Remember Osinachi? The famous Nigeria Gospel artiste who was alleged to have died on April 8, 2022, due to alleged domestic violence; her story shook the world and awoke every woman, especially those who were battling with domestic violence. Many of those who detested what happened to Osinachi still remained in their abusive relationship.
An abusive relationship Is a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship. These behaviors can be physical, emotional, psychological, sexual, or financial in nature.
Why is it difficult for women to leave when a relationship becomes violent? A legal practitioner, Helen Nma Dickson, who has handled many such cases stated that those who finally leave are heroes and survivors because there are many challenges to battle before picking up the courage to leave.
Dickson, a managing partner at the Regent Legal Consult in Abuja, in an interview with THE WHISTLER, stated that experience has shown that while it is generally difficult for both genders to leave such relationships, it is always extremely difficult for the woman.
The lawyer, who heads a legal team for the Abuja Moms, an all female Facebook group, noted that there are several factors that contribute to the inability of a woman to easily leave a toxic relationship, even when it is life threatening.
One of the factors, the lawyer stated, is that women in such situations develop low self-esteem about themselves.
She stated that constant abuse can strip a woman of her dignity and turn her into someone who lacks confidence about who she is and what she can do.
“Do you know that there is an extent to which a woman will be violated or abused that she will be stripped off of every ounce of dignity, leading to loss of self-esteem?
“She gradually agrees with her abuser that she is worthless and forms a low opinion of herself. It becomes an onerous task to yank this type of woman out of a toxic relationship because she feels she cannot help herself and she is scared of what the future holds for her and her children (if any),” she said.
Dickson also listed as a reason women find it difficult to leave abusive marriage is their children. She described as ironic how some women who decide to stay for their children ended up leaving them due to death.
“Ask a woman who receives frequent beating and assaults from her husband why she stayed back, and her answer will be ‘my children’. She wouldn’t want the children to grow up without their father. She would sacrifice to ensure that they are raised up in a family so that the society wouldn’t stigmatize them as ‘children raised by a single mother’.
“Sadly, cases abound where these children grow up without their mother who ends up dead in the hands of the man,” she said.
The legal practitioner also highlighted the issue of stigmatization for women who dared to leave their marriage. She lamented how the same society that stigmatizes a woman for deciding to leave, ends up blaming the woman if she decides to stay and in the process die due to abuse in her marriage.
“The society includes the woman’s family, friends and colleagues. A victim told me that her father had asked her not to leave her abusive husband because the father is a General Overseer of a church, and it will affect his reputation and the ministry if his own daughter could not keep her marriage.
“I know some women who cannot go back to their families because they have quarreled with their parents and siblings and sold their families to ‘Oga’ husbands for one penny.
“A friend told me that her husband does not like divorced women/single mothers being friends with her. I started avoiding her and her husband from that day. Some of us here are like that too,” she narrated.
While some women in abusive marriages definitely want to leave, they are held back because they are not financially empowered.
Dickson stated that there is extreme gender imbalance/disparity in the distribution of wealth in the society adding that the woman is more adversely affected by poverty, and hence it takes a carefully orchestrated effort for the woman to break barriers in wealth creation.
“A woman needs to be financially empowered to make decisions about herself, and contributes to decision making in her marriage and home.
“A poor woman from a poor family hardly “get mouth” 90 percent of the time in marriage, and when abused, she cannot fight back, nor can she walk away, because it is tough out there in the jungle,” she noted.
The lawyer also spoke of battered wife or Stockholm syndrome where some women prefer to stay with their abusive partners and continue to make excuses for them.
“ Most often you hear a woman going through abuse make excuses for her abuser. “You know that I have a sharp mouth and my husband is hot tempered. He is a kind hearted man, but he corrects my sharp mouth with beatings’. Some have been so abused that they sadly fall in love with the abuse itself,” she said.
Dickson who stated that the lists of ‘impediments’ are inexhaustible, however stated that the good news is that whatever the case and situation, any woman going through abuse can walk out and can be rescued.
“But the decision must be hers to make. No matter how sympathetic and empathic you are to a woman in an abusive relationship, if she hasn’t made up her mind to say that enough is enough, you are just beating a dead horse,” she added.