A few weeks ago, I received a call from a friend who wanted me to talk to her friend who had some issues with her relationship.
I acquiesced and spoke to her friend the next day. She said a lot of things to me but succinctly she had left one abusive relationship and had entered another one.
She reported several episodes of verbal, physical and even sexual abuse. The irony was that she was still in love with the gentleman although he had broken up with her. She reported that it had been happening for almost a year.
She also emphatically mentioned that she wanted to work things out with this gentleman.
The question is: Why would she want to be with someone who abuses her?
The issue of spousal abuse or gender-based violence is not novel in our part of the world.
While some of these acts have led to the loss of lives, most do not reach the threshold of death. I was startled by the number of people I saw at DOVSU in Accra when I went there with a friend.
The statistics are alarming. According to the statistics available at the Accra Regional Office of the Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit (DOVVSU), as of August 2020, 31.9 per cent of Ghanaian women have faced at least one form of domestic violence - physical, economic, psychological, social, or sexual. What about the other regions and the other cases that are managed at the family or traditional level?
Do you know that all the deaths from spousal abuse can be prevented? The question is: Why do people wait until they are almost assaulted to death or murdered before these issues are heard?
I wish I could give a simple answer, but it is quite complex and requires some delving into. I will try and speak to some of the issues surrounding spousal abuse.
More often than not, people do not recognise abusive relationships when they enter into one because while most abusive relationships are apparent, real abuse is a process with later flare-ups.
Most people do not recognise abusive relationships because they are usually not violent at the beginning. Again, some people experience episodes of abuse but choose to ignore in the name of love and hope that their partner will change. While that may be somewhat true, usually abusers don’t change.
So how do we recognise an abusive relationship which is neither physical, emotional, verbal, or sexual?
One of the subtle signs of an abusive relationship is that all that remains of you is your relationship.
In the beginning, it is called receiving attention until it becomes something else. It can be a sign when your partner seems overly interested and invested in your personal and social life that you eventually lose touch with all your loved ones and yourself.
Some have had to sacrifice their education, jobs, families, etc. all in the name of love. Sometimes third parties can’t understand why people are not able to muster the courage to leave abusive relationships. It’s because some of the abusers try their best to make themselves all their partners have, hence it is difficult for these people to leave them because living seems virtually impossible without their partners.
Be reminded that abuse is not always events; some have buildups, and the earlier you recognise and leave the better for you.
Furthermore, most abusers who get physical always warn ahead of time but it is mistaken for either jokes or empty threats.
According to Sigmund Freud, one of the early prominent psychologists, there is nothing like slip of tongue. I also believe that some jokes are not really jokes.
Why that joke and why that number of times? Why does he keep joking about slapping you? Why does he keep joking about killing you? I think we have to begin to pay attention to some of these jokes. Some jokes are expensive.
Nobody deserves to be abused and that ends the argument. When people show warmth after they have abused you, that is not love. Don’t confuse it. It is not okay to be in an abusive relationship regardless of what the stakes are. If you can’t leave, get help to leave. It’s not too late to leave. Leave to live.