Domestic Violence In Nigeria: Lessons From ‘Unforgivable’

Domestic Violence In Nigeria: Lessons From ‘Unforgivable’

By Opinions | The Trent on January 10, 2015
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ondo woman domestic violence Louise Eni Umukoro, Charles Eni Umukoro

by Olusanya Sheriff

Watching the Nollywood movie Unforgivable changed a lot of things in me, the first being my perception on the Nigerian movie industry which has significantly changed. I now believe that great movies can be made in this country. Secondly, the insurmountable plight of most women and what some suffer in their matrimonial homes which is where they are supposed to be happiest and lastly, the need to ensure that domestic violence is reduced to the barest minimum, that is if it cannot be completely eradicated.

The Nollywood movie, Unforgivable which was produced by Dayo Amusa and directed by Desmond Elliot is a low budget movie that centers on domestic violence, the plight of some helpless housewives and what they suffer in silence in a bid to make sure that their marriages or relationships are intact. Mike Ezuronye plays Damola, the wayward and remorseless wife beater whose promiscuity is second to none. Whereas, Dayo Amusa plays Adesewa, the abused wife which she acted commendably well. The movie sheds more light on what goes on in some homes.

Interestingly, I would be discussing domestic violence based on some morals learnt from the movie.

What is Domestic Violence? According to the Encarta Encyclopedia, Domestic violence or spousal abuse are physically or emotionally harmful acts between husbands and wives or between other individuals in intimate relationships. Domestic violence is sometimes referred to as intimate violence. It includes violence that occurs in dating, courtship relationships or between former spouses. Abuse between intimate partners can take many forms. It may include emotional or verbal abuse, denial of access to resources or money, restraint of normal activities or freedom (including isolation from friends and family), sexual coercion or assault, threats to kill or to harm, and physical intimidation or attacks. In extreme cases, domestic violence may result in the death of a partner. The movie attest to this, Damola severally insults and assaults his wife who he is supposed to love and protect unconditionally to the extent that it led to the death of their only child.

Causes of Domestic Violence

Social Perception- Wikipedia suggests that the perceptions of domestic violence vary based on region, religion, and class. For example, the Tiv view wife beating as a “sign of love” that should be encouraged as evidenced with the statement “If you are not yet beaten by your husband then you do not know the joy of marriage and that means you are not yet married”. All the major ethnic groups in Nigeria- Yoruba, Igbo, and Hausa- have strong patriarchal societal structures that lead to the justification of domestic violence. However, reliable research suggests that the Hausas are more supportive of domestic violence and viewing it as an inherent right of a husband.

Personality Disorders or Psychological Problems- People with antisocial personality disorder act in a way that disregards the feelings and rights of other people. Antisocial personalities often break the law, and they may use or exploit other people for their own gain. They may lie repeatedly, act impulsively, and get into physical fights. They may mistreat their spouses, neglect or abuse their children, and exploit their employees. They may even kill other people. People with this disorder are also sometimes called sociopaths or psychopaths. Damola is an example of this class of people.

Desperation of some girls to date or hang out with the “happening guys” or big boys is one of the main causes of domestic violence. Most girls believe that to be regarded as a big girl, you have to hang out with the most devious of guys which most mistakenly refer to as big boys. This has led to the doom of many; Unforgivable connects well with this fact. Adesewa wanted to be cool; she wanted to date a young and good looking Demola because of his status on campus and sex appeal not minding his notorious lifestyle and flirtatious character. How did he repay her blind love?

Another cause of domestic violence against women is that most of the abused victims believe that it would stop or the violent spouse would change for the better. The Encarta Encyclopedia terms this as “learned hopefulness.” People who are dependent on their partners emotionally and economically learn to endure abuse and remain in unhealthy relationships, a process that has been labelled “learned hopefulness.” Learned hopefulness refers to an abuse victim’s belief that the abusive partner will change his or her behaviour or personality. Unforgivable proves this also; Adesewa turned deft ears to pleadings and advice from her childhood friend and former class mate, Pricillia (Fathia Balogun). She could not consider putting an end to the ungodly union because of the barbaric and insensible hope that he would change for the better. The sad truth is that most of these abuses do not end, they only get worse.

Low report of violence cases: Adesewa could have gone to the police. She could have gone to a magistrate court to seek divorce. Everything would have changed for the better. Omotilewa, (their only daughter) could have been saved. One of the causes of increase in domestic violence is that most cases are not reported because of the fear of stigmatization and the negative perception towards the abused. Apparently, its actual extent is difficult to measure. Researchers believe that the extent of violence between intimate partners is higher than reports indicate. Data based on official documents, such as police or hospital records, tend to underestimate the extent of violence because many instances of abuse are never reported. Survey of the abused individuals generally produces higher estimates of violence than official records, but they are also assumed to underestimate the actual extent of domestic violence. For a variety of reasons, respondents may fail to report violence that occurs with an intimate partner.

Effects of Domestic Violence

The effects of domestic violence are broad and can be catastrophic; they are much more than the physical bruises, the cuts or the broken bones of the violence victim. They also have psychological effects which sometimes led to the victim committing suicide – Frustration, Depression etc. The effects of Domestic violence would be discussed under two headings; The Physical and Psychological effects.

The Physical Effects- Victims of domestic violence experience both short-term and long-lasting effects. Physical injuries can range from bruises, cuts, and burns to broken bones, stab wounds, miscarriages (in women), permanent disabilities and death in a worst case scenario.

The Psychological Effects- The psychological effects are intense. Victims experience depression and other psychological distress, eating disorders, and alcohol and substance abuse problems, loss of self-esteem, frustration; and they are more likely than other people to contemplate or attempt suicide. Children who witness domestic violence experience depression and psychological distress and are more likely than other children to be physically violent.

Frustration and Depression are very important psychological effects of domestic violence because they go a long way. The English dictionary describes a frustrated person as one who is dissatisfied or unfulfilled because of the act or instance of another. Whereas, the same dictionary explains that Depression is a psychiatric disorder showing symptoms such as persistent feelings of hopelessness, dejection, poor concentration, lack of energy, inability to sleep, and sometimes, suicidal tendencies. These two are amongst the most common factors of suicide in the world. Research figures states that 25% per cent of all suicide cases are caused by either of the two or both. The question is, what causes depression or frustration or both?

Suggested Solutions

The cases of domestic violence would not be significantly reduce if the abused does not make any visible efforts to ensure that it stops because the person at the receiving end of these violent attacks is at the centre of our discussion. Regrettably, most of them are partly to be blamed because they do not report these violent cases. The need to report these inimical acts and inhumane treatments meted to them by those that are supposed to make them feel safe, special, loved and protected is imperative.

Being watchful and prayerful before starting any relationship can also help a great deal. Ladies {especially young and immature}, generally want to be in that relationship because he his good looking, loaded, your friends have advised you to do so, he his friends with your friends’ boyfriend amongst other senseless and relevant reasons, forgetting that no relationship would stand the test of time if it is centred on lies and deceit, falsehood and deception. Please take your time, do your research, know who he really is and pray to God for guidance and direction.

Going for counselling and ultimately, seeking divorce is something I would recommend, although I might be castigated because this is totally against our societal norms and values but, wait a minute and choose any option you consider to be better. Untimely death occasioned by the need to stay married or living single, divorced, healthy and ultimately happy?

Conclusively, Government should strengthen laws and provide abundant legislations against domestic violence, violence against women in general and other disadvantaged members of the society. The country belongs to every one of us and nobody should intimidate another because we are equal in the presence of our creator. Non-governmental organisations, the print and mass media, social activists and other influential persons should also lend a voice in the fight against spousal abuse which Dayo Amusa has started with the production of Unforgettable.

Olusanya Sheriff is a public affairs analyst.

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author

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