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Monday, September 26, 2022

“Heart and flower” phase in domestic violence

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By Njundu Drammeh

Many years ago I learned about the “heart and flower” phase in the domestic violence cycle.

1. The man assaults the woman

2. He then enters into a kind of remorse for his action. “You know I don’t like to beat you but you sometimes provokes me”; “You know if you had done what I asked  you to do, I won’t have slapped you”; “I am sorry I will not be violent towards you again but stop retorting when I speak”, etc. Apologies the woman would think but they are excuses by the man to minimalise his actions, to make the woman feel that she did something to deserve the violence.

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3. Then the flower phase sets in. The man would act good and extremely kind, help in domestic chores, go get the groceries, buy the woman expensive gifts, fulfil her demands, do everything to please the woman.

4. As time passes though, the man would feel he is ceding his territory, is becoming unmanly. “I am the man in the house. I wear the trousers. Why should I appease her?” His masculinity and machismo would tell him he is stooping low, that he is no longer in control. Old rage would come to flood his thinking. His anger is now bubbling.

5. Then the woman commits a mistake, retorts, misses his phone call, doesn’t have the food ready in time, forgets to iron his shirt, slows in carrying out his demands, comes home late from an outings, etc. The perfect opportunity he has been looking for to restore his “manhood” and masculinity. “Ah ha, you have started again. You have forgotten what I did to you the last time. Continue rek”.

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6. Then another innocuous mistake by the woman, in fact the excuse he has been waiting for, and bang the violence, the assault.

7. Then back to Point Number 2 above.

Unless this woman is supported to know how to break away from this violent situation, the cycle would continue. And often the woman in this situation is helpless. She has been told my her father that no matter what happens to her in her marriage, she should never set foot in his compound. Her friends tell her that she should be patience and the abuse or violence would end one day. The religious scholars have told her, on her wedding day, that marriage is “difficult” but the women who endures is the one who produces successful, blessed children. She thinks of her children and what would become of them if she leaves. The fear of seeing them brought up by another woman breaks her heart. She thinks about the struggles and how she has contributed to the man’s success. She cannot live to see another woman enjoy the fruit of her labour. She is unemployed and has no other means of survival. Leaving the man would mean a live of hardship and extreme struggle. She doesn’t know what the future holds for her. She is afraid of that change, of moving out, of starting life afresh. “The devil you know is better than the angel you don’t”, she pathetically tells herself.

Many other factors would hold her back. She lives in a vicious cycle of violence. Some get perpetually maimed, disabled or disfigured. Some get killed. Some, well the kicks on her stomach with that Wellington booth led to three miscarriages. Now her uterus has to be removed. She avoids social gathering for that people may see her wounds or would give inconsistent explanations for how she got. The impact on the children, devastating. They become withdrawn, inattentive, gets nightmares, run away from home, etc. The girl learns that a “woman is a punching bag or a doormat” and would accept that as part of marriage. The boy, he learns violence. Dad punches mum and so he might grow to be a violent man too. Others never tread that path though.

Imagine if we all speak against domestic violence; if perpetrators are prosecuted and punished; if women are made to understand that violence isn’t ok, isn’t acceptable, isn’t permissible by any religion or culture; if shelters are established for those running away from the violence; if our girls are educated and become financially independent; if siblings stand up and tell their brother-in-law or sister’s partner that “one is one too many” and take her out of the abusive relationship. Imagine the chorus of condemnation of society.

I know of women who eventually mustered the courage to get out and are ever happier after. They regretted why they had stayed longer. Not many can make such decisions without some sort of support. But we can support. Terrible to be an active bystander.

Oh yea, we often focus on physical, sexual and emotional violence. Insidious too is “economic violence”. You know some women’s salaries are totally controlled by their husbands who dole out “allowances” to them. If you have been following Mmajiki Saidy-Barrow’s recent writing on abuse, you would have read how the man told the woman to choose between the family and her promotion which may mean a transfer for her, away from the family. Am sure you know women who declined a scholarship or promotion with a transfer because “none one would be there to take care of her husband. Or even decline a rise in pay because they would then earn more than the husband. I have been told stories of husbands who would “audit” their wives after “nduga” to see if the “fishmoney” they give was actually spent. That some of these men who go to do “nduga” don’t do it as a labour of love but rather out of distrust of the wives.

Domestic violence occurs in every stratum of society – rich, middle and lower levels. It is not just the uneducated, unemployed woman who gets abused; the educated, employed woman is abused too. And to a little extent, the rich woman although the power dynamics are different for her.

We must get united against domestic violence. The victim could be your own sister or daughter. And when we act late, we might receive her coffin. It may be too late to help her.

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