for the sake of the physical and emotional health of the woman. Efforts should be made instead to ensure a peaceful and permanent separation. Horror stories abound of women who have been lured back to their husbands only to meet their death.

How does financial dependency or children affect the decisions of women enduring domestic violence?

A woman who has a child or children and no means of livelihood, is less likely to cry out and seek help. She is in a quandary as to how she will care for the children if she leaves the relationship. Saying no to domestic violence and wanting out of an abusive relationship, should under normal conditions, not mean being punished along with her children. However, most men in a bid to punish their wife for having the audacity to leave them cut her off financially which in turn impacts the children negatively.

What is the influence of religion on domestic violence?

Religious books such as the Bible and Koran are often manipulated and misinterpreted to further batter women into submission. For example, abused women are made to feel guilty of even contemplating a separation by the misuse of religious tenets.

Why do a lot of women find it difficult to report domestic violence?

Most abused women in Nigeria cover up the abuse they experience, never telling family, friends or colleagues what they are going through and the sources of their injuries, out of shame and displaced loyalty not expose her spouse as an abuser.

What are the impacts of domestic violence on the victims?

The impacts of domestic violence are not always physical, and it is not in all cases that it leads to death. There are also emotional and psychological injuries, which impacts drastically the victim’s quality of life. Traumatic experiences of domestic violence are physiological and psychological. This can result in nightmares, panic attacks, insomnia, among other symptoms. Many victims of domestic violence, particularly those who experience chronic abuse, experience these traumatic symptoms over a long period of time and develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). A symptom of PSTD includes flashbacks, with victims reliving the abuse over and over.

What are the impacts of domestic violence on children?

The impacts of domestic violence on children are huge, but often ignored or underestimated. Children in homes where domestic violence occurs either witness it or are victims themselves. In a study by the NGO Project Alert (an NGO that advocates for zero tolerance for all forms of violence against women and children) titled Sexual Epidemic in Nigeria: A Silent Epidemic, revealed that 77 % of sexual assault victims in Nigeria are children. 50% of this occurs in the home by family members, known, loved and trusted by these children.

We can no longer pretend that domestic violence does not exist to an alarming extent in our homes and communities in Nigeria. Urgent action is needed to end domestic violence in our country.

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