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19.03.2007 Feature Article

Domestic abuse and its fertilizer

Men are the most traumatized when it comes to emotional and verbal abuse. Physically, men are stronger than women but women have one instrument that they use viciously both on the offensive and the defensive- the tongue… that powerful instrument that has become a formidable foe against men. I have seen a man reduced to nothing by his wife's lashing tongue…

Let's say that the passing of the domestic violence bill is good news to many, and for many others it should be the women who will be the happiest. But then men must celebrate the occasion as well as. I know that the first thing that comes to mind when one mentions this bill is the abuse of women.

Most probably, men are more apprehensive of the subject as they worry about the legitimate right of a wife to deny her husband sex. I was discussing the subject with a friend and he thought that it wasn't necessary for this bill to be passed because like he said “how many Ghanaian women will walk up to the police station to report their husbands?”

I agree that it sounds ridiculous that we could even put a name to something like this: 'marital rape'. I suppose that when Ama Atta Aidoo, the famous African writer decided to write the book 'CHANGES', it didn't occur to her that the changes feminists fought for, will be coming that soon in Ghanaian history.

But hey, why do we choose to discuss the domestic violence bill on the marital rape premise alone? I think that it was necessary to have this bill passed for it marks. However, I do not think that the problem of violence will be solved unless we look at the root causes.
Domestic abuse between spouses or intimate partners is when one person in the relationship tries to control the other person. The perpetrator uses fear and intimidation and may threaten to or actually use physical violence. Domestic abuse that includes physical violence is called domestic violence.

The victim of domestic abuse or domestic violence may be a man or a woman. The key elements of domestic abuse are: Intimidation, Humiliation, Physical injury. Domestic abuse often escalates from threats and verbal abuse to physical violence. Domestic violence may even end up in murder.
We are told that the types of domestic abuse are Physical abuse (domestic violence); Verbal or nonverbal abuse (psychological, mental, or emotional abuse); Sexual abuse; Stalking); Economic abuse or financial abuse; Spiritual abuse
“…oh that powerful instrument that has become a formidable foe against men”

Men are the most traumatized when it comes to emotional and verbal abuse if you ask me. Physically, men are stronger than women but women have one instrument that they use viciously both on the offensive and the defensive: the tongue.

As the bible says 'the tongue is like a knife' and if you ask me, I can tell you that it is more like a grading machine. There is no doubt that most of the domestic violence that take place against women and children are triggered without any significant basis but I can tell you for a fact that, a number of these violence occurred because the women provoked the abusers verbally.

Believe you me, African women know how to make or break a man with their tongues! Mind you, I do not support violence in any form; rather I am more concerned about the root causes and what festers abuse.

Women are good at determining personalities even if they prefer to ignore what they see. As such, most women sooner or later find out if their men are abusive or not. For some of these women, they do not take advantage of this knowledge as a tool in dealing with their abusive husbands. It is proven that men who are abusive are prone to be emotionally triggered.

This means the woman living with such a husband has to be careful with what she says. Unfortunately, most women insult, shout at their husbands and demean them with the most hurtful of words forgetting that a bruised ego makes a man behave like a wounded lion. Someone passed a comment that 'if you want to insult a man, make sure that you stand one mile away from him.'

Obviously, it is better to learn to tame the tongue for 'gentle answer sways anger'. This is the first precaution to dealing with an abusive spouse or partner.

'…scream at a child, he will grow up to scream at you'
Children are often victims of abuse from parents and guardians. The majority of these victims are children who do not stay with their biological parents e.g. maidservants; stepchildren etc. with the passage of the bill, the government should inculcate the domestic violence bill in school curriculum so that children can learn and identify such situations and thus be able to report them.

Parents who continually hit their kids, shout at them or insult them in the most demeaning manner should remember that verbal abuse affects the self confidence and destroy any good self esteem or dignity that these children are developing. If you scream at a child, he will grow up to scream at you.

It is important for religious and other social organizations to address this issue by counseling verbal abusive women as to the effects of verbal abuse. This not to say that we do not have men who verbally abuse their partners, for them, their verbal abuse is followed by physical abuse like I stated in the definition.

“…great tragedy that abused persons protect the abusers”
It is true what my friend said about reporting violators of the bill; if you think it is ridiculous for women to report abuse then you will certainly be 'flabbergasted' to hear a man reporting his wife about the same crime. For both men and women who have been or are victims of domestic abuse, they are so demoralized to the point of doing nothing about the situation.

Most of these victims find themselves covering up and hiding their ordeal from the rest of the world. Back in the university, I knew a lady that still lives with an abusive boyfriend. He didn't mind beating her up in public; when her friends complained, she reported them to her abusive boyfriend! Similarly, I have met countless girls and women who verbally abuse their men. Isn't it such a pity, such a great tragedy that abused persons protect the abusers?

In fact, victims tend to idolize their abusers mostly because these abusers may possess certain appealing qualities like charm or generosity, even gentleness, which they tend to display when it suits them. For this reason, it takes a lot of counseling and persuasion to get abused victims to seek help.

The extended family has been a major determinant in how victims deal with their ordeals. In Ghana, it is common to see families encouraging wives to forgive abusive husbands by continuing to stay in their marriages. Sometimes you will hear a mother telling her daughter that she is lucky to have a husband who beats her.

“For the sake of my children, I cannot leave him even if he beats me.” Or “I love him so much, I cannot leave him” and some even say “if I take any action now, what will people think?” So many abused people make excuses for their abusers so much that, it becomes difficult to help them.

To sign off, the nation is doing a lot to create an environment where abused people can seek for help; DOVVSU is doing a lot to help victims and the recent passage of the domestic violence bill is applauded but the rest is left to victims, the family, you and I to prevent and curb the situation.

Let us encourage victims to seek for the appropriate help they need.

Esenam Dumenu
Esenam Dumenu, © 2007

This author has authored 18 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: EsenamDumenu

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