Ways of managing abusive relationships
Yesterday I shared a story of a lady who lived with an abusive husband for the sake of her kids and today want to share what I think are ideal ideas of overcoming relationships challenges like violence.It is common as individuals and communities to notice signs of domestic violence and fail to speak up. Some of the reasons why and how people can work to overcome this silence depends on a person background and upbringing. We all know domestic violence occurs in an intimate space and is considered a private matter. The home is usually considered a space of love, safety and togetherness. So as human beings we often find it uncomfortable to talk about the home as a site of painful, unpleasant and distressing problems such as abuse and violence. Over time, the exercise of male power and control in intimate relationships erodes women’s sense of self and it interferes with every facet of a woman’s life, including her physical and mental health, social networks, and mothering. In African societies, it is through fear that men are able to control their women’s behaviour, movements and freedom. In African perspective, perpetrators aim to garner unique knowledge about a partner’s movements and vulnerabilities so they can personalise their abuse. They often construct their partner as being insane, bad, weak, and at fault.Over time, African women come to believe these messages and, as a community, unintentionally collude with the perpetrator and adopt these messages too.A tactic of abuse is to deflate psychological power and well-being. Intimidation by a partner instills fear, dependence, compliance, loyalty and together, these grow secrecy and privacy. Consequently, perpetrators control partners to keep their relationship private. Women who have experienced domestic violence often feel a sense of shame and guilt. It is common for women to report themselves as unworthy, weak, or that they should have known better.
As valuable and dedicated members of community, it is extremely hard to break this wall of silence that has been built from coercive control. The first thing one can do is to believe any disclosure of abuse, not judge and explore it sensitively so communities do not reinforce messages of silence and privacy. As a community, forming ideas about women, men and families and these ideas are bound by familial, cultural and societal expectations of appropriate behaviour for women and men. Understanding this social context is vital when examining reluctance to say something about domestic violence.Experts have for long argued that ideas about femininity and masculinity provide fertile ground for domestic violence. Women are predominantly valued for being a wife, mother, carer, and lover and society expectations of women are often constructed around these identities. Perpetrators use these constructions of femininity to justify abuse and turn society gaze on what women are doing wrong in the family.At the same time, women modify their behaviour to survive domestic violence. They continually try to please their partner and protect his reputation by being loyal and they see it as a way to try and stop the abuse. Society expectations of women sustains the denial of domestic violence.Societal expectations of appropriate behaviour for women and men differ substantially. In this context domestic violence can appear as normal, inevitable and acceptable elements of women’s lives.It is also well know that communities struggle to discuss domestic violence because it demonstrates the problem of gender inequality, sexism and discrimination at its utmost severity. People fear naming gender inequality because by doing so this threatens the deepest fabric of society. Latest global studies show that women were more likely than men to experience violence by a partner. If violence against women is not recognised or discussed in the public realm, people are less likely to say something about how their friend is being treated by her partner. Until people acknowledge male violence against women, the justification, trivialisation and uncomfortableness of saying something about domestic violence will remain. Changing the culture, behaviours and attitudes that underpin and create violence against women and children is a step in the right path.Unless, the society itself starts to change at how it looks at cases of domestic violence, the laws passed supposedly to protect the women and children against abuse and violence will not serve the purpose for which they were intended. Without fundamental changes in the values of individuals and in the underlying ethos of social institutions, full equality between women and men cannot be achieved. The biggest way we all can take action is to speak out about relationships abuse and violence. If you know of any friend or a relative who has been a victim of relation violence or abuse, say something. If you don’t start there, nothing will change.