The sequence is almost always the same. A story about someone who dies as a result of domestic violence breaks; there is a barrage of similar stories from women who decide to “come out”; there is emotional outburst from many which may or may not distract from the original story; tempers eventually die down as everyone “forgets” until the next time there is another death. I resist the urge to say, “rinse, repeat”.
Yet, for many men and women violence at home is a way of life. They have come to accept it as normal. It has become as routine as picking up their toothbrush and brushing their teeth. “Every marriage has its own flaws,” they tell themselves, “this is my own cross and I need to bear it”.
Of course, no one in their right senses will support a man beating his wife or a woman beating her husband. But when it comes to individual cases, sides must be taken. And you may hear people say it’s the woman’s fault. She talks too much, too fast. She is disrespectful, she is incorrigible. When you examine some of these cases you will be hard pressed to accept that the woman really is to blame. A wife who knows her husband will always walk away once a quarrel arises, shuts the door and hides the key in her person while pushing and shoving the man; a woman blocks the door and grabs the man’s shirt while screaming “kill me today” ; the wife is always first to throw a punch or to slap. There is a limit to what even the most mild tempered man can take. There are even cases, and this had been admitted, of women who go out of their way to pick a fight because they enjoy the pampering of “make up sex”.
Yet, most times it is a man who hides his insecurities behind punches. It is the man who needs his fist to prove that he is in charge. It is a man who believes that the woman is his property who he bought with his money and that from time to time he has to “count his money” to be sure it is complete. It is an illbred man who believes that if the woman “over steps” her bounds he will have to put her in her place, literally.
No matter who is to blame or who starts the sequence of events that leads to a fight or for whatever reason this sequence of events was started, it must be stated that violence in whatever form between two people who should be in a loving relationship is an aberration. It goes against the principles marital mathematics.
Perhaps one of the biggest reasons why battery occurs within a marriage is that the offending party stops seeing the other party as being one with them. Who would slap himself; pour hot water on himself; punch himself on the head; scar himself with hot iron; force himself to have sex when he is tired; speak to himself derogatorily; use abusive speech on himself, no matter how much offense he has caused himself. Have you ever added a little too much salt or pepper to your cooking? Burnt a shirt while attempting to iron it? Arrived home a little later than you planned? What punishment did you impose on yourself for your imperfections?
But then, there are some who see the fire and proceed to walk right into it. There have been instances where ladies have been warned of the violent nature of a man they are about to marry and they ignore the clear warnings and enter the marriage only to face the very things they have been warned of. While some of these warnings are based on clear antecedents- for instance a person whose first relationship ends because of violence cannot be expected to have suddenly changed because they met someone new- for others, the signs are more innocuous. A person who enjoys violence for sport, whose anger erupts like a volcano, one who throws things when they are angry or who will scream and use abusive speech at will has definitely not attained marri-age no matter how biologically old he or she is. They should stay away from relationships until they grow up and anyone who dates them should know they are dating a child.
In whatever form the signs come the fact remains that the signs are almost always there before marriage but for selfish reasons people still go ahead to enter such a marriage. For some, it is the fear of not finding someone else. For others, it might be that the person is rich and/or handsome. Or it could be the fact that the person always comes back to say they are sorry. Some may even erroneously be led to believe that every marriage is like this it’s just that the women don’t talk about it.
It is sometimes in instances like the above that “shame and pride” keep persons from admitting they made a mistake even from the first week of marriage and leave. They choose instead to wait it out, hoping for a change that may never come. Often times their obituary comes before the change.
However, whether a person knowingly walks into a relationship with a batterer or not is not a defence for domestic violence. There is no excuse for violence within marriage. Not even that a woman or man is trying to stick her finger into the partners eyeball. There can be an excuse for self defense but none whatsoever for battery.
So what really is domestic violence. Should a slap and a punch be placed on the same pedestal? Can what a person says be more hurtful than a punch? Psychological abuse can been seen to even be more hurtful to some people than physical abuse. While physical abuse may leave visible scars, emotional abuse may take longer to heal and even scar a person for a lifetime. A case can therefore be made for a person’s love language being a determinant of what will be considered abuse. If two people who speak hurtful words without “meaning it” end up married then a lot of things will fall under “acceptable” which a person who watches what he says may find unbearable.
So can there be an end to domestic violence? Perhaps when we bring an end to selfishness. When the time comes when perpetrators of domestic violence are not emboldened by their families, religion and society at large. When the time comes when women will not walk into relationships that are not right for them because of pressure from their biological clock, family, religion and society at large. When the the times comes when people will not be pressured to remain in abusive relationships because of shame, pride and fear of what society will say. This can never happen in this system of things.
Right now, we can only continue to educate. We will teach our boys that it is unthinkable to hit females. Even as children, they should treat girls with respect and defer to them, they should speak only things that upbuild and keep their fists to themselves. We shall teach our boys to cultivate the qualities that will make them turn the other cheek and develop strength of character. We shall pray for them that they do not end up with women that will turn them into wife beaters and that if they do they will not allow shame to make them remain with them.
We shall teach our girls that it is better, safer for them to remain unmarried than to end up in a bad marriage. We shall teach them to appreciate what it means to be a woman, to restrain their tongues and their fists. We shall teach them not taunt men or be the woman that will turn a gentleman into a fighter. We shall teach them that even if they end up in a bad marriage, they can and should walk out and not wait to be carried out. That there is no shame in walking out of an abusive marriage.
We shall show them all through our actions that even if we had told them they were making a wrong choice and they still went ahead to make it, that we respect their right to make and unmake that choice.
Meanwhile, we shall continue to work towards making laws that criminalize domestic violence and educate law enforcement officers to treat issues of domestic violence with the seriousness it deserves.
We shall continue to tell holders of religious portfolios to stop shielding perpetrators of domestic violence. To stop using the Bible or any other religious book to force women to remain in marriages where their lives are under threat. God hates divorcing but he also hates the violent and deceptive soul. If you look hard enough you will see where the line is drawn.
We shall continue to preach to society, especially the older women folk, to stop looking with disdain upon women who walk out of marriages where their life is threatened. They are not failures. They are heroes in their own right.
We shall continue to speak and to preach because education is the strongest force for real change. We shall not stop because the story is no longer in the news. We shall not wait until another story hits us.