When I took the call, the voice was barely audible, but it was not the voice I recognized as hers. I hardly heard her, and I demanded that she be audible; a cry emitted from the phone. I was in total discomfiture as she told me point-blank that she wanted to quit her marriage, else the next news I would hear would be that she had passed away. It had become a familiar story.
Her husband would descend on her as though she was a boxing trainer’s punching bag at the slightest provocation. She had come to her tether’s end and, if I insisted that she stayed in the relationship, then I would have her blood on my hands. I must confess that it was a moment of utter confusion.
As a reverend gentleman, she knew I would not go in her direction when she preferred divorce papers to remaining in the marriage. I was between the devil and the deep blue sea. What would I tell her? Should she stay there and die or opt out and live? I do not intend to toe the line of religion on this intervention or begin to undergo my usual route with her on the demerits of divorce. I want to peep into the psychology of a man or woman who resorts to domestic violence in settling marital issues. For the avoidance of doubt, although women tend to take the larger brunt in the matter, it cuts across both sexes. The peculiarity to men is certainly not sacrosanct, but in our environment men tend to deploy their hands more freely, perhaps as a way of showing that they are at the helm. Intimate partner violence, as the menace is also known, has a rather broad definition. It is the intentional and persistent abuse of anyone in the home in a way that causes pain, distress or injury. It refers to any abusive treatment of one family member by another, thus violating the law of basic human rights. It includes battering of intimate partners and others, sexual abuse of children, marital rape and traditional practices that are harmful to women. In this instance, I am concerned with intimate violence.
There are certainly many reasons for this, but I need to state emphatically that nothing justifies physical violence against your intimate partner. My counselling session shows that some women do not understand the most rudimentary thing about men, viz, they value respect beyond anything else. When you denigrate them and rupture their ego, you elicit unpleasant responses. Some women believe that the respect should be bought, that the man must be able to pay the bills before they give their respect and subsequent submission. In some traditional settings, wife beating tends to be seen as a means of discipline, but the world has since gone beyond that primitive thinking. I have noted, and it bears repeating, that nothing should justify people raising their hands against their partners.
Some men have tended to react this way when they are abused with words by their wives whose words are sharp like a razor. Such men want to show their superiority by physically attacking the recalcitrant woman. I have seen a rather pathetic case were a woman who had made up her mind to quit but was persuaded to stay, gave her life in exchange. It happened in an estate I used to live in, somewhere in Lagos. The bully of a man practically beat her to death. I drove her corpse to the mortuary, feeling terrible but exonerating myself that I was not in the number of those, including her fellow women, who encouraged her to stay. At the end of the day, the man went free given that autopsy did not show that she died as a result of wounds from beating. The neighbours knew that she received routine beating from him, even two days to her demise, yet there was no proof. He may have remarried. I have no update on the matter whose dates would be beyond a decade now.
Women have tried to protect themselves from such maltreatment. I understand that the Ministry of Women Affairs across the states has stood as a pillar of defense for women in such situations. The irony is that many women in such toxic relationships, whose husbands descend on them at the slightest provocation, do not even know that they have a line of defence or would rather endure it than cry out for help.
I had a rather sad experience when I spent some days in the hospital on account of ill health. The nurse whose duty it was to take care of the ward where I was kept came to work after her day off with swollen lips and a cut above the eye. I was concerned and tried to show it. She said she fell down in the bathroom, that it was a domestic accident, but one of her colleagues later told me that she lied because it had become her regular feature on account of an abusive husband who gave her such dents regularly. I wondered how such a caregiver would be in a state of mind to do her job when she had been turned to a punching bag.
There may be several reasons for such barbaric conduct, but none is justifiable. The ministries in states should up their game and save women from battery.