The day I was a witness.
It was my fifth time in their house. The 32 square-meter sitting room was boiling with drama, so much that I could not feel the cooling effect of the air-conditioner. The sitting room was cold, yet, my body was strangely hot. “How many times will I have to ring it into your hearing to get the food done before I get back from work?” Jude’s father shouted at his wife. “Stop shouting at me, honey. I tried all I could but ….” Mrs Olaitan responded as her voice got faded slowly into the air. Mr Olaitan who had been overwhelmed with anger looked for the remote on the table and flung it at his wife. In a flash, Jude who was standing at a distance from her mother was at the receiving end as Mrs Olaitan waved the approaching remote. Trying to understand the unusual but normal occurrence that has thrown her marriage into a boxing ring, she was about to burst into tears when her legs rapidly took a quick journey to the bedroom.
While talking to me under his breath, Jude said, “Timilehin, it is unfortunate that we will all likely witness this bitter experience in life. However, some will be victims, while others will be spectators that would help to build a system to curb these unfriendly happenings. In fear, Jude made a 90 degree turn to me and said, “Give me two minutes to get the Technical Drawing textbook for you.” On his way to the room, he decided to check up on his mother. Strangely, he met his mum attempting to hang herself while she was overshadowed by a fountain of tears. No wonder, according to the National Crime and Safety survey, 31% of people being interviewed confessed that they have once tasted out of the jumble of domestic violence. I am sure the remaining 69% would have one way or the other, watched it happen. Surely, we would all likely witness it!
Revealing what the bitter experience entails
Domestic violence embraces behaviours that involve an individual within the perimeter of the home, use or threaten to use coercive methods on the intimate partner, and in some cases, on a child, or other family members. Domestic violence takes many forms which may include inhumane treatment of a person within and outside the context of marriage. As stated by National Domestic Violence Home Hotline Statistics, approximately, 1 in every 4 women, as well as, 1 in 7 men above the age of 18 have been kicked down by domestic violence at a point in time.
What are the warning signs?
When there is presence of domestic violence, the partners will be feeling ill at ease or frightened. Whether it is either physical or emotional, the repercussion is nothing light. The flashbacks, recurrent thoughts, and memories usually make a person weakened with fear. Once the abuser appears to be overly controlling or forcible, the person being abused will surely show signals of discomfort, then a passionate third party witnessing the indications of the bitter experience should be ready to extend help or proffer advice.
To my greatest perplexity, about 30.5% of married women according to the 2008 Demographic and Health Survey have experienced physical, emotional, or sexual violence in their union. This is because most relationships are not seen as a divinely orchestrated coming together of people to infuse their differences into one, and show unconditional kindness, love, affection, assistance, etc.
Risk Factors Associated With Domestic Violence
The prominent risk is depression and suicide attempts. When there is a communication gap between the husband and the wife or children, depression is set to abound in the heart. Depression leads to feelings of unhappiness and psychological disorder among the spouse in the family. The aftermath of what happened to Mrs Olaitan was a massive sensation of bitterness towards her husband which led to her decision to hang herself. This is the case in most homes when there is perpetual conflict in which the partner tends to show supremacy power over others. According to World Health Organisation, not less than 300 million people are suffering from depression. It is no more news that depression is one of the leading sources of suicide in the world. This implies that if domestic violence is not curtailed, invariably, we are amplifying the rate of mortality.
Also, closely associated with domestic violence is the recurrent experience of emotional insecurity. After the incident at my friend’s house, I noticed that the reason Jude finds it hard to open up to anyone in school is because of the horrendous feeling of emotional trauma he passes through at home. Consistent domestic violence inevitably causes victims to develop uneasiness towards anyone that comes their way as they have been experientially brought up in that manner.
Furthermore, an unhealthy family relationship tends to grow amidst frequent abuse in the home. If you are petrified by the presence of your spouse, it is a warning signal that domestic violence has set in. When partners yell at each other intermittently, how do you expect a friendly family relationship to exist in the presence of war of words? My friend, Jude could barely speak up to his parents on personal issues due to the horrific experiences endured. His dad talks to him without smiling, and also, his mother could not confide in her dear son. Toxic family relationship has taken over. So sad!
Since most people have been a direct victim or most likely, a witness of domestic violence, it is imperative to give plausible solutions to ensure that the rate at which domestic violence springs up in our community dwindles drastically. In no time, I will be doing a detailed justification on the solutions in the remaining section of the essay.
Correcting your partner with love always
A couple must learn to see their union as the best gift God has given to them. In that regard, whatsoever that makes a person feel down should be avoided, and the tone of condemnation must be put to check. That was lacking in my visit to the Olaitan’s family as the correctional process employed proved to be disastrous. Rather than shouting at partners or others, we should learn to correct in love. This is because every individual is distinct in character, and it is expected that the idiosyncrasy of every member of the family cannot be the same, which is what makes the marriage an interesting one if properly managed in love. No wonder the Holy Bible says in Song of Solomon 8:7, “Many waters cannot extinguish true love.” No matter the circumstances or misunderstanding, if love is employed in settling disputes, there will be peace.
Be patient and do not judge
We all make mistakes. At different points in time, we have diverse opinions about a subject matter. To cap it all, we have feelings that trigger the tendency to take steps outside the interest of others. Instead of seeing the negative side of a person, and almost ignoring that they could have a genuine reason for doing something, be open to welcome explanation(s). Mr Olaitan could have possibly said, “Sweetheart, you know I would be very hungry after the hectic day work. Did something beyond your control hinder you from cooking?” In joy, the wife would be glad to give an open explanation, and that will lead to a smooth resolution. Just as my brother used to say, “No one gets up from the bed and intends to offend a loved one. Yet, nature will always cause misfortune.”
Create time to talk well
In life, especially amongst couples, the need to consistently engage your spouse in chatty talks is important. Creating space to discuss anything no matter how irrelevant it might seem, tends to strengthen the bond. Just like my sister, we talk almost every second – just an exaggeration though. Whenever I think of an idea, I send it to her via WhatsApp or SMS, and as soon as she is done with office work, she put a call through to me. This has cemented our relationship so much that even if I offend her, she just talks over it jokingly and we settle the matter amicably. As Orhan Pamuk rightly said, “Happiness is holding someone in your arms and knowing you hold the whole world.” Taking time to express our feelings to people we love, brings out undiluted happiness despite the possibility of bitter situation, or should I say, the bitter experience we will all likely witness.
In conclusion, I will end with the favourite aphorism of my father. It says, “Being together is human, avoiding misunderstanding is divine.” While abuse in the home and cruel treatment in relationships appear to have come to stay, conscious effort from everyone is what we need to live a life full of love. Whether you will be a victim or most likely, a witness, the possibility of this bitter experience called domestic violence is second to none in this world we have found ourselves. Not being discouraged by that, with the solutions aforementioned, the journey to preventing or reducing the effect of domestic violence whenever it arises seems bright.
Folarin Oluwatimilehin wrote in from Abeokuta via email@example.com