Domestic violence has been happening for ages in Nigeria. In fact, in the 1990s, more people who experienced domestic violence were women, and they saw it as nothing. But men these days are coming out to talk about domestic violence.
Domestic violence is an act of cruelty done within a family or among relatives. It also means the act of brutality that occurs between the victim and the offender, who ought to be related. Relationships between the victim of domestic violence and its offender could be marriage, a sibling, partnership, parents, family friends, or even distant relatives like cousins, aunts, and uncles.
There are different types of domestic abuse, including financial domestic abuse, emotional domestic abuse, sexual domestic abuse, physical domestic abuse, etc. The most common is physical abuse where you can see adverse effects on the bodies of the victims.
Most women have experienced physical abuse either in a relationship or in marriage. Some men have been victims of physical abuse, but they are few, and the media hardly talk about it.
In domestic abuse, children suffer a lot. This is because the sight of domestic abuse affects the mental well-being of the child, and when they grow up to become adults, the manifestation of the trauma of experiencing domestic abuse begins to show.
Having trust issues is very common, in Alicia’s marriage with Dele. She has seen him chatting with different ladies for a long time, and he says they were just friends. Each time he goes out and comes home late, she begins to imagine him spending time with other women or even sleeping with them.
This has affected her marriage and made her full of anger. She is a graduate with a 7-month-old pregnancy, and she is a stay-at-home wife. For a woman with a pregnancy that old, Alicia is supposed to be resting and taking good care of herself. But she finds herself in distress, looking at her husband's phone or harassing him whenever he spends time on the phone with his friends or comes back late from work.
Dele has told Alicia to trust him and that he will not cheat on her, but her lack of trust in her husband is causing him to avoid her at all costs. There is no peace in the marriage anymore.
Alicia, wanting peace in her home, attended a therapy session with a psychologist. Through the sessions she had with her therapist it was discovered that she had trust issues because of the trauma she experiences in her childhood
As a teenager, Alicia witnessed her dad cheating on her mother many times. When he comes home late and does not see food on the table, he would beat Alicia’s mother, and in most cases, the neighbours will have to intervene. He was taken to the police station, but there was no law as of then on domestic violence; hence, the police will send them home, saying they do not interfere in family matters.
One of the reasons Alicia’s father beats her mother is because of her inability to bear a male child. Alicia has six sisters. Her father will also bring different women to the house, and sometimes these women will live with them.
There was no form of confrontation from Alicia’s sisters, even as they grew up. The mother, after some time, had a damaged eye, but she lived with her husband still. They all feared their father, and this trauma affected Alicia’s sister's home. Two of Alicia’s sisters refused to get married because they couldn’t stand being in a toxic relationship. The sisters who got married are experiencing similar cases of domestic violence just like their mother, but in different forms.
The unhealed trauma story of Alicia is quite similar to that of a lot of Nigerians, especially females. It is as though there is a life cycle for almost every female or male, in some cases. Physical domestic abuse is one form that is very rampant in Nigeria, and the other forms are neglected.
Most Nigerians do not know that domestic violence can also be in forms such as
Economic Domestic Abuse: this could be in the form of a family member defrauding another family member. Or stealing, manipulating for financial gain, controlling the finances and occupation, a husband not giving money to his wife as well as providing her with basic amenities.
Verbal Abuse: victims of verbal domestic abuse have no idea they are abused. Insults and slight comments during a conversation. For example, if a parent says something like “Hey you idiot, come and clean this place” to their children, that is a form of verbal domestic abuse.
Emotional Domestic Abuse: this could be in the form of screaming at your partner, a relative, or family friends, making life uncomfortable by terrorizing, dominating, stealing privacy, or making threats that can cause psychological harm.
Physical Abuse: this is the most common and obvious type of abuse. It is when your partner physically hurts you and causes bodily harm.
Reasons Domestic Violence Is Prevalent in Nigeria
In Alicia’s case, one of the reasons why her father maltreated her mother is because she (her mother) could not give birth to a male child. He wanted a male child so badly that he brought in several women.
Most women that are married are housewives. They do not have that financial independence, and they depend on their husbands for everything. Sometimes this husband uses this method to maltreat and manipulate their wives into submission.
There was also no law prohibiting domestic violence during the 1990s. That is the reason why most mothers did not see a reason to report cases of domestic violence in their homes.
Furthermore, people did not have great knowledge of other forms of domestic violence. As long as there is no physical abuse, they are safe.
Nigeria, as a traditional environment, sees domestic violence as a family affair. So, family members can even criticize the victim if they go and report it to a third party.
How To Domestic Violence Affects the Mental Well-Being of Nigerians
Using Alicia’s case, she had trust issues not only with her father and her husband but with all men in general. She was beginning to become paranoid and saw men as cheating people.
Other effects of domestic violence on Nigerians include:
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: victims become very stressed when they are triggered by the trauma of domestic violence.
Fear: victim becomes afraid to speak up or stand up for themselves
Suicide: the victim will prefer to die than go through any form of abuse
Guilt: the victim will feel they do not deserve love and they are the cause of the violence
Hopelessness: they do not see any turning point
Sadness: their heart cries every time
Negative Emotions: they believe in everything negative
Anger: victims get angry at the slightest chance
Social Instability: victims have no social activity
Financial Instability: in most cases, victims have no finance
To fully curb domestic violence, the government has to enforce and enact laws that will prohibit domestic violence. Institutions that are already up to fight against domestic violence should be well equipped.
Also, mental health organizations should be open to victims of domestic violence by providing therapy sessions. That will help them heal.