Thursday, 20 June 2013

Domestic Violence: It’s assuming epidemic proportions – Effah-Chukwuma

Not many know that relationship or marriage is meant to bring out the better person in a spouse. But, the reverse is the case in our society today as many people especially married women suffer different kinds of domestic violence.

It is a paradox that a love relationship being nurtured by spouses would suddenly turn to a theater of absurdities, leading to several injuries and scattered homes.  What kind of a person resorts to domestic violence against the spouse or domestic intimate partner? What kind of a person thinks it is right to continually humiliate or talk down a life intimate partner?

Chioma Obi, 35, got married to her loving husband Daniel in Abia State but three years after, it became a an undesirable relationship.  She was beaten and battered most times to coma. Chioma is currently suffering from partial blindness.  The story is not different from that of Tomilola Akinrogbe, who courted her husband for four years but little did she know that the day she signed her wedding certificate was like signing her death warrant when her husband, Adewale Akinrogbe stabbed her to death after an argument ensued between the couple at their residence, Ijaiye, Ogun State.
Apart from physical battering, once a spouse is physically or emotionally abused,  he or she is no longer free, no longer valued, respected or safe.  What can be more violent than living under such circumstance.

When Saturday Vanguard sought the opinions of experts on the issue, they expressed worry over the dangerous trend in our society.

Josephine Effah-Chukwuma, the Executive Director, Project Alert,  a non-governmental women’s rights organisation set up to promote and protect the rights of women and young girls who share his view on the issue opined that the current  rate of domestic violence in Nigeria can not be established, as there has not been a national survey to that effect. However, she said that following the current trend, one in five Nigerian women is a victim of domestic violence. “As according to the 2012 Gender in Nigeria Report, one out of every five Nigerian women and girls aged 15-24 years, has been a victim of one form of violence or the other.”

She said while poverty and social economic challenges could be considered to be one of the numerous reasons for domestic violence, they are not the main reason for the act. “Domestic violence, as indeed other forms of violence against women/young girls, is a power relationship. It is more about men and boys feeling they have power and control over women and young girls, and physically and sexually assaulting them into submission. Putting them (i.e women/girls) in their place (below men) as its often said.

This idea was corroborated by Pa  Aderibigbe Olofin, an octogenarian and sociologist based in Lagos. He stated that violent behaviour often originates from a sense of entitlement which is often supported by sexist, racist, homophobic and other discriminatory attitudes of a person, mainly the man. “Male privilege operates on an individual and societal level to maintain a situation of male dominance, where men have power over women and children.”

Olofin added that violence at homes could be as a result of avoiding important issues out of fear of angering your partner or  excessively jealous and possessive or domineering attitudes.
“When your partner control where you go or what you do, limit your access to money, phone or car;
destroy your belongings or property; threatens to hurt you or kill you if you opt and of the relationship or marriage could be possible cause of domestic violence.

Effah-Chukwuma however stated that culture and religion play a major role in the continued perpetration of violence against women in general, and domestic violence in particular. “This is because people hide under the guise of both, to justify acts of domestic violence. You here people saying things like ‘’its our culture’’; ‘’the African culture allows it’’; ‘’the Bible says a woman should be submissive, and if she is not, she should be beaten’’; ‘’a foolish woman breaks her home’’ etc. All these add up to keep women in abusive relationships, while encouraging their husbands to continue their abusive acts.”

She expressed worry over the increase in the trend, adding that her NGO receives an average of eight cases of domestic violence per week. “At Project Alert, we receive an average of 8 cases weekly. In 50% of these cases, we are able to settle the matter, after several counselling sessions with both parties individually and then together. We mediate and help them arrive at a mutual agreement, especially where there has been no physical injury, on either parties. In 25% of the cases, the extended family members come in, and take over the matter, with the consent of the couple, and try to resolve the matter. In the remaining 25%, the violence and threat to life is so severe that the woman, states clearly that she does not want to go back to the marriage, for fear of dying, and as such wants a separation or divorce. Thus our first response is typically to try mediating,” she noted.

Effah-Chukwuma also stated that both domestic violence which includes physical battering, threat to life etc and sexual violence (rape, gang rape, incest, defilement, sexual abuse) are the two commonest forms of violence against women and young girls in Nigeria. “In fact sexual violence against children (especially little girls) is becoming very prevalent. Hardly can a day go by, without one newspaper reporting a case of defilement and incest against a young girl, some times as little as two years of age. It is in my opinion, that it is assuming epidemic proportions,” she stressed.

On how stigmatization has been affecting agencies intervention and prosecution, Effah-Chukwuma agreed that stigmatization is one of the factors that cause victims to remain silent.

“Yes, stigmatization is an issue, as it causes victims to keep silent, and not cry out for help. The greatest challenge however is the poor response from the criminal justice system (police and courts) and social service providers (hospitals, social welfare) to victims and their families/friends. Police insensitivity to and unprofessional handling of sexual violence cases due to poor training and lack of logistics, has resulted in low reporting rates of sexual violence cases especially.”

“Lack of logistics for the police means that victims of crime have to fund the process of seeking justice, starting from providing transportation to investigating police officers, going to hospital, paying for medical tests, pay for telephone calls, etc. Very few victims can afford all these costs, and as such their cases never get prosecuted. The courts on the other hand are also insensitive to the plights of victim, with the frequent adjournments and delays. Justice delayed it is said, is justice denied.”
“The Domestic Violence Law of Lagos state, which was enacted in May 2007, is a relatively new law that Lagosians are just getting to know about. It requires aggressive mass sensitization and awareness creation by government, targeting the public, the police and the judiciary. My organization Project Alert, in 2008 and 2009, bought copies of the law from the Ministry of Justice, and donated to all police divisions in Lagos, during the tenure of Mr. Marvel Akpoyibo as Commissioner of Police in the state. We also conducted some trainings for officers. However there is a need for a sustained public awareness campaign on the law, if it is to make impact, and help prevent acts of violence in the domestic sphere. Presently it is not very functional, as so many people are yet to know about it, and understand how the law works.”
She advised that government at all levels should stop playing politics with the lives of women and young girls, and take seriously the issue of domestic violence and sexual violence. Effah-Chukwuma maintained that more and more women are suffering various health implications and even dying from these twin problems. “Relevant agencies charged with responding and providing support services to victims, should be well trained and well equipped to do their jobs efficiently and effectively. Government, NGOs and the private sector need to partner to end all forms of violence against women and young girls,” she stated. Shedding more light on the issue, Pa  Aderibigbe Olofin, said: “Domestic violence includes assault with weapons such as knife, gun, matchet, burning or killing, pushing, throwing, kicking, slapping, grabbing, hitting, punching, beating, biting, restraining, confinement to hurt and cause emotional imbalance in a person.”

“When your partner control where you go or what you do, limit your access to money, phone or car;
destroy your belongings or property; threatens to hurt you or kill you if you opt and of the relationship or marriage could be possible cause of domestic violence.
According to him, other causes include, “when your partner forces you to participate in an unwanted, unsafe or degrading sexual activity;  is domestic violence.

He opined that although it is most times caused by men.  “It is as a result of the inequalities between men and women, rooted in patriarchal traditions that encourage men to believe they are entitled to power and control over their partners.”

He added that alcohol and other chemical substance may contribute to violent behaviour. “A drunk or high person will be less likely to control his violent impulse at the slightest provocation by a spouse.
He advised that people should acquaint themselves with the existing prohibitive laws to seek redress.
Olofin urged spouses to take note of signs of an abusive relationship which according to him is the first step to ending it. He added that it is absurd to live in fear of the person you love.


Thursday, 6 June 2013

8 Signs You Are Dating an Abusive Man

1.     The Jealous Controller in Chief:  He always wants to know who you are talking to, calls you every time to know where you are, who you are with and what you are doing. Suspects you of flirting any time he sees you with a man including your boss and insists on following you everywhere you go. He constantly checks your call history, text messages, BBM chats, Facebook chats and inbox, twitter conversations, emails or website history and visits you at home and work unexpectedly.

2.       The Heavy Weight Champion: He has past records of battering past girlfriends, beating up women at work or on the streets and tells you it was the victim’s fault. He fights with anyone at anywhere at the slightest provocation and can remove his clothes to fight with a bus conductor over change. He has past records of rape and enjoys viewing child pornography like having sexy pictures of children in his phone or viewing videos of adults performing sexual acts on children.

3.       The Professional Blamer: He never takes responsibility for his problems and blames other people and you for his own mistakes. He may make statements like, “you made me angry,” “it was all your fault,” “I lost this opportunity because of you.” In his world, it is always everybody’s fault but him.

4.       The Lonely soul: He gets angry when you spend time with your friends and family and gives you reasons to stay away from other people but him. He changes your SIM card, deletes every contact of your family and friends and tells you who to associate with. He will rather you stay at home than work so that men won’t look at you and ladies won’t corrupt you. He prevents you from joining groups, professional bodies and attending any social gathering alone. 

5.       The Boiling Stew: He always feels insulted and blows things out of proportion. When he’s angry, he breaks things around him. He can be charming and sweet one minute and angry and explosive the next minute. During an argument or disagreement he may hold you down, restrain you from leaving the room, push you, shove you, or hold you against a wall.

6.       The Stinging Talker:  He constantly criticizes you or says cruel things to you and about you. He curses at you and calls you ugly names. He uses vulnerable points about your past/life against you and puts down your accomplishments.  He puts you down in front of others as well. He makes you see yourself as stupid, not good enough, not beautiful and lowers your self esteem.

7.       The Perfect Perfectionist: He has unrealistic expectations and expects you to be perfect. He has an imaginary world in his mind with a stipulated role he expects you play and never satisfied by what you do. He makes you feel like you can never do anything right for him.

8.       The Sober Militant: He uses threats, black mail or physical force to control you. He may use words like, “I’ll kill you”, “I’ll beat you,” “I’ll break your neck”, “If you ever leave, I’ll kill you,” but then dismisses it with "I really didn't mean it." He uses force to get you to obey him and keep you committed to him.

Ladies, you can use make up to hide your scars but it will never hide your pain. Stop making excuses for him and call off that relationship now. Abuse doesn’t stop after your wedding day; it gets worse and affects your children.

Project Alert is a non-governmental human rights organization established in 1999 to protect and promote the rights of women and young girls in the society, especially their rights to live free from all forms of violence against them. Our areas of intervention are Research and Documentation (R&D), Human Rights Education (HRE) and Support Services Program (SSP) which includes legal aid, temporary shelter services for abused women, counselling, and skills acquisition training. follow us on twitter @Projectalertvaw and connect with us on Facebook: Project Alert on violence against women. 

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Orphanage rape: Director absent in court

The Director of Light of Hope Orphanage, Akute, Mr. Olatayo Atunde, was on Thursday absent at the Ota Magistrate’s Court, Ogun State.
Atunde had, on April 26 2013, been arraigned on four counts after his arrest by the Zone 2 police command.
The arraignment followed allegations of rape by two minors aged 13 and 14(names withheld), at the orphanage. The command had been alerted by a petition from Project Alert, a non-governmental organisation on violence against women.
No plea was taken after the charge was read and Atunde was subsequently remanded in Ibarra prison, Abeokuta, pending an advice from the Director of Public Prosecution.
At the hearing on Thursday, a prison official informed the court that Atunde was down with malaria, hence his absence in court.
There was also no sign of the counsel representing Atunde; neither his wife nor relatives present.
The prosecutor, Mr. Ajayi, queried the lack of a medical report to authenticate claims of Atunde’s ill health.
He said, “A medical report should have been presented to this honourable court, indicating the state of Atunde’s health and the ailment being treated.”
The magistrate, Mr. A.S. Soneye, asked Ajayi if he suspected foul play on the part of the prison official and feared that Atunde had been released.
He said, “Do you think that Atunde could have been released? I don’t think the prison officials would attempt something like that in a case of this magnitude.”
Ajayi said, “Anything can happen; incidents of this nature have occurred in the course of my job.”  He insisted that a medical report ought to have been produced. He also said advice from the DPP was being awaited.
Also in court and holding a watching brief for Project Alert, was Mr. Courage Erhuen.
Soneye asked Erhuen if he too was of the view that Atunde had been released.
“I sincerely believe and respect this court. To this end, since the court has already given an order, I believe it cannot be breached.
“The court would have to seek the consent of the complainant before Atunde can be released. I would like to believe that the prisons, being a government agency, would not do otherwise,” Erhuen said.
The minors, who were principal witnesses in the case against Atunde, are back at the orphanage which is now being run by Atunde’s wife.
The case was adjourned until August 8, 2013.



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