Why Don’t We Take Physical Violence As Seriously As Sexual Violence?

One of my feminist interests is exploring and weighing if marriage is something that truly benefits women or if it is something most women are brainwashed to enter into. 

Often I question why women’s dreams, aspirations and career often take a backseat because marriage gives men so much power over the woman who is a wife and that power is often unchecked.

It is no news that domestic violence is something that is pervasive in Nigeria and other African countries. As mentioned earlier, this occurs because of the huge power imbalance that places men as the head and the expectation that women should submit like little unquestioning children. The effect of this is that a man sees his wife as a child to be slapped and beaten when her plans are not in alignment with his.

Interestingly, although domestic violence tends to be shrugged off, when the average traditional Nigerian or African is asked if marital rape is a thing, they respond vehemently with statements like: “A husband cannot rape his wife because she is his property” and “How can he rape what he paid bride price on”. These responses are levelled with a harsh seriousness while reports of domestic violence are seen as a normal part of marriage.

Now, this is not to say that one form of violence or abuse is more manageable than the other. I’m strongly against questions on social media that ask women if they’ll rather face emotional abuse to physical abuse. Women’s bodies and minds are not playgrounds and battlefields where men come to determine how strong they are as men. All forms of abuse are abhorrent and should have no place in a sane society.

However, this is to question why physical abuse is so normalised especially in relationships between men and women. Why is it okay for men to beat their wives and that gets overlooked but when incidences of marital rape come up, there is a dishing of shame to the woman and strong expectations that she cover it up so as not to be seen as stained. This especially when some women celebrate how their husbands “changed” and stopped beating them. These same women however would think twice before they come to a church podium to announce that their husbands no longer rape them because they fear how that shall make them shamed by church members and in laws.

Speaking with Deborah, a writer, she related a story of harassment that reaffirmed my belief that sometimes physical abusers only understand the language of physical abuse too. 

In her words: “When I was in 200Level, a guy always put his generator by my window, and he switched it on EVERY night till the following day. 

I couldn’t bear it anymore, and I told him to take the generator to his window side. He didn’t talk to me for a month, and I didn’t care. 

On my birthday, I was returning from the club, and I was a bit drunk, and he just started throwing sachets of water at me. I told him to stop and that he should wish me the usual way, and I was even too tired. 

He moved close and slapped me so hard and said I was too stubborn that I should know this was his way of apologising.”

She went on to say: “While he was saying gibberish, I slapped him back twice as hard! His ego was bruised that he threw a ceramic plate at me. He missed, and that was when I went crazy, and I hit him with an iron rod, and people just came out and separated us.

He kept saying he would send cultists to teach me a lesson, and I replied that I was ready to do anything to bring his downfall in the school. He was my senior.

Two weeks later, some cultists came to me and said they wanted to teach him a lesson that someone in our compound narrated the whole story and I should give them go ahead. I told them that we were good now and that they shouldn’t bother. 

He did the same thing to a guy, and the cultist retaliated. I saw guns for the first time and ran to my friend’s house.

He apologised adequately after two years.”

Deborah concluded by saying: “One thing that stood out was the older woman who wanted to beat me up for him because he always gave her money. I felt guilty for a long time that I insulted the woman, and my friends also insulted the woman and wanted to beat her up. She apologised also.”

For Eunice, a social media manager, she says that the physical violence women face is a reflection of how much of society views children. To quote her: “So I have a theory that the reason why physical violence isn’t taken seriously is because, on a normal note, parents are also violent to their children. What I mean is there’s this belief that once there’s physical violence it means that the victim has done something to cause the violence. 

In summary, what I’m trying to say is violence is normalised in our society, so physical/domestic violence is seen as a rite of passage for women.”

When asked to give her thoughts on physical abuse, Amarachi, a writer had this to say: “Yes, physical violence is seen as nothing or rather, it’s taken as normal. It doesn’t even have to be a marriage.

I stay in Warri and I remember talking to a friend who advised me once that immediately I got a boyfriend, he could do anything to me. Anything means he could beat me as he deems fit.

People also think women are stubborn so their husbands should tame them.”

As earlier said, no form of abuse is okay or normal. However the manner in which women are raised to accept physical violence in marriage and relationships will never be okay. 

We must work to create a world where women and girls do not see emotional, financial and physical abuse as “normal” rites of passage into womanhood.

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