Kunle, was a brilliant, gentle soft-spoken gentleman and 300L Medical Student when he met Tope, a pretty, intelligent 100L Biochemistry student who always had a smile for everyone. He was infatuated with her and she in turn was flattered by his attention. They soon became an item on campus and everyone knew they were almost always together. What a dashing couple, everyone complimented. It looked like a match made in heaven. Then the subtle manipulation and coercion started.
Kunle would want to know where Tope was almost every 5 minutes. The social media and the mobile phone became a tool of incessant monitoring and soon the relationship started feeling like a prison to Tope. He would want to know why she liked a particular guy’s picture on facebook, where she was at any given time and what she was doing. Who else was there? And on and on it went. She started becoming irritated and told him so. He immediately apologized and pleaded that it was because he now loved her so much that she pre-occupied his thoughts every minute. She relaxed and was somewhat flattered at the attention he was lavishing on her.
Months down the line, he started telling her to stop seeing such and such friends, because he did not approve of them. He started criticising what and how she dressed. Her friends started grumbling and told her he was becoming too possessive, but she shrugged it off. He visited her in the hostel unannounced and met her talking to a male classmate in front of the hostel. He flew into a mad and jealous rage and wanted to fight her male classmate – but he recused himself and left. He then went on to slap Tope for cheating on him. She was shocked to her marrow and she called off the relationship at that point. But he came back every single day to wait at her hostel entrance and plead with her all the way to her department.
He did not mind that her friends insulted him and made fun of him. After a week of persistent pressure, Tope relented and accepted him back. They later got married and had children. But 7 years after their marriage, Tope’s friends read in the newspapers that Kunle had beaten Tope to death over a domestic disagreement. The friends further learnt that Kunle’s controlling behaviour became much worse after marriage, and was associated with frequent beatings. But as she was already pregnant, her family had counselled her to be patient. And then it became a recurring theme, especially after he had successfully alienated her from her previous support network.
Why do people tolerate intimate partner violence?
Several reasons, but as illustrated above, they usually don’t start the relationship with a slap or violent actions. It often starts with carefully cultivated love and attention; which then progresses to possessive behaviour. And then he becomes controlling and wants to assert his authority on every issue. When she steps out of line or goes against him, he resorts to violence and aggression to ‘punish’ her and assert his power or dominance over her. So, it is usually a slow process over time, and the lady would have become emotionally invested…or married. Truth be told, it is very difficult to break off long standing ties and relationships.
What are the facts?
A woman is assaulted or beaten every nine seconds, and 20 women are abused by an intimate partner every minute. In England alone, a woman is killed every 3 days as a result of domestic violence. Intimate partner violence, while often perpetrated by men against women, can and do also occur from women against men. But women are more often than not, on the receiving end of abusive relationships.
Intimate partner violence is sustained by a culture of blame and shame
It is common to hear refrains such as: what did you do to provoke him? Did you abuse him? Oh, you pushed him first? So, what were you expecting? He is a man, he has to react and so on. These are all ways by which we blame the victim and reinforce/reward the perpetrator. We need to emphasize that NO PROVOCATION can ever justify domestic violence. We don’t go around the streets fighting and beating everyone who offends us, do we? No level of violence is ever acceptable or ‘normal’ in any relationship. A person who resorts to violence once, is likely to repeat it – unless he/she receives therapy.