Osinachi: Walk away from abusive relationships

Osinachi: Walk away from abusive relationships

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A gender specialist and women and girl rights advocate, Ms Mary Ikoku, has advised women to walk away from abusive relationships and seek help, noting that marriage is not a certificate to heaven. This is coming against the backdrop of the death of Osinachi Nwachukwu, who allegedly died as a result of domestic violence.

Ikoku made this comment in a telephone interview with The PUNCH on Thursday.

She bemoaned how society and the Church encourage victims of domestic violence to remain in abusive relationships through wrong teachings.

Asked what her views about domestic violence were, Ikoku said, “Domestic violence is a broad-spectrum issue, but when we narrow it down to its intended meaning, it is typically violence or any form of abuse that takes place in a domestic setting; that is in a family, marriage, or in an intimate relationship.

“It is an intimate partner violence, especially when the violence occurs between a man and his wife or a boyfriend and girlfriend. And when such violence is committed by one of the persons in an intimate relationship against the other person.

“Domestic violence can happen both in heterosexual relationship and other types of relationship. It can also happen between two exes.

“In its broadest sense, DV can be violence against children from their parents, relations, caregivers, or guardians. It can also be against a maid or domestic worker. It can be violence against an aged person within the household. Each of these is a form of domestic violence.

“DV can be physical, and it can be one that cannot be seen. The worst kinds of violence are those ones that people don’t talk about,” she added.

She said that the types of domestic violence that do not result in physical bruises are deadlier than physical ones.

“But there is another kind of domestic violence which cannot be seen and does not leave physical bruises or marks on its victim but is so well deeply seated in the person going through it; this can be emotional, verbal, economic, religious – as seen in some places. It can also be reproductive or sexual abuse. Some people in marriages go through marital rape,” Ikoku said.

She added, “All these forms of violence – be it physical, emotional, verbal, economic – eventually can lead to death. However, when it is emotional, verbal, or even economic, there is no mark for you to see and raise the alarm. But that victim can be dying silently and gradually, and it could take years.

“You lose your self-esteem; you have no confidence because what you’re dealing with is more internal than external. Because your intimate partner is not making a human being out of you, he constantly verbally abuses you, tells you that you’re nothing, and when you constantly consume such toxicity, it increasingly makes you lose your self-esteem, and it may get to a point when you can no longer function as a normal human being. Mental health issues become a challenge.

She noted that the violence people don’t see or can’t touch kills its victim way more than physical violence.

When asked about what she thought were the drivers of domestic violence, Ikoku identified gender inequality, harmful cultural practices, lack of awareness, and economic reasons.

“For me, I think that, primarily, when it comes to spousal abuse, that is a man who is physically stronger and a woman, what I see as the primary cause is the power difference where one person feels superior to other humans. So, you expect maximum submission from the other person, who, instead of being a partner in progress, now becomes subordinate.

“Apart from culture and inequality, there is also the issue of awareness; how developed the victim is. So, you find parents supporting the abusive spouse against their own children, because they’ve also been raised in a patriarchal system that tells them that being married and staying married is your certificate to heaven.

“So, no matter how good you are as a Nigerian woman, no matter the good things you’ve done or impact you’ve made in the lives of humans, and no matter how much good you’ve done as a citizen, if your marriage doesn’t work, when you get to the gate of heaven, nobody will ask you, ‘Are you still married?’ And if you say you’re not married, they will not say, ‘Go to hell.’ This means that staying married or dying in the marriage is not what will lead some women to heaven. These are the narratives that we need to change. Marriage is not your certificate to heaven.

“We need parents to start saying, ‘My home is open to you, my daughter. If your life is threatened in your marriage, see this your bedroom, we will not give it up for anything. We still love you.’ This is not encouraging divorce; it is to make your daughter or your son to feel welcome to your home at any time, because if you check most of these women that died in DV, you will find out that their family had aided and continued to send them back to death until their eventual death.”

Ikoku also said that the fear of what people would say was one of the drivers of domestic violence. This she blamed on loss of self-esteem and confidence.

She advised parents to keep the doors of their homes open to their married children so that their children can have the confidence to let them into the secrets of their lives.

She also advised parents to rise up to help their abused children out of abusive relationships, adding that domestic violence affects the mental capacity of the victim to take decisive steps.

To the Church, Ikoku Domestic violence: Marriage not certificate to heaven, says gender specialist

A gender specialist and vocal advocate for the rights of women and girls, Mary Ikoku, has said marriage is not a certificate to heaven, while advising victims of domestic violence to seek help and walk away from abusive relationships.

Ikoku made this comment in a telephone interview with The PUNCH on Tuesday.

She berated how society and the Church encourage victims of domestic violence to remain in abusive relationships through wrong ideologies and preaching.

Asked what her view about domestic violence was, Ikoku said, “Domestic violence is a broad-spectrum issue, but when we narrow it down to its intended meaning, domestic violence is typically violence or any form of abuse that takes place in a domestic setting; that is in a family, marriage, or in an intimate relationship.

“It is an intimate partner violence, especially when the violence occurs between a man and his wife or a boyfriend and girlfriend. And when such violence is committed by one of the persons in an intimate relationship against the other person.

“Domestic violence can happen both in heterosexual relationship and other types of relationship. It can also happen between two exes.

“In its broadest sense, DV can be violence against children from their parents, relations, caregivers, or guardians. It can also be against a maid or domestic worker. It can be violence against an aged person within the household. Each of these is a form of DV.

“DV can be physical, and it can be one that cannot be seen. The worst kinds of violence are those ones that people don’t talk about.”

She said that the types of domestic violence that does not have result in physical bruises are deadlier than physical ones.

“But there is another kind of DV which cannot be seen and does not leave physical bruises or marks on its victim but is so well deeply seated in the person going through it; this can be emotional, verbal, economic, religious – as seen in some places; it can also be reproductive or sexual abuse. Some people in marriages go through marital rape,” Ikoku said.

She added, “All these forms of violence – be it physical, emotional, verbal, economic – eventually can lead to death. However, when it is emotional, verbal, or even economic, there is no mark for you to see and raise the alarm. But that victim can be dying silently and gradually, and it could take years.

“You lose your self-esteem; you have no confidence because what you’re dealing with is more internal than external. Because your intimate partner is not making a human being out of you, he constantly verbally abuses you, tells you that you’re nothing, and when you constantly consume such toxicity, it increasingly makes you lose your self-esteem, and it may get to a point when you can no longer function as a normal human being. Mental health issues become a challenge.

“The violence people don’t see or can’t touch kills its victim way more than physical violence.”

When asked about what she thought were the drivers of domestic violence, Ikoku said gender inequality, harmful cultural practices, lack of awareness, and economic reasons were reasons why domestic violence festered.

“For me, I think that, primarily, when it comes to spousal abuse, that is a man who is physically stronger and a woman, what I see as the primary cause is the power difference where one person feels superior to other humans. In this case, the male gender claiming superiority to the female gender, saying I am head, I am the lord who must be obeyed, and society; these are people who have somehow held on to some social construct within the space of a patriarchal system that over the years these people have been culturally or socially constructed in a way and manner to tell them that you are this and the other person is that. So, you expect maximum submission from the other person, who, instead of being a partner in progress, now becomes subordinate.

“This is inequality. I always say that gender inequality is the number one cause of domestic violence, because if there is no inequality and the man sees the wife as an equal partner in marriage, there won’t be that issue of I can deal with you the way I will deal with my inferior or subordinate. If the man sees the wife as a co-pilot, you can hardly see co-pilots fighting; it’s never done. They’re working together in the navigation of the airspace. You can never see them even arguing. If they disagree, it is a very forward-thinking disagreement that gets resolved for the common good of the flight.

“And it’s the same way if the man sees his wife as a co-pilot driving the family to ensure that they raise responsible children and do economic projects that will empower and also enhance cohesion within the family setting and in turn nurture and produce functional children for the society,” said Ikoku.

She further stated, “The other cause (of DV) is culture. In a culture that has harmful cultural practices and traditional attitude towards the female gender, this also gives rise to the level of domestic violence against women in society.

“Apart from culture and inequality, there is also the issue of awareness; how developed the victim is. I tell people that, when you’re in a system like ours, which is highly patriarchal, patriarchy is not a man. Patriarchy is actually a system, and this system can be supported by a woman as well as a man. So, you find parents supporting the abusive spouse against their own children, because they’ve also been raised in a patriarchal system that tells them that being married and staying married is your certificate to heaven.

“So, no matter how good you are as a Nigerian woman, no matter the good things you’ve done or impacts you’ve made in the lives of humans, and no matter how much good you’ve done as a citizen, that if your marriage doesn’t work, when you get to heaven you will be asked, ‘Are you still married?’ and if you say you’re not married, they will say, ‘Go to hell.’ Meaning that staying married and dying in the marriage is what will lead some women to heaven. These are the narratives that we need to change. Marriage is not your certificate to heaven.

“We need parents to start saying ‘My home is open to you, my daughter. If your life is threatened in your marriage, see this your bedroom, we will not give it up for anything. We still love you.’ This is not encouraging divorce; it is to make your daughter or your son to feel welcome to your home at any time, because if you check most of these women that died in DV, you will find out that their family had aided and continued to send them back to death until their eventual death.”

Ikoku also said that the fear of what people would say was one of the drivers of domestic violence. This she blamed on loss of self-esteem and confidence.

She said, “Also, ‘what will people say’ is another reason some people remain in an abusive marriage. These are people who have already lost their self-esteem and whose confidence has been completely eroded. If the confidence is still intact and they’re self-aware, they can walk away tall, knowing full well that they have done their best to make the marriage work, and when it’s not working, they take a walk.”

She also noted that some women remained in abusive relationships because of economic reasons. She said that when a woman is fully dependent on her husband for economic and financial survival, it would be difficult for her to walk away from an abusive marriage.

Asked about the effect of divorce on children born into abusive marriages, Ikoku said it was better for children to be taken away from such toxic environments.

“In a way, it will have an effect on the children. But it not completely true that the effect will be negative. There are positive effects as well. If there’s domestic violence in a home, you also don’t want to expose children to violence. So, staying in that kind of marriage situation and letting your children see all of those is not good for them; they will not have a healthy upbringing. They will be raised broken and will become broken men and women in the future who may also exhibit that which they’ve seen in their parents’ marriage on their own future spouses. So, they’re actually better off separating them from that kind of toxicity, Ikoku noted.

On the role of the family, Church, society, and government in dealing with domestic violence, Ikoku said the family should not sell off their daughters when giving them out in marriage. She advised parents to always check on their married children to know what they are going through every time.

She advised parents to keep the doors of their homes open to their married children so that their children can have the confidence to let them into the secrets of their lives.

She also advised parents to rise up to help their abused children out of abusive relationships, adding that domestic violence affects the mental capacity of the victim to take decisive steps.

To the Church, Ikoku urged pastors to stop using the pulpit as a platform to preach their personal ideologies and culture. She said, “God hates divorce but loves His children. God is not happy when His children commits suicide, and it is suicidal to remain in an abusive relationship.”

While commending the government for declaring a State of Emergency against gender-based violence and creating gender desks in Police stations for gender-related issues, Ikoku urged the government not to spare high-profile people who engage in abusing and battering their spouses.

She also advocated a better justice system where gender-related case will be adjudicated based on well-defined timelines.

Asked what her advice to victims of domestic violence was, Ikoku said it was always advisable to walk away from life-threatening situations, adding that, “You have not killed anybody; you are only saying I’m done with all the toxicities in my life. I’m letting them go. I’m done with being killed. I’m done with the battering. I’m done with the name-calling. I’m done with these abuses. I’m done and I want to start my life afresh.

“It’s going to take a toll, it’s going to take some time, but eventually you will be glad you took that decision to take yourself away from violence, abusive environment, toxic situation, to a cleaner ground without violence.”

She admitted that men can also be victims of domestic violence, though, according to her, the number is disproportionate. She, therefore, advised that, “…if you’re a man, my brother, drinking, taking to the bottle will not solve your problem. You can drink and drive and end your life. Talk to somebody. Confide in somebody what you’re going through and seek help.

“If you’re a woman going through domestic abuse, my sister, marriage cannot take you to heaven. And, in fact, there is no marriage in heaven.

“If you’re a woman going through domestic abuse, my sister, marriage cannot take you to heaven. And, in fact, there is no marriage in heaven.”

“What you need to do if you’re being battered or going through any form of abuse, if you’re in Lagos State, there are centres you can go to seek help. There are numbers you can call. You can call for help, even on social media. Just make a tweet, and of course, Nigerian sympathisers are not hard to find. They will come through for you. And then, if you’re going through this and you’re a popular person, there are also people in your circle who know how to help you without you becoming a joke of your fans. Your life matters”, she said.

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