In recent times, the rate of reported domestic abuse and death by intimate partner cases have skyrocketed. The raging pandemic has even become a fuelling agent as 80% of the report incidents took place during the Covid-19 lockdown. The internet, especially Twitter, also recorded the largest reports of domestic abuse and deaths in recent times as victims had tried to seek help and justice against their abusers. Agencies that provide sensitive services and help to victims of domestic and sexual violence also testified to the alarming increase rate of calls received since the pandemic.
The head of Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team, DSVRT, Titilola Vivour-Adeniyi testifies to the fact that since the beginning of the lockdown on 30th March 2020 in Lagos, the agency now receives an average of 13 calls per day for just one of their hotlines compared with the 8 -9 they have been receiving before (extracted and translated from an article on BBC Pidgin). The absence of excuses to leave the vicinity of their abuser further heightened the situation. Before the lockdown, the victims had a little ‘protection’ or ‘break’ by going to the office, school, running errands, or other excuses that took them from the house.
Though many victims are just realising that there is no shame in sharing your ordeal with organizations that can help, many still, for the fear of being judged, embarrassed and ridiculed, keep their ordeal to themselves, hoping to still make things work. Unfortunately, very few of such people make it alive of such relationships if they eventually decide to leave.
In May 2020, the hashtag ‘#whyIdidnotreport’ trended and thousands of women shared their various reasons for staying in a toxic relationship. A large number had said their partner had pleaded over and over after each abuse; some might go as far as threatening to commit suicide if they left. Others had said they had devoted their lives to making the relationship work and did not know where to start over again. For many other women, especially the ones with children, they had chosen to stay for the sake of their children and because they didn’t have the financial capacity to care for themselves and their children. While some others chose to stay because they have been told over and over again that “it rains everywhere”, they only had to endure and manage their own storm. These women in their own rights had valid reasons for choosing to stay.
This article is to help us help our friends escape a toxic relationship, and help them get justice. Feminista Jones, in her article published on Zora “What to do if your friend is being abused” said
“Being a good friend means being mindful of how you speak about domestic and intimate partner violence around others because you never know if someone you love is being abused. Saying, “I don’t get why they just don’t leave. How stupid can you be?” can alienate your best friend who goes home to an abuser every day and you have no idea. Instead of expressing frustration, focus on empathy, and supportive language. “It’s so hard to leave abusive relationships. I hope you know that if you’re ever in this situation, you can come to me. No judgments.”
That’s the first step to getting them to open up. Assuring them of our love, understanding, and support without judgments.
Taking a peek at the unfortunate news of the gruesome murder of beautiful and bright Olamide Alli Omajuwa, the founder of The Pearl Academy, by the hands of her long-time lover and the father of her children, who then cowardly took his own life, evading the consequences of his actions. The horrific details of her murder sent shivers down the spines of many Nigerians. Days after her death, a WhatsApp chat, and VN had been released by a close friend. The chat indicated her doubts about the relationship and oncoming wedding, though she hadn’t gone into details of the causes of her doubts. Had the friend known things would turn out the way they did, she would have attempted to do more; have sort help on her behalf from the right places.
Educating yourself about laws and procedures as well as agencies that help people in abusive relationships cannot be overstated. Sometimes, calling the police may not always work as such cases may be treated as a family affair which can be settled amicably until the issue escalates enough to demand their attention. Agencies such as Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team (DSVRT), Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative(WRAPA), Society to Heighten Awareness of Women and Children Abuse (SOTHAWACA), Project Alert on Violence Against Women, just to mention a few, have helplines that are available all around the clock. Some platforms like Amnesty International Nigeria (@ainigeria), Women at Risk International Foundation (@warif.ng), also have seasoned professionals willing to help, while Women of Rubies (@womenofrubies), a platform that tells the tales of an everyday woman, can help refer to counsellors and therapists.
Another way to help is by encouraging your friend to discreetly take pictorial, audio, or video evidence of times the abuse occurs. For instance, your friend could take an audio recording of her partner threatening or hurling verbal abuses. Pictures of injuries sustained after a physical abuse or even a video of your partner in rage will be very useful in making a solid case. This of course has to been done discreetly, because if discovered, this could lead to more abuse. A journal with dates, time, and issues leading to the abuse should also be kept. This will serve as documented evidence, should she eventually decide to take the legal route.
It is not sufficient that your friend keeps these pieces of evidence as anything can happen. The abusive partner can find them and destroy them, having your documentation as a backup will make a strong case, Times you felt your friend sounded off and she dismissed it as “coming down with something”, other times you notice a bruise or swelling and she just says she tripped fell or mistakenly ran into the wall. Recordings of times she trusted you with what was going on. Each insult, each punch, each blow, note them down and keep it in a safe place. Better still, send to the Cloud, that way, even if you lose your phone, you still have your evidence. This may seem invasive, but as long as you’re doing this with the right intentions, you are on the right track. It is also encouraged that these evidences are backed up to an online storage service like Google drive or Microsoft one drive.
Many women in abusive relationships, especially those with kids, find it difficult to leave due to the inability to provide for their kids and themselves. This is a great advantage to their abusers as they will dwell on this fact. Also bear in mind that most abusers would isolate their victims, stop them from associating with family and friends so that they have no one to share their ordeal with or even seek financial assistance to escape the abuse. Financial preparedness is a huge factor in leaving an abusive relationship. As a good friend, having a piggy bank designated for supporting your friend’s escape will be a step closer to helping her gain her freedom. Independently saving a thousand a month till your friend takes the bold decision of leaving the relationship. Just like every other escape, a bag containing a new phone, sim card, some clothing items, important documents, some cash, and some other things will be a valuable gift when the time comes.
Remember, just like opening up about an abusive partner is not an easy task, so is the decision of leaving an abusive partner. This is because they had earlier shared some good times and a lot of emotional manipulation may have been put to play. It takes a lot of strength to leave a toxic partner because, at some point, you begin to doubt yourself. They may wonder if things would change if you exercise a little patience, or perhaps give them some more time to change. The victim’s trust in you to open up is enough, unless it seems really dangerous, don’t push them too hard. The essence of evidence is not to make the decision for them yourself, but to support them legally when they are ready, to help them get justice.
Lastly, don’t forget to fervently pray for them. That they are strengthened enough to walk away. That they see their value through God’s eyes and act on it. Then pray for their healing. May their healing be swift.
Written By: Olabisi Animashuan
Jones, Feminista. “How to Support a Friend in an Abusive Relationship” Medium. Zora. 28th May, 2020. https://zora.medium.com/how-to-support-a-friend-in-an-abusive-relationship-5d58b5bcb392
BBC: “Coronavirus domestic violence: Surviving lockdown wen you dey trapped with your abusive partner”. BBC. 10th July, 2020. https://www.bbc.com/pidgin/tori-52675405