by Soma Oj.
To say that the increasing spate of domestic violence in Nigeria is disturbing is an understatement. Two out of every three Nigerian women are said to experience one form of domestic violence or the other in their lifetime. This is really not hard to believe considering the number of public figures that have come out with the different variations they have had to endure in their personal lives. From the legendary photographer, TY Bello who has just shared her experience with sexual abuse to Tonto Dikeh, Toke Makinwa who suffered emotional abuse of sorts in her relationship with Maje Ayida. And now, Mercy Aigbe.
This is not to say that only women suffer abuse. Men too. In at least one of the instances mentioned above, the men have come out with counter claims that they were also abused.
Yet this post is not about the people who have sadly had to endure the heinous crime of domestic/sexual/emotional violence. This post is about the main enabler of this monster in Nigeria – the culture.
From such a young age, boys are trained to be strong, ruthless even. They are taught to take charge of situations and even without expressly teaching them to, the pick up on the societal expectations to “be in charge”. Even when that requires putting people in their place – people like their wives or other women in their lives. This inevitably leads to situations where they feel the need to exert their authority physically.
Even where this is not the case, and they are the victims of abuse, they cannot come out with their experiences. Because that will not be a manly thing to do. So they suffer in silence.
Women, on the other hand, are pressured by almost everyone from their personal life to their work life to be “taken”. A woman, in order to be taken seriously in life, must be taken by a man. So she is pressured into accepting almost any offer that comes her way, even when it comes with flashing danger signs. She goes in hoping he’ll change or worst still that she can change him for the better.
When he doesn’t and she can’t and she’s been at the end of his malevolent stick one too many times and she tries to speak up, she thinks of all the women who are shamed for speaking up: “the ones who could not keep their homes”. God forbid if they already have children. Then “she must stay for the sake of her kids”.
The family will condemn her as a failure who could not keep a man, the society will label her, her friend will ostracise her from their couples’ circles. In the worst cases, the government will fail her for want of remedies. Not once has a woman gone to a police station to report domestic abuse and was turned back because “that’s not their jurisdiction”.
And when a victim of abuse attempts to share his or her story after the fact to help others or encourage victims who may be in circumstances they have now survived, we mock them; asking why they did not speak up earlier.
We can all do better to be more supportive and less judgmental.