Intimate Partner Violence: Women As Victims of Love

| March 4, 2013

By Viviane Ifeoma in Lagos

black woman crying

“It was a misunderstanding I had with my husband not violence, there was no violence between us, Azuka replied, when I told her I needed to write her story. Her experience is  a very peculiar one. She had no physical assault from her husband but from her brother-in -Law.

Azuka’s husband left home in search for greener pastures, leaving her and the children with his younger siblings. Every form of maltreatment she received in her matrimonial home was from  her brother in-law. He sold her car without her consent, claiming he needed the money to take care of the family –a thing he never did. He brought in different girls to the house and smoked in the presence of the children.

Each time Azoka complained, her brother in-law had her well beaten. According to her, the most painful incident was when she was asked to remove her alter from the living room. He gave her few minutes to do that and threatened to take action if she failed. To her surprise, he truly destroyed the altar before she could get it away herself.

Her husband rarely came home to see them. Azuka could not bear the beating, accusation and name calling anymore and opted to secure a personal apartment for the sake of peace. She later called him to ask for money for the children’s needs and he said to her, “as far as I am concerned, I am not married and do not have children, so take care of them”. She takes care of her three children alone while running a petty business.

At 33, she has been diagnosed with hypertension, resulting from emotional trauma. Emotional abuse in marriage is such a concealed form of domestic violence. Many people do not realize they are victims.

Despite the daily occurrences of intimate partner violence faced by most women in Nigeria, it is commonly regarded as a mere fall out between husband and wife which could be settled or sometimes the women count on the possibility that the man will change his behavior. Unfortunately, abuse often gets worse. It may be possible for a partner to change, but it takes work and time. If the partner is blaming other factors for his or her behavior, he or she probably is not ready to change.

Domestic violence is an underreported crime in Nigeria, so it is difficult for agencies to keep accurate statistics. More than a third and in some groups, nearly two thirds of women and girls in Nigeria are believed to have experienced physical, sexual or psychological violence in the family (Amnesty International, 2005; United Nations Report, 1992). According to the World Health Organization (WHO), violence affects millions of women in Africa.

Many have blamed the high rate of intimate partner violence in Nigeria on the fact that women are expected to remain silent in all conditions even under maltreatment and the fact that men think violence is a way of  asserting manhood.

Like Azuka, when most women think of intimate partner violence or domestic violence the picture they have is that of a battered woman.

Although women can also be abusers, the perpetrators of this crime are usually men and the victims  women and children. Many women suffer from emotional abuse, which is also very destructive. Unfortunately, cases of emotional abuse are often overlooked even by the person being abused. All women are at risk of intimate partner violence regardless of the socio-economic status, racial and cultural background.

I have a vivid childhood experience of one of our neighbors who was a banker. Kawai! Kawai!! Kawai!!! Was the sound of the slaps we heard every day from their flat and the children crying, daddy please! Daddy please!! Daddy please!!! The sound did not have any definite time, the crying and shouting could arise anytime including in the middle of the night. The woman had 4 girls and every day she was being beaten and called names for giving birth to girls only. She almost bled to death in her last pregnancy, if not for a neighbor who rushed her to the hospital. The husband had beaten the nonsense out of her and left her half dead when she accused him of marital unfaithfulness. “If you cannot give me a male child, then I will get it outside’’, he will always say to her.

In Nigeria, there is nothing like sexual violence or forced sex in a marriage because a woman must submit at all times and in every condition. A woman said “I dare not refuse my husband sex, even when I am sick, he will always force himself on me.” There have been stories of women murdered by intimate partners for rituals or out of annoyance especially when a man loses his job after marrying the woman.

Such incidents are rarely reported since women issues are not a priority to law enforcement agencies. Telling individual women’s stories is one way to address this dilemma. Stories touch our feelings in a way that statistics cannot. Stories can also spur us to action when statistics only depress us.

(As originally published in Gender Danger: Voice of the African Woman)

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Category: AGDaily, Featured, Feminism

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