Domestic violence is an ugly reality in Uganda. Whether you observe the educated or uneducated classes, domestic violence rears its ugly head among the populace. Would you believe there are some cultures that believe in the notion that a man has the right to hit his woman, if only to discipline her and show her love? And when he does so, he does not understand it that someone will come calling at his door to intervene… But domestic violence is not just physical; it can also be psychological, emotional and economic. In essence, domestic violence is about a spouse seeking to dominate and control his/her partner and whichever means they can access to do so is what they use.
Psychological abuse involves doing or saying things that torment one; making them either feel less human; undeserving or totally indebted to the person who torments them, what is called the Stockholm Syndrome. Psychological abuse is akin to emotional abuse, where the victim is made to feel low; insulted and traumatized, without necessarily being physically hit. As for economic abuse, well, the abuser simply withholds financial support or keeps taking away what the victim earns. I know a couple who typify economic and physical abuse. The man and his children ganged up against the woman, who was from a different ethnic grouping, calling her the stranger in their family. To this, the man added taking away every asset (and some liabilities disguised as assets, like cars and computers) that his wife bought. When she felt pushed to the wall, she began beating him up. She started small, but by the time they separated, she had made it a hobby, with her victim suffering injuries all over his body. And this seemed her target, because she always went for parts of the body that would show the world that he had suffered violence.
The Domestic Violence Act 2 explains that harassing, harming, injuring or endangering the victim or anyone related to the victim for the purpose of coercing them into complying with “any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security” are also considered as domestic violence. So in the case of this couple, both the husband and the wife were practising domestic violence.
Unfortunately, when domestic violence is mentioned in Uganda, most people perceive it as a man giving his woman grief. The man who took away his wife’s cars and computers and the woman who beat him in return are both violent. The trouble is that while the community around them knew that the man kept grabbing her cars, close to, no one knew that she beat him. Why? Women find it easier to break the silence about their being abused, which is not true about men. Men find it degrading to admit that their women abuse them. This has presented a big problem regarding the fight against domestic violence against men. Until they show that they need help, nobody is going to offer it.
Domestic violence is a human rights problem, an economic problem, as well as a health problem. Abused spouses have their rights trampled upon, thereby living substandard lives; some are denied basic needs because they lack the finances to buy them; and some, because of the [physical] abuse, suffer untold diseases (like fistula, maiming, STDs brought on when their spouses force themselves on them roughly and others). Just like women, men are beaten. Men are raped. Men are denied food. Men go through so much that society would not believe they face, but because the victims live in perpetual fear of society getting to know, they suffer in silence. Unfortunately, their silence does not help, because they still manifest all the “fruits” of an abused person. Domestic violence does not only affect the abused party; it also affects the children, in relationships where children exist. Much as the children might not be beaten and/ or denied basic needs, they suffer psychological/ emotional trauma arising from them witnessing their parents’ battles. They sometimes feel that they are the cause of those battles, thereby living with a guilty conscience.
Sometimes, like in the case of the couple mentioned above, they are made to take sides, which alienates them from the rejected party. This is dangerous, because ideally, children ought to grow up with both parents in the same space.
Violence breeds violence. The affected party sometimes ends up becoming violent and aggressive too. One little thing and they seek to take it out on someone; whether it’s the perpetrator of the violence or not. When they are not violent, they might become depressed, suicidal, begin abusing drugs or alcohol, suffer anxiety and depression and develop social disorders. If they are not helped, they could be affected for life.
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