Suffering in silence, the ordeal of battered women

Doreen HammondDoreen Hammond The writer, Doreen Hammond

Thu, 31 Oct 2019 Source: Doreen Hammond

Amanda was my colleague in the office. For a long time now, I observed that she was not looking herself.

She had become reserved and looked emotionally disturbed.

To make matters worse, she always had one bruise, scar or sore which she attributed to domestic accidents.

Over time, she almost always came to work spotting a black eye.

The last time was a pouted mouth, blackish blue eye covered with dark sunglasses.

That looked strange because she never wore sunglasses in the office where the sun could not penetrate.

Amanda’s husband, Yaw, seemed a lovely guy with a good job and well-educated.

He sometimes passed by to deliver her lunch and was, therefore, no stranger, especially because he was friendly.

I heard of Amanda’s admission to hospital and visited.

Looking at her, I was so sure she had been involved in a motor accident. But alas, I was wrong; I was looking at the handiwork of Yaw!

It was on her hospital bed that Amanda broke down and shared her ordeal over the last five years after marriage.

Yaw, who appeared so calm and gentle to the outside world, was actually a serial wife beater!

Amanda’s situation seems common not only with married women, but even with some single women who are in some sort of relationship.

But the questions are: Why do women endure such maltreatment in silence?

And why do men think that they have the right to beat women? Are our laws helping the situation?

And why do such cases persist even with the work of the Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit (DOVVSU) of the Police Service?

The answer to these are many and varied. Some of the reasons found to have influenced women to suffer such treatment in silence is their lack of financial empowerment.

They feel that if they should report or resist such treatment, the men will not take care of their children, especially in providing basic needs such as food, shelter, clothing and school fees.

Sometimes, the “male abuser” is also the provider for the family and so she suffers in silence; torn between speaking out and risking isolation by her family for cutting off their supplies.

There is also this notion that when a man loves a woman deeply, that love translates into beating! So some women will cling to such men because they believe that it is love.

There is also this general perception that such abuse of women happens only among those in the lower class of society. But this has proven to be false because wife battery cuts across the high and low in society, among the very educated and the uneducated.

Our statutes have fine laws to deal with assault and battery, but what can the laws do when victims are not ready to report and follow through with such cases to their logical conclusion? The result is obviously the continuation of such abuse in our society.

Some women have been bold to complain to the police but have cited the attitude of the police when they have made such complaints as the reason they shouldn’t have gone there in the first place. Sometimes the police trivialise and make a joke out of the case.

For the few who have reported, what relief do they get? Are there shelters created to support such women?

I am aware of one or two NGO’s that are providing some form of support to victims but this is mostly limited to Accra.

How about those outside Accra? Is it right that they and their children remain in the same environment they are being abused while the case is adjudicated?

Apart from the emotional and physical harm to the woman, the effect of such an environment on children can be anybody’s guess.

Unfortunately, it seems the boys in such homes grow up to become men who do same to their partners as they have observed their fathers do to their mothers.

This situation is not acceptable and we cannot allow that to continue. Women play a critical role in nation building and we cannot sit aloof while they go through such inhumane treatment, especially because it is an abuse of their rights and it is criminal. Admittedly, there are reports of a few women abusing their partners but this is on the low.

It is time for a sustained intervention to reduce and subsequently stop such abuse on women like Amanda.

There is the need for education and sensitisation in our mosques, churches and schools on the issue.

Our traditional authorities who are opinion leaders and wield a lot of influence within their jurisdictions should also help.

A more deterring punishment regime could also do the trick. The 21st century has no place for partner abuse.

Columnist: Doreen Hammond