Detecting early signs of domestic violence

DOMESTIC violence also known as intimate partner violence occurs between people in a close relationship and usually takes many forms, including emotional, sexual and physical abuse and threats of abuse.

It includes not only physical aggression, such as hitting, kicking and beating, but also emotional abuse, through behaviours like humiliation, intimidation and controlling.

Although it is well acknowledged that the majority of victims of injury- related violence are women, the frequency rate for the use of physical aggression in intimate relationships is approximately equal for both men and women in relationships.

Women are more likely than men to use physical aggression, but they are also more likely to be injured by partners.

In domestic violence, women are often perceived to be the victims and men as the perpetrators thereby men victims continue to suffer in silence from their intimate partners.

Women who experience domestic violence are openly encouraged to report it to the authorities, while men who experience such violence often encounter pressure against reporting and those that report face social stigma regarding their perceived lack of machismo and other denigrations of their masculinity.

The tragedy is that men who find themselves in this situation hide and do not talk openly about their experience, as talking about it will bruise their ego and expose them to ridicule in a society. Hence such men prefer to suffer in silence until it becomes critical often leading to death.

Tanzanian laws regarding Gender Based Violence (GBV) are quite progressive however; there is a wide discrepancy between legislation and existing behaviour in local communities, as law enforcement and the victims’ tendency to remain silent have hindered national efforts to reduce GBV. Understand that abusive relationships always involve an imbalance of power and control.

An abuser usually uses intimidating, hurtful words and behaviours to control his or her partner. Early in the relationship, your partner might seem attentive, generous and protective in ways that later turn out to be controlling and frightening.

Initially, the abuse might appear as isolated incidents and partner might apologize and promise not to abuse you again.

You might be experiencing domestic violence if your partner; Calls you names, insults you or puts you down, prevents you from going to work or school, stops you from seeing family members or friends, tries to control how you spend money, where you go or what you wear, threatens you with violence or a weapon, hits, kicks, shoves, slaps, chokes or otherwise hurts you, your children or your pets, forces you to have sex or engage in sexual acts against your will and blames you for his or her violent behaviour or tells you that you deserve it among others. You may not be sure whether you’re the victim or the abuser.

It’s common for survivors of domestic violence to act out verbally or physically against the abuser, yelling, pushing or hitting him or her during conflicts. The abuser may use such incidents to manipulate you, describing them as proof that you are the abusive partner.

If you’re having trouble identifying what’s happening, take a step back and look at larger patterns in your relationship.

Then, review the signs of domestic violence. In an abusive relationship, the person who routinely uses these behaviours is the abuser. The person on the receiving end is being abused.

Even if you’re still not sure, seek help. Intimate partner violence causes physical and emotional damage no matter who is at fault. Note that domestic violence affects children, even if they’re just witnesses.

If you have children, remember that exposure to domestic violence puts them at risk of developmental problems, psychiatric disorders, problems at school, aggressive behaviour and low self-esteem.

You might worry that seeking help could further endanger you and your children, or that it might break up your family. However, getting help is the best way to protect your children and yourself.

If you’re in an abusive situation, you might recognize this pattern: your abuser threatens violence, strikes you then apologizes, promises to change and offers gifts but the cycle repeats itself.

Typically the violence becomes more frequent and severe over time. Domestic violence can leave one depressed, anxious and at increased risk of problems with alcohol or drugs.

Because men are traditionally thought to be physically stronger than women, they are less likely to report domestic violence in their relationship due to embarrassment.

They might also worry that the significance of the abuse will be minimized because of their maleness.

There have also been initiatives by the Police in establishing gender desks in police stations all over the country but there are very few rare reports documented on violence against men.

Health care providers and other contacts might not think to ask if a man’s injuries were caused by domestic violence, making it harder to open up about abuse.

One might fear that if they talk to someone about the abuse, they’ll be accused of wrongdoing themselves. Remember though, if you’re being abused, you aren’t to blame and help is available.

Start by telling someone about the abuse, whether it’s a friend, relative, health care provider or other close contact.

At first, you might find it hard to talk about the abuse.

However, you’ll also likely feel relief and receive much-needed support. Emphasizing that domestic violence is wrong and that no person deserves to be mistreated by an intimate partner in a physical, emotional, or sexual manner.

Without effective reduction of gender- based violence perpetration, men and women’s health, wellbeing and safety will continue to suffer worldwide.

The challenge now is to turn evidence into action, to create a safer future for the next generation. Let’s all work together to put an end to Gender Based Violence!

  • Racheal Masibo, Assistant Lecturer at St John’s University of Tanzania (SJUT)-School of Nursing, reachable via 0717513598 or Email:rackelmasibo@ yahoo.com” rackelmasibo@ yahoo.com

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