At CHELD, we often receive reports from persons (mostly women) who are involved in domestic violence situations. These reports come from throughout the country. We have sought to from these women what sorts of abuse they have experienced and what they consider to be the signs of abuse. Some of these are obvious, others not so apparent.
Our Conversations on Domestic Violence, an awareness workshop, an educational and myth-breaking seminar series, also regularly discusses this subject. The aim is to help other women who are about to enter relationships, are already in relationships, or are wondering if they are in abusive relationships become aware of the signs. Some of what is listed below is already contained in our Red Diary which you can download here. There you will find tips on what to do if you are in Nigeria and are experiencing some of these signs.
Long before the first slap, the first shove, there may be signs that a partner – husband, wife, girlfriend, boyfriend, family member is likely to be abusive and/or violent. Most domestic violence cases start with threats and acts such as slamming of doors and breaking of properties from which it can degenerate to actual physical violence. Most emotional abuse begins with a seeming but excessive concern for a partner’s well-being, which eventually shows itself to be a feature of control and domination. Several of the women we have spoken to state that they knew prior to marriage that their partner had abusive tendencies.
There are many signs of domestic violence in Nigeria. However, a person does not have to experience all before a relationship is seen as abusive. A glimpse of two or three of these signs is enough to raise red flags. Some of the signs that women have shared with us and that we have discovered through research are listed below.
SIGNS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IN NIGERIA
- Volatile temperament – An abuser may be quick to get angry, including over seemingly minor things, and may appear unable or unwilling to manage this anger. This anger may be displayed to others outside the relationship.
- Actual physical violence. This can be in form of hitting, slapping, choking or shoving. Initial incidences may be followed quickly by penitence – apologies, gifts, even tears.
- Excessive control of what the abused person does, where he/she goes or who he /she talks to. This would include insisting that you cannot make any decision, including seemingly small decisions or personal decisions without going through the partner.
- Insisting that you cannot work – We see this often at CHELD. The decision about how to provide finances, take care of children should have be a mutual decision. Many abusive men in Nigeria demand that their wives must not work, including taking paid employment or running a business. This denies the woman financial independence, deters her from leaving the relationship, and damages self-esteem.
- Denial of Funds – In many cases where women are prevented from working, an abuser often also denies them funds including funds for essentials like the school fees of children and necessaries. In cases where women work, the abuser may leave them to carry all the financial burden of the home.
- Fear of the abuser – You find that you afraid of a person whom you ordinarily should feel affection and receive affection from. There is fear when it is time for the person to come home, rings the bell at the door, calls out your name et cetera
- Embarrassing the abused person with put downs, demoralizing or humiliating statements. He or she embarrasses you, brings up the past to humiliate you, insults before others, and threatens to tell secrets.
- Stopping the abused from seeing family and friends. Practically isolating the abused and may prevent the abused from working or going to school.
- Stopping you from communicating with others by taking away your phones, deleting your contacts, demanding that you do not lock your phones.
- Accusation of infidelity – this sign is a common one where the partner accuses you constantly of being unfaithfully even where it is clear that this is not the case. This accusation may arise even where it is that partner that is being unfaithful.
- The abuser may threaten to commit suicide if the abused doesn’t behave in a certain way or if he/she leaves the relationship
- The abuser may pretend that the abusive behaviour is normal or that it is the fault of the abused person
- Intimidation with objects or weapons
- Threats to children or personal property. This may include locking one out of the home.
- Pressuring or forcing the abused person into unwanted sex, making a decision or committing to a relationship
- Excessive acts of jealousy and possessiveness. At the start of the relationship, an abuser will equate jealousy with love.
- Dual personality- charming in public, hostile/vicious in private.
The above signs are some of the signs of domestic violence to the abused person in that relationship. Many of the women we counsel at CHELD have experienced these signs, often dating from before the marriage. There are other tell-tale signs of this violence to outsiders as most abused persons are unwilling to disclose this to family members or even the appropriate authority. Such signs include:
- Injuries and excuses or explanations for such injuries.
- Absence from work or school.
- Low self esteem
- Personality changes
- Fear of conflict
An individual who exhibits the above signs may be, in most cases, a victim of domestic violence.
Domestic violence often occurs behind closed doors and is still erroneously considered a personal or private matter even though the abuser’s actions affect the victims, victims’ children and household, friends, other family members, fellow workers and the community as a whole. It is a crime and should be reported immediately to the appropriate authority so as to break a vicious circle. While divorce is poorly regarded in Nigeria, it is important that one considers their safety, the safety and wellbeing of any children involved. Churches and other religious organisations must become part of the solution in curbing domestic violence and protecting victims who tend to be women.
However, the first step to breaking free is recognizing that a partner is abusive and then getting the required help.
Consult CHELD’s Red Diary for tips on surviving domestic abuse and violence in Nigeria and organisations throughout the country that can help.