Dr. Alaba Oludare
Violence has been defined severally to include the use of physical force, words, intrusion, deprivation and distortion to injure, abuse, damage, destroy or cause fear or intimidation in a person. By typology, violence could also be racial, ethnic or domestic. Gender based violence has evolved over the years to describe violence directed towards a specific gender including domestic violence. The focus in this article is on domestic violence.
Domestic violence is the physical, sexual, emotional, psychological and economic abuse or threat in an intimate relationship such as marital, dating, parental and guardianship including ex-spouses, persons with child in common, persons with whom there is or was cohabitation. It often manifests as a long term cyclical pattern of abusive behavior and control to intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound the person.
The Cycle of Violence:
Behaviors identified as violent:
Physical Abuse: Hitting, slapping, shoving, grabbing, pinching, biting, hair pulling, choking, wrestling and denial of medical care or forcing alcohol and/or drug use.
Sexual Abuse: Coercing or attempting to coerce any sexual contact or behavior without consent, marital rape, attacks on sexual parts of the body, forcing sex after physical violence has occurred, or treating one in a sexually demeaning manner.
Emotional Abuse: Undermining an individual’s sense of self-worth and/or self-esteem, constant criticism, diminishing one’s abilities, name-calling, or damaging one’s relationship with his or her children and others.
Economic Abuse: Economic or financial abuse is a subtle form of emotional abuse which usually involves withholding basic necessities (food, clothes, medications, shelter), preventing one from choosing own career, sabotaging job (making him/her miss work, calling constantly or simple distractions), stealing or taking money. Making or attempting to make an individual financially dependent by maintaining total control over financial resources, withholding one’s access to money, or forbidding one’s attendance at school or employment.
Psychological Abuse: Causing fear by intimidation; threatening physical harm to self, partner, children, or partner’s family or friends; destruction of pets and property; and forcing isolation from family, friends, or school and/or work.
Early signs of abuse
Quick tumultuous romance and excessive jealousy, clinging and tracking of partner’s activities
Attempts to isolate in the guise of loving behavior (You don’t need to work or go to school; we only need each other, criticizing friends/family for not caring about you)
Hypersensitivity to allegations of slights and quick to blame others for behavior
Pressured into doing things one is uncomfortable with
Statistics on Gender Violence
The US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that on average annually- 85% women, 15% men are victims of domestic violence; 20% female high school students report being physically or sexually abused by a dating partner; Females ages 18 to 34 generally experience the highest rates of intimate partner violence; 14% teens report threats from their boyfriend or girlfriend to harm them or themselves to avoid a breakup; 65 % of those that abuse their partner also physically and/or sexually abuse their children; 37 % women seek care in hospital emergency rooms for violence related injuries and 25% of domestic violence crimes reported to police.
Socio- cultural and economic factors including the belief that abuse is acceptable, unemployment, substance abuse, poor stress management skills, isolation, and excessive dependence on abuser. Also, belief in patriarchal hierarchy , although some scholars argue that patriarchal mindset does not necessarily lead to female abuse
Psychological or mental problems (anger, low self-esteem, personality disorder, jealousy and possessiveness)
External factors and spiritual problems
Gender based violence has substantial impact on the abused, family, friends, co-workers, witnesses, and the community at large with children being the most vulnerable. Children face the risk of developmental problems, bedwetting, psychiatric disorders, school difficulties, aggression, low self-esteem, anxiety, sleep disorders, early pregnancy and marriage including truancy, running away and substance abuse. Frequent exposure to violence in the home also teaches children that violence is a normal way of life – thereby, inadvertently producing the next generation of victims and abusers.
Stigmatization, severe emotional trauma for victim and witnesses such as depression, shame, anxiety, panic attacks, substance abuse posttraumatic stress disorder and confusion; suicide attempts, psychotic episodes, and slow recovery from mental illness, perplexity and disorientation.
Some victims spend more time at work, not wanting to go home, exhibit low self-esteem, sense of worthlessness, emotional highs, lows and numbness. Some may even withdraw from real life into an alternative reality such as the Internet. In many instances, severe injuries, broken relationships, dysfunctional families, spiritual illness or even death occurs. All these factors make it difficult for survivors to mobilize resources.
Response to Violence
It is not uncommon that victims who have had a prolonged exposure to violence become abusive too. The question is how to respond without becoming a victim
- Know the Lord and know yourself. Are you a brawler, contentious person, difficult to please? (Philippians 3:10; Proverbs 21:9; 19). Who are you? Where is your destination? How can you get there? Utilize the power of love! Love is a choice that Jesus Christ made in our favor. Abusive behavior is a choice just as love is a choice.
- A truly strong, powerful man isn’t threatened by a strong, powerful woman. Instead, he is challenged by her, he is inspired by her, he is pleased to relate to her as an equal.” “Keep modeling that behavior yourselves by promoting women in your companies, passing laws to empower women in your countries, and holding the same ambitious dreams for your daughters as you do for your sons.” (Michelle Obama, Young African Leaders International Summit, 2014)
- Adopt the 3 “L’s” of women’s empowerment — learning, labor and leadership (Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The key ingredient for violent behavior is anger. Anger is a spirit hence a personality that you can subdue. According to Ecclesiastes 7:9 anger rests in the bosom of fools. To conquer the opposition, you must rule your spirit. the one that’s slow to wrath has great understanding but the hasty in spirit, exalts folly (Proverbs 14: 29). Anger is a choice. Decide against it, tame your tongue and walk away.
Scriptures on interpersonal relationships
Colossians 3: 12-25
- 12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;
- 13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
- 14 And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.
- 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.
- 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
- 17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
- 18 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.
- 19 Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.
- 20 Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.
- 21 Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.
- 22 Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eye service, as men pleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God;
- 23 And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;
- 24 Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.
- 25 But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.
1 Corinthians 7:3 Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband – (kindness, compassion, generosity, goodwill, largesse, bounty, charity, assistance, mercy, consideration, philanthropy, munificence)
Train and prepare children for future and continuously mentor the young men. Engage men and boys in preventing violence against women and girls. Empower families through diffusion of gender power. This will require a reorientation on aversive norms.
Maintain the church as a place of refuge for battered spouses and children (Duncan, 2003)
Training for clergy and church leaders on dealing with domestic violence cases although research shows that most clergy do not see the need for specialized training (Livingston, 1994)
Government and nonprofit organizations should focus on assisting domestic violence victims
Education/public enlightenment: address the culture of blaming the victim e.g. he raped you because you dressed provocatively. Stop making the victim responsible for the aggressor’s choice of action or words. The mark of humanity as opposed to the base instinct of other mammals is temperance.
Toughening penalties against repeat sex or domestic violence offenders is important
Educating all stakeholders including victims, families, law enforcement officers, victim advocates, prosecutors and judges about domestic violence and sexual assault
Emphasize the need to report abuse to appropriate law enforcement authority