One in three women may suffer from abuse and violence in her lifetime.
This is an appalling human rights violation, yet it remains one of the
invisible and under-recognized pandemics of our time
– Nicole Kidman
With the murder-suicide involving VH1 star Stephanie Moseley and her rapper husband Earl Hayes on Monday, Dec. 8 2014, this piece is necessary as we are again reminded of the evil of domestic violence and abuse. How can anyone justify this dastardly act? One of the causes of domestic abuse/violence is traceable to the patriarchal nature of our societies. Men are usually the perpetrators of domestic abuse especially when they think their ego is being trampled upon by their female partners who they usually perceive as lesser than they are.
Abusive men see it as intolerable effrontery for their female partners to talk to them in a particular fashion. Their chauvinism is stirred, and abuse ensues. Generally, women have little or no agency at all, and this ultimately translates to an appalling human rights violation as rightly expressed by Nicole Kidman.
I grew up in a society where patriarchy is structurally ingrained in the fabric of the community. The male persona, typically the head of the household is “Alpha and Omega,” and whatever he says is unequivocally binding on all members of his household. He is a demi-god in his house, and he wields his power arbitrarily. Thus, the negative effect of patriarchy is seen in the habitually abuse of women, even in our so called Christian household which arguably is regarded as the ideal household from time immemorial.
But are Christian households still considered the ideal? This question of course causes us to challenge the notion of what it means to be “ideal” or who gets to define what an ideal household is? But this is not the scope of this write-up.
This is a hot button for me because abusive relationships proliferate the society where I grew up due to gender attributions which place the male/men/boy/masculine categorization over and above the female/women/girl/feminine categorization. The Nigerian context thus is my point of entrance since it’s what I’m more familiar with (Don’t know much about other African countries to categorize them within this framework). The Nigerian context very much captures to some extent what happens in other contexts as well. Abuse on women is customarily perpetuated by men who are conditioned right from their boyhood into believing that the they are providentially, and evidently “superior” to their female counterparts, thus fostering the perception that they can do whatever they want to their women’s body, and psyche.
These abusive tendencies are depictions of socially constructed customs engendered by gender roles which are strictly defined by one’s sexual characteristics. As expected, those who get to define these roles are male figures who control the community’s major institutions such as family, government, commerce, religion, and so forth.
In Nigeria, most folks are indeed negatively impacted by domestic violence which inescapably is in one’s face, sooner or later one is directly or indirectly affected by this social ill, either as a victim or as a culprit.
The pervasiveness of domestic violence is depicted on local television, home videos, radio, newspapers, etc., and sometimes made light of as normal in relationships. And some people don’t see it as a depravity which ought to be abrogated from our culture. I’m afraid that most people; young and old have come to accept abusive relationships as a natural part of their lived experience and reality.
A more troubling occurrence is usually when church folks quote scriptures to support hierarchies that widen social margins. So, my main responsibility as an advocate of good Christian practice, is to challenge abusive relationships and openly speak against this social aberration.
Christian women who are trapped in abusive relationships need to be emboldened to speak up and seek pastoral counselling or help from relationship experts. This may be tricky in faith communities which still hold on to the believe that the “woman’s place is in the kitchen,” and propagate that women should be kept voiceless by whatever means possible.
This is by no means a Nigerian worldview alone, Christian history reveals to us that so many of the so called Church fathers made derogatory anti-women remarks; http://www.biblewheel.com/forum/showthread.php?3349-Anti-Woman-Quotes-by-Church-Fathers. This is due obviously to their erroneous interpretation of the Genesis narrative of the fall of humanity in the Old Testament which in the theological circle is termed “Original Sin.” http://carm.org/questions/about-doctrine/what-original-sin
It’s therefore ineffective going for counseling with pastors who still believe that women are inferior to men because such pastors may be wife abusers themselves. We need to reeducate and support folks if need be, and reassure them that God will not condemn them if they need to seek divorce instead of staying in an abusive relationship which may eventually result in their demise. Stories abound which points to this happening. A support group will help them walk away alive while they can!
It is necessary therefore that conversations on domestic violence are intensified because in most Christian households especially in Nigeria or among Nigerians living in the United States and other developed worlds, there is strong antagonism to any form of divorcements even in situations where domestic violence is well established.
It’s necessary to continually educate folks in our communities in order to sensitize them on the dangers of abusive relationships. It’s important that all folks: victims or perpetrators are fully aware of the consequences of domestic violence/abuse, so they are empowered to eschew this social vice which is debauchery against God and against humanity.
The victims should speak out, while the perpetrators should back out.