The stakeholders should do more to stem domestic violence
Last September, the Lagos State Attorney General, Moyosore Onigbanjo, SAN, drew the attention of Nigerians to a social problem hardly ever discussed. The Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Agency (DSVA), according to Onigbanjo, received over 4,800 cases within a period of 10 months (Sept 2021 to July 2022). “Further analysis of cases under the year in review revealed that at least 60% of survivors that reported to the Agency, experienced domestic violence in the first five years of their marriage”, Onigbanio disclosed. “However, 50% of the reports were made after10 years of the subsistence of the marriage. Various factors which contributed to delay in reporting include – financial dependence on the abuser, wanting to remain in the abusive relationship because of their children as well as other socio-cultural factors”.
While we commend Lagos State for establishing an institution to deal with the challenge, it is important that other states also begin to deal with what has become an epidemic with serious social implications. Assault and battery, even though serious offences in our law books, are hardly ever perceived as crimes by many of our law enforcement agencies, unless the acts ultimately culminate in death. In some instances, the police are extremely insensitive when dealing with the sexual abuse of minors, adding to the trauma of the survivors and their families. Besides, a pattern where survivors of sexual violence become targets of intimidation with the aid of law enforcement agents, according to the Nigeria Feminist Forum, is unconscionable and unacceptable. It is indeed imperative that the authorities make more efforts to understand the underlying causes and dynamics of this growing violence, if only to redeem the stability of the family unit, and consequently, the larger society.
From physical and verbal abuse to rape and even murder, it is evident that the authorities are not doing enough to stem the tide of domestic violence which manifests itself in many forms in the society. While spousal abuse cuts across both sexes, women are predominantly the victims in our country. Yet abused women rarely report the violence they endure, for fear of being stigmatised by the society. Besides, the patriarchal interpretations within our various faiths preach endurance. Inevitably, the victim and the abuser (where summoned) are usually advised to go home and find a way to settle their differences, rather than make public the injury or the violence within.
The fear of being ostracized, the lack of material and financial resources and the general lack of sympathy and support from the public have contributed immensely to the growth of domestic violence in many Nigerian homes. Curbing these tragic incidents is therefore a collective responsibility. It is also the duty of governments, at all levels, to protect the most vulnerable by supporting the establishment of the necessary infrastructure and wherewithal, including safe houses, wherein abused children and women can be securely accommodated, counselled and enabled to regain some confidence and self-respect.
Ultimately, it behoves all Nigerians to remain diligent and cast away the complacency that has hitherto been the bane of the victims of abuse in our midst. Ignoring the subtle signals of violence inflicted on our women and children can only lead to disruption in our families and in our society. If we therefore fail to act or report, we are all complicit.