USAfrica: Violence against Women or gender-based violence is an age long psycho-social issue deep rooted in world societies: developed, developing or third world countries. In some societies, cultural practices, norms and beliefs fuel the behaviors and relegate woman to second class status. Some practices and gender role assignments ensure total submission of the woman to male dominance and control at home in ways that perpetuate gender inequality.
In Houston and across America, there are stories of some Nigerians engaging in domestic violence with grave consequences, necessitating the urgency and need to discuss the issue and unveil the pretenses and silence that defines this for many. The socio – cultural and gender discrimination practices that modulate these unacceptable acts of violence against women are examined.
The goal of the article is to initiate conversations and increase awareness about Violence against Women, highlight some of the major consequences on the family and provide a list of resources available for abuse victims living in the greater Houston metropolitan area with focus on domestic violence or intimate partner abuse in heterosexual relationships.
Violence against Women or Gender-Based Violence is an age long psychological and social issue deep-rooted in world societies: developed, developing or third world countries. In some societies, cultural practices, norms and beliefs fuel the behaviors and relegate woman to second class status. Some practices and gender role assignments ensure total submission of the woman to male dominance and control at home in ways that perpetuate gender inequality.
Those are manifested in all levels of socio-cultural, economic, and political status of women around the world irrespective of class, education or profession.
In Nigeria, among the Igbos, Yorubas, Hausas, Fulanis, Nupes, Ijaws, and other ethnic communities; gender preference culturally favors the boy child to continue the family name, entitles him to land and property ownership, to visit and talk with the elders where older women only cook and serve the men at family or community meetings. Women observe these proceedings from a distance and have little input in decisions that affect their lives.
Some cultural practices such as dowry for brides have changed over the years but the concept and negative connotation with regards to status of women in marriage relationships, is that of subordination. After all, she is “paid” for. It is worth noting that the essence of dowry in parts of Igbo land is currently more symbolic in the monies paid but unfortunately the cultural significance persists.
The practice of female circumcision or genital mutilation in its brutality and purpose, is for the sexual pleasure of the man, who in the marital relationship, controls the “when and how” of sexual activities. The woman does not have the “luxury” of saying “no”.
Most women have little if any sexual negotiating power in the marital relationship. Female genital mutilation epitomizes cultural sexual violence against Women and male sexual right entitlements. Other violence related cultural practices include where the girl child is married off at a very young age without economic skills or viable education necessary for independent living. Men are privileged to a harem of women– thanks to the culturally accepted polygamous practice in some communities and religions. This carries with it the inherent disgrace and in-
fighting among the wives competing for their husband’s attention and love. The point here is that most of us grew up with these as acceptable norms and truly may not see anything wrong with such behaviors and practices.
I ask the critical question: are the beating, the slapping, the scolding and humiliation of women by their husbands and the accompanying screams and crying of the women okay?
Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) occurs between two people in a close relationship and includes current and former spouses and dating partners. It is cloaked with denial, shame and silence by the victims, children and the perpetrators. Often times, the women accept and excuse these acts of violence. They blame themselves for provoking them and therefore deserving “the punishments”. This is due in part, to many variables including the subordinate position and traditional roles of women in many cultures including Nigeria.
The lack of government policies making these crimes, the unsympathetic attitudes of some law enforcement personnel, weak judiciary, appeals of family and friends, all reinforce an acceptance rooted in the fabrics of society’s cultural norms and values. So, going down memory lane, these experiences for some will stand out as sore thumbs in our consciousness knowing the acts of violence committed against women are mostly justified and accepted.
The complacency and acceptance need to change for the wellbeing of women, the health of the family and the community at large.
There are national and global initiatives aimed at creating awareness to prevent all forms of violence against women. These initiatives include United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women in 1993, World Health Organization (WHO), and US Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 which among many provisions, “encourages States, Indian tribal Governments, and units of local government to treat domestic violence as a serious violation of criminal law”.
International and national organizations, governments, non government organizations such as: The Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE) and local /community organizations are all geared towards eradicating Violence against Women.
Violence against women manifest in many forms that include physical, sexual, economic, emotional, mental and psychological. These acts are crimes in the USA and are prosecutable and totally unacceptable. They are defined as “pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner … or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that intimidate,
The USA statistics on intimate partner violence (IPV) is very disturbing showing the pervasiveness of the problem. According to the CDC, each year, women experience about 4.8 million intimate partner related physical assaults and rapes. IPV resulted in 1,510 deaths in 2005.
Of these deaths, 78% were females and 22% were males. Other US national statistics include:
One in three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime.
On average, more than three women a day are murdered by their husbands or
boyfriends in the United States. Every nine seconds, a woman is beaten in the United States. Women ages 20-34 endure the highest rates of domestic violence. Only about one in five domestic violence victims with physical injuries seek professional medical treatment.
Sexual violence starts very early in life. More than half of all rapes of women
(54%) occur before age 18; 22% of these rapes occur before age 12. Intimate partner
violence is the leading cause of injury to women. It affects 1-3 million women a year in the U.S., making it more common than muggings, stranger rapes and car accidents combined. Domestic crime against adults accounts for almost 15% of total crime costs:
Violence is a learned behavior which in domestic abuse has being shown to be
cyclical. Children that grew up in abusive homes – through modeling- learn and perpetuate the abuse cycle. As noted, domestic violence transcends socio –economic levels and demographics such as race, sex, income level, religion, education and profession.
A known myth is that drugs and alcohol use cause IPV. The fact is that these chemicals do not cause IPC but inhibit impulse control, increase the risk of violence, frequency of occurrence and severity of violence.
Forms of Intimate Partner Violence:
a) Physical abuse characterized by spousal abuse, beating/battering, biting, slapping, dating violence.
b) Sexual abuse between intimate partners, non stranger abuser or by strangers – rape and sexual assault. This includes coercing, forcing or having a sexual encounter without explicit consent. It could be marital rape, forced sex or violation of the woman’s body in a sexual way or forcing the woman to perform a sexual act.
c) Emotional abuse – it is the name calling, undermining the individuals’ self- esteem. It is also the disrespect, criticisms privately and in public of the individual and causing a sense of worthlessness.
Economic abuse – this is financial dependency through control the source and use of the family’s finances. The woman is not allowed to hold a job or have a viable source of income and when she works, he is in total financial control of her money.
d) Psychological abuse – intimidation, fear, threats of bodily harm or to the children, forced or mandated isolation from family and friends, etc.
The effects of IPV on children are enormous and devastating. Children do not have to witness or be directly abused to be affected by IPV. This is because the family dynamics, cohesion and stability are forever changed. It is also known that most of the children grow up to be the next generation of domestic violence perpetrators or victims in their teenage and adult relationships – thus continuing the cycle of violence. Some other profound effects on children include: school truancy, violence at school, teen pregnancy, date rape, runaways, alcohol, drug use and etc.
So the question is asked, “Why does the woman stay?”Or, “Why can’t she leave?” If only the answers are that simple. She does not leave because she loves her husband. She does not leave because she is economically dependent on her abuser. She does not leave because of her children, who the abuser uses as baits. She does not leave because she has accepted the abusive relationship as “normal”.
Finally, she does not leave because of fear of being hurt or killed and so on.
The goal therefore, is prevention through teaching, role modeling healthy dating
relationship for young children and mentorship. It is also the ability to move beyond the shame and silence and talk about Domestic Violence or Intimate Partner Violence with friends, family and healthcare providers. The culture of tolerance to all forms of abuse and violence against women are no longer sustainable and must be STOPPED. Fear and silence sustain IPV for the
victims while power and control play off for IPV perpetrators. There is hope and there are help and resources for IPV survivors.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month
NATIONAL AND LOCAL RESOURCES
National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-4673
National Sexual Assault Online Hotline.
National Domestic Violence Hotline: http://www.ndvh.org/ndvh2.html
State of Texas Abuse Hotline (Children’s and Adult Protective Services) 1-800-252-5400
USAfrica: Ikemba ODUMEGWU OJUKWU’s farewell in Aba, today February 28, 2012, reflected a fitting tribute, historically meaningful celebration, proper regard and deserving appreciation of the greatest Igbo, in my opinion, to have ever lived (like him or hate him).
I SALUTE Aba (aka Enyimba city), the robust and fearless town I was born, bred and raised, for giving the Ikemba, our Ochiagha, Gburugburu, Oka oburu uzo, dike na ndu ma n’onwu, mgbadike anyi, a hero’s farewell.
To the Ikemba, may your valiant soul rest in peace and dignity.
We will, and I, Chido Nwangwu, will never forget to continue to tell my generation and the next about your towering courage through tempest and thunder; through sorrow, pain, tears, blood….