Domestic abuse and the double closeted phenomenon in queer Nigerian relationships

by Alabi Adewale

Domestic abuse in relationships often happens when there is a perceived unbalance between the people involved. Domestic abuse includes; physical violence, emotional abuse, verbal abuse as well as sexual abuse. Most times, spousal abuse reported in the media it is often between heterosexual couples which leave out information on a very dark part of homosexual relationships.

In the year 2014, the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago did a review of data from four earlier studies, involving 30,000 participants and their find was quite startling. They found out that the rate of domestic abuse among same-sex couples is considerably higher than for opposite-sex couples.

This disturbing trend seems to be an issue in the Nigerian queer community if reports on social media are anything to go by. More and more people are speaking out for themselves or for a friend who might have experienced or are experiencing such issues. Unfortunately, if these cases are physical in nature, the victim cannot report to the appropriate authorities seeing as same-sex relationships are illegal in the country.

Queer activist, Matthew Blaise raised this issue on social media saying;

“It is sad that gay men are unable to talk about their assaulters in this country due to homophobia. So many of us are dying silently in grief. My friend once told me his boyfriend almost threatened to burn his face with iron, but he can’t call him out because he’d out him.”

Richard Caroll, the co-author of the Northwestern University’s report, cited some reasons that might serve as an explanation to why abuse and violence exist in same-sex relationships. He and his team found evidence that supports the minority stress model – the idea that being part of a minority creates additional stress.

According to Carroll, there are external stressors like discrimination and violence against queer people, and there are internal stressors such as internalised negative attitudes about homosexuality. He described the stresses on a same-sex relationship as the “double closet phenomenon”. A situation where victims are afraid to report abuse because they do not want to be outed to the authorities. Carroll stressed, however, that internal stressors were particularly damaging because individuals project their negative beliefs and feelings about themselves on to their partner.

These findings above give a realistic insight into queer Nigerian relationships where many are closeted and living in a homophobic environment without access to the authorities.

Even though the odds are against same-sex couples in Nigeria, with no help from constituted authority, anyone who finds themselves in an abusive relationship should end such right away before it escalates to any grievous form of harm.

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