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Domestic abuse: The case of married women – Part 2

CORRESPONDENT
Scared into silence: Gender based violence continues unabated
Abusers seem to derive inner strength and an overwhelming sense of fulfilment and purpose in life from seeing their mates terrified. But what you may not know is that beneath that veneer of bullyboy confidence and macho-ego often lies an amazingly brittle personality riddled with silly insecurities bordering the top end of the envy scale. Unsteady and insecure men, seemingly living in an alternative universe, generally threatened by the profound but unfounded fear of losing their wives to better and more deserving real men. Very much ill at ease with their wives’ degree of sophistication, confidence, savoir-faire, stylishness, beauty, financial independence and level of education.  PAUL BATSHEDI MORE* writes

Last week’s article helped us to appreciate that it is not easy to tell whether a man would ever metamorphose into an abuser. In view of the fact that some men could be deceptive, what can women do to protect themselves? Is there anything they can do short of glancing into a crystal ball in a desperate effort to determine their future? The answer is, not always.

Due diligence is almost second nature to most women. They always do a very good background check on potential suitors. By the time a woman accepts a proposal she would know where the man works, where he comes from, whether his family is respectable or not, his religion, his level of education, where he lives and his capacity to look after a family. So, in most cases, if you were to rewind and playback incidents leading to marriage, you would struggle to find the scrawniest grain of negligence on the part of the wife. 

Unfortunately, because they are not endowed with even a minuscule measure of prescience, women would not know that they would at some stage during their marriage be forced to endure a stream of abusive acts. In no time, physical abuse would breed other forms of abuse. Sexual. Mental. Emotional. Financial. Swearing would gradually creep in. The poor women would be subjected to frequent bouts of emotional outbursts and sustained humiliation at the slightest provocation of their mates. This is the kind of environment in which abusers thrive. It is welcome fodder for them.

Abusers seem to derive inner strength and an overwhelming sense of fulfilment and purpose in life from seeing their mates terrified. But what you may not know is that beneath that veneer of bullyboy confidence and macho-ego often lies an amazingly brittle personality riddled with silly insecurities bordering the top end of the envy scale.

Unsteady and insecure men, seemingly living in an alternative universe, generally threatened by the profound but unfounded fear of losing their wives to better and more deserving real men. Very much ill at ease with their wives’ degree of sophistication, confidence, savoir-faire, stylishness, beauty, financial independence and level of education. For such men, the default position is to browbeat their wives into toeing their line no matter how crooked it is. Some women have even complained about men controlling their grooming and attire! How sick can one get!

While shedding a tear, or sobbing buckets, most women would be able to tell you when and how the abuse first turned physical like it happened yesterday. They would even be able to share with you granular details of what had happened moments preceding the abuse, what they and their mates were donning, where they were, the inflection of the abusers’ tone, their facial demeanour at the time of the abuse, the hand or foot they used and their facial demeanour after the abuse. All that is stowed safely in the part of their hippocampus way out of reach of their abusers.

The first act of violence is normally the very beginning of a matrimony cursed with abuse, distress and trauma. Abuse that would have just graduated from its nascent stage, skipping some intermediate stages and mutating into its full-blown stage. The point is, what would seem like inconsequential hairline cracks, would if left unchecked, transform into wide cracks capable of compromising the structural integrity of a marriage.

In some cases, it starts with a woman who out of love and concern would ask her husband who happened to rock up late at home, where he spent the whole day. Since he would not have behaved that way before, he would be sure that his wife would ask that question. Through his behaviour, he would be wickedly flashing a harmful ‘clickbait’ before the unsuspecting woman.

He would have had ample time to scheme and strategise on a response that would have been mentally rehearsed on his way home. At the time he responds to his wife by unleashing that unexpected powerful slap, punch or kick, a bloodcurdling scream would automatically flow from his wife’s mouth. Not really out of pain. Most probably out of utter shock.

Nothing in the man’s regular behaviour would have cushioned the poor woman against the shock of that Bruce Lee-like devastating assault. That would be followed by a very strong emotion-laden response manifesting itself in confusion, embarrassment and indignation. After regaining her composure, she would immediately get oiled to her husband in a way that would nearly nauseate her. 

Mentally visualise how these two women responded to the first act of physical abuse. The first one stood right in front of her abuser, seething with fury, her face glowing with trickles of sweat, her teeth chattering, and her hands and lips trembling. She was swept by a rush of nausea and felt like puking straight into her husband’s mouth. At that time as her temper flared, she would have been delighted to see that man frantically gasping for air as he was getting choked.

Another rather well-to-do statuesque woman oozing with consummate elegance, gravitas and massive bundles of confidence said, “It had never crossed my mind that this could ever happen to me. And when it did, it totally discombobulated me. Before I could blink, super strong emotions had suddenly engulfed me and started tearing me apart. Those emotions took complete control of my senses and nearly drove me insane.”

Demonstrating with a microscopic gap between her index finger and her thumb, she said, “I promise you, that time, my husband came this close to popping his clogs! Yes, I could have killed that man. He is so fortunate to be alive now.” You see, both women took umbrage and could have easily treaded the path of retribution. 

This is the one thing that abusers fail to appreciate. That though in their wives’ eyes, some of them might seem to possess Samsonic strength, the fact that their wives cannot match their physical strength does not necessarily mean that they are pacifists.

In fact, there are documented murders of men by wives who could not take abuse anymore. Lesson? Abusers, do not confuse your wives’ love and kindness with weakness and eternal passivity. Just as you plan for them, they too can easily do the same or even worse. Not that we would ever endorse the degeneration of any marital coexistence into a violence infested vengeance spree!

Recognising his first goof, the man would immediately prevaricate his way out of the hot water by unconvincingly floundering through a feigned apology, pretending to show some remorse. And would perhaps even go to the extent of buying his wife her signature perfume, a bouquet of flowers and a card screaming out endearing words of affection and intimacy. Since this would be his first ever act of violence, after the dust settles, his wife would end up forgiving him, grudgingly attributing his violence to a woeful lapse of

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judgement.

Little would she know that the valves to a perennial river overflowing with all types of abuses would have just been opened. A river that would in no time flood her marriage, drowning her in an infinity pool of endless abuse. In time, she would appreciate that her desperate attempts at swimming against the tide would only be a wild goose chase. Repeated acts of violence would lead to the buildup of tension. Abuse would escalate with time, but for part of that time, the wife would be in intense denial. Vigorously refusing to believe that the charming charismatic man she was so gung-ho about getting married to eventually mutated into a terrifying monster during the honeymoon phase of their marriage.

The questions that often times confuse people who are not in abusive relationships are; Why do abused women tend to take an inordinately long time to sever that battered umbilical cord? Why don’t they swiftly run away from the abuser without ever bothering to look back? Do they really have to stay shackled in a relationship that is clearly not working? Why is it hard for some of them to break the silence and facilitate a speedy restoration of their dignity?

Some women are known to have endured abusive relationships for a decade or even longer. What really accounts for what on face value would seem like an irrational decision? You may not believe this, but to some extent, all of us are offenders here. Purely on the basis of the principle of community guilt. Let me explain it this way. Cultural views and expectations are normally to blame. But as you would appreciate, these do not exist in a vacuum. They are driven by human views, perceptions and biases, fuelled by the unrealistic notion that all abusive men want their marriages to work.

Some of these poor women at the receiving end of unreasonable cultural expectations and norms often feel that if they were to break the silence, no one would believe them? No one would listen. And the inconsiderate but audacious ones would have the nerve of accusing them of causing the problem, almost as if they had connived with perpetrators of abuse.

They would be ashamed of screaming for that help that they would be in desperate need of. Primarily because they would have on a number of occasions failed to secure support from people they thought they were close to. Out of a misplaced sense of loyalty to both mates, some of their family members and a few close friends would have pressurised them into giving the men a second chance. Of course they would not know the number of chances that the poor women would have already extended to the abusers. The abused women would feel that there is no incentive at all in continuing to bang their heads against a brick wall.

With a stoic resignation, they would be quite comfortable with carving out a small rock of despair from the mountain of life’s challenges and would cling onto it tightly, daily brooding over it. A phenomenon pretty similar to a self-soothing strategy adopted by babies in drawing comfort from sucking their fingers.

The one thing that some people who are enjoying peaceful relationships with their mates fail to appreciate is that, there is no way an abused wife would come running for help after the first few acts of abuse.

Remember she would have just joined the elite matrimonial club, oozing with a lot of energy and hope. It would be embarrassing for her to run around ‘violating’ her dignity soon after proudly saying ‘I do.’ Announcing to the whole world how her bright and sunny wedding paled off into a bitter and dusky shadow. An overhyped damp squib if you like! This is not something one would get excited about. So in some cases, by the time the abused person speaks up, it would be after years of persevering through a traumatic relationship. At that time, all she would be in need of would be a listening ear.

But when the burden of a tumbling marriage is placed squarely on the wife’s lap, she would have no option but to vigorously pursue a survival strategy that would almost always encompass self-isolation.

Once the abusive relationship drives the woman to ignore her friends and in the process probably sacrifice her dignity, she should know that she might have stretched the notion of incredulity too far. That her brainpower could be on a permafrost mode. With no hope of thawing any time soon.

Obviously, launching a defiance campaign by walking out of a marriage that to all intents and purposes is practically dissolved would become a monumental problem to a woman whose ability to think clearly is paralysed. At that moment of cerebral numbness, the woman would seek solace in coiling into her cocoon. Convincing herself that it would be unloving to give up on her husband too quickly. Hoping against hope that things would work out. Desperately devising flawed strategies for placating her husband. Pandering to his wishes and pursuing what she would wrongly perceive as creative ways of igniting a spark of revival to the love that has effectively pined away.  That is why, for a very long time, some women would stare at abuse right in its eyes rather than take the positive action of emancipating themselves and throwing the chains of sadistic oppression into an abyss.

The woman’s frustration would increase day by day as nothing works out. She would ultimately believe that the whole world has conspired against her and colluded with her husband to denigrate and frustrate her.

Tortured into submission to what she might consider an undeserving man, denial may in some cases force the woman to post words and pictures in social media. Stuff that would reflect that everything is hunky-dory. Unfortunately, this would only reflect a manicured version of the already dysfunctional marriage.

Deceptively portraying her dream marriage that to her chagrin would be way out of reach.

When this happens, abusive men would know that they have reached their destination. With adroit manoeuvres, they would hold their wives in the palm of their hand like a yoyo, tossing them in whatever direction they wish.

Cowered into total submission, the poor women would feel that their abusers have gagged them with a superior military grade duct tape. Their muffled groans for help would only be limited to the confines of their homes.  Abusers would now gloat in perceived victory. Feeling totally invincible. On top of the world. But many discerning individuals would rightly consider this a hollow pyrrhic victory. 

Look out for the third article, which will speak to how victims of domestic abuse can work on surviving the global curse and indeed how we can all pitch in to fight the worldwide scourge of domestic abuse. 

PAUL BATSHEDI MORE*

*Paul Batshedi More is a motivational speaker and property specialist



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