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MENTAL HEALTH SURROUNDING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE – by Nancy Wanjiru

MENTAL HEALTH SURROUNDING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE – by Nancy Wanjiru

Domestic violence is the use of fear and intimidation to gain control over a victim. The victim here could be a spouse, child, former spouse or close relative.  It may also take many forms including physical violence where there is beating, shaking, slapping, burning or other forms of physical abuse. It could also be emotional where the perpetrator may use belittling words, insults, threats and other ways to make the victim feel inferior. Financial abuse includes the denial of money for sustenance, using the victim’s money as if it belonged to the perpetrator and failing to provide for the essential needs of the victim. Sexual abuse may include rape (which can be marital or non-marital), or forcing a person to do or participate in sexual behavior without their consent. Other common abuses include stalking and displaying dangerous weapons to intimidate the victim.

What can lead to an increase in such acts during this time?

The very fact that families are forced to spend time together under a lockdown rule serves to increase the chances and opportunities for abuse.  Imagine a couple who are experiencing conflict in the marriage, going to work, cooling off during the day and instead of the husband going home, he spends his evening in a pub to pass the time before finally going home to his sleeping wife. In a way they have established a very convenient method of running away from their issues.  Though it may not be an ideal way to resolve their conflict it may serve as a means for the couple to avoid violence.   Let’s imagine that the husband works in the hospitality industry.  Due to the lockdown, he is not allowed to go to work and cannot meet his friends in the evening to escape the conflict at home. Circumstances have now forced him to spend time with his wife.  The probability of the pent up issues they were avoiding over the years now reaching boiling point is extremely high, and so is the likelihood of violence!

Apart from being compelled to spend their time together, it must be noted that the reason one partner becomes a perpetrator is that, without their knowledge, they either have an issue within themselves that they haven’t resolved or do not know how to resolve.

For example, a man who feels inferior intimidates his wife until she too feels inferior to him.  An inferior person who controls someone more inferior merely has a false sense of superiority. Note that I have used the word “false” because it doesn’t mean that the person actually becomes superior by keeping another in that state in order to comfort themself. This explains why a perpetrator will keep on abusing their victim even when they realize what they are doing is destructive.

Apart from the preexisting issues perpetrators may have there are further additional stresses such as the restriction of movement, inability to go to work, financial strain and an inevitable change in lifestyle.

Whenever people get stressed they become frustrated and more prone to abusing others. Any resistance, anger or resentment that victims of domestic abuse may reveal will be interpreted as an offense to the abuser, which could lead to an escalation of violence.  Another mitigating factor is that, due to the restriction of movement being imposed, the victim has no place to run so the abuser can continue without any repercussion.

Like any other vice in society, domestic violence can start at any time in any given situation!  It could be a slow progression that increases as time goes by. Vulnerable family

members need to be more vigilant.  It is very important for everyone in a relationship to recognize the indicators that show that their spouse could be an abuser.   

Herewith a few to look out for:

JEALOUSY

Jealousy is one of the first signs to look out for.  A partner who is too jealous is the kind of

person who cannot stand seeing you talking to another person, who has issues with you smiling or laughing with a friend or who is overprotective.

RELIGIOUS BELIEFS

Another sign is a person who holds on to very religious sentiments such as women should be subservient to men or that a man is the head of the house.  Such sentiments are not bad in themselves, but it is alarming however when a person holds on to them so strongly.

ISOLATION

Abusers have the tendency of separating the victim from family, friends and other people they are in contact with. Other early warning signs are if your spouse for example, has a way of making your parents out to be the evil ones, says your friends are only “using” you and that your colleagues at work are bad company. What is more worrying is the fact that often victims of violence believe the excuses the abuser uses to justify the behavior to be true,

and then continue to live in acceptance of the abuse.

FEELING OF ENTITLEMENT

It is not uncommon that women who are abused by their husbands see the abuse as a sign that they are “loved” or as justification when they make a mistake.

DANGERS OF LIVING IN AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP

 The dangers of living in an abusive relationship are the repercussions that follow. Physical harm that may lead to hospitalization is a major concern.  Not only is it embarrassing and painful for the victim to try and explain her injuries, but the medical expenses can also cause financial strain for the perpetrator.

The victim can develop anxiety especially when the abuse is repeated over a length of time. They become more prone to anxiety disorders that may cause lack of sleep, eating disorders where they either eat too much or too little and anger begins to mount leading to irritability.  Some women take out their anger on their children or other people. Because of the displacement, most victims of abuse end up becoming abusers themselves.

Domestic violence can also cause the victim to suffer from depression and even end in death. It is therefore important that, as soon as you see the signs that you could become a victim, you immediately take steps to stop the violence.  The first step is not to remain silent about it.  Stop suffering in silence or take comfort in the fact that you are not alone.

For those who are married remember that, as important as it is to save your marriage, both parties are equally important.  Talk to someone who can help, tell the perpetrator that you won’t stand for any abuse.  When abuse happens the first time, don’t take it for granted that it won’t occur again. 

Let the perpetrator know that you view the abuse in a serious light!  Even if the perpetrator gives reasons that led to the abuse, the abuse in itself is an issue that needs to be addressed.

Another important step is to know what triggers the pattern of violence.  Understanding the pattern of how the abuser responds to your actions enables you to predict what steps are necessary to prevent the abuse.  In some cases the victim seeks the help of a professional who can teach them to recognize the patterns and formulate interventions to stop the abuse. 

While family members are spending more time together during the lockdown, it may be advisable to try and resolve the conflicts of the past. However, it is wise to exercise caution as bringing back the past could cause more harm than good.  It would then be better to avoid the topic.

Often seeking help from a professional who teaches the skill of conflict resolution is recommended.  However, sometimes the only course of action is to get out of the relationship. Opting out is not easy but it could be better than waiting for the worst to happen. 

If this seems to be the best option for you formulate an exit plan of where you are going to go, how you will sustain yourself and what you are going to do when the abuser comes after you.  Know who you can turn to in the event that you need help.  No matter what happens, remember that you must make it very clear that you are not going to remain in an abusive relationship because no one deserves to be in one!

Article written by:

Nancy Wanjiru 

Founder and Lead Psychologist 

Hisia Psychology Consultants Ltd

Contact:  Info@hisia.co.ke

0745562106

FB:  https://www.facebook.com/HisiaPsychology

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