Domestic violence in Kenya – Why we should be talking about it #BlacknBlue

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Domestic violence is any intimidation or intended act of making any of the partners in a relationship feel inferior to the other. It mainly includes physical violence, sexual violence, psychological violence and emotional abuse.

The abuser may in the end of a certain hostile act apologize profusely or try to convince the other partner that what they did was out of love. Most marriages and relationships do not start out violently. This is something that comes up as the relationship grows. They may have been the sweetest people in the beginning of the relationship and that is why some of the abused do not get out because they believe the abuser will come around to the person they were before.

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The Women’s Hospital says that it receives around 250 to 350 cases of patients involved in domestic violence. In a 2008 study it was found out that 38% of the participants aged between 15-49 years had experienced domestic violence. The statistics are not accurate because most of the people do not report such cases. Sometimes when they report it to the police they are told to go and amicably resolve it at home as they are ‘personal affairs’.

Domestic violence is not only perpetrated against women, men too are victims. We have seen one too many times of a hopeless man narrating how his wife beat him or did something worse. There was a report done with a survey on 819 respondents with 656 of them women and 163 men from 13 counties and it was found that the prevalence was 48.6 men and 37.7 women. Kiambu, Vihiga, Busia and Mombasa reported the highest rate of gender based violence against men.

Reasons why domestic violence is thriving in Kenya

• Ignorance of the rights of the abused party – the abused may not know their rights as a person. They may think that this is supposed to happen and happens to other people as an ordinary thing

• Poverty – the abused may see this as a way of escaping poverty at home and hence keeps holding on.

• Economic muscle of the abuser – the abuser may be the breadwinner and hence he calls the shots on everything

• Fear of retaliation – what will happen to me when I report him? They fear the worst might happen and so they keep quiet.

• Cultural reasons – some communities believe that hitting your wife is a way of disciplining them if they do wrong. This then gives the man the right to hit the woman and the woman will not do anything because it will be going against culture and it is her ‘fault’.

• Stigma – No one will listen and if they listen, they will not want to help, they will just judge.

The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act

This is why this act was enacted, to give people the knowledge of what constitutes domestic violence. The law is now on your side if you are abused.

(a) abuse that includes- child marriage; female genital mutilation; forced marriage; forced wife inheritance; interference from in-laws; sexual violence within marriage; virginity testing; and widow cleansing;
(b) Damage to property;
(c) Defilement;
(d) Depriving the applicant of or hindering the applicant from access to or a reasonable share of the facilities associated with the applicant’s place of residence;
(e) Economic abuse;
(f) Emotional or psychological abuse;
(g) Forcible entry into the applicant’s residence where the parties do not share the same residence;
(h) Harassment;
(i) Incest;
0) intimidation
(k) Physical abuse;
(l) Sexual abuse;
(m) Stalking;
(n) Verbal abuse; or
(o) Any other conduct against a person, where such conduct harms or may cause imminent harm to the safety, health, or well-being of the person

How to spot the abuse as it is happening

Isolation– they will prevent you from seeing your friends and family and will call them a nuisance.

Threats and intimidation – they may threaten you or intimidate you and make you feel like you are not good enough

Destroying your possessions – they might destroy things in the house and even burn, tear or throw away your possessions and things that you hold dear to you.

Jealousy – they get jealous when someone talks to you especially someone of the opposite sex.

Controlling behavior– they want to know where you are going, who you will be meeting, when you will be coming home. They need to approve some of the activities you will engage in throughout your day.

Verbal abuse – they will call you names and throw words at you that make you feel small. They do not care if it is in front of family, friends or even your child.

How to know that your friend or relative is undergoing domestic violence

1. They seem anxious and want to please their partner every time
2. They are less cheerful than their normal selves
3. They will tell you about their partner’s possessiveness and jealous tendencies
4. They will go along with everything they are told
5. They check in with their partner to make them aware of where they are and what they are doing
6. They constantly have injuries that they say are caused by ‘accidents’
7. They dress in clothing that hide their bruises like long sleeved shirts, polo necks or scarves even when it is too hot outside.

You cannot force your friend into taking action but what you can do is making sure that they know you are ready to listen and help. They will come to you when they are ready. What you should not do is judge them. Lend them a listening ear when they need it, a shoulder to cry on when it is too much. You may want to give unsolicited advice but because you have never been in their situation before your advice will not make sense to them.

Today we will be having a twitter chat on Domestic Violence between 11 am and 2 pm. We will start by discussing her story of growing up in a home where there was domestic violence. Read it here.

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