Before we dig in, are you a victim or survivor, or do you know anyone who might fall into one of the categories? I did a thing in 2020, I studied the resilience of some women in Southwest Nigeria who were survivors of Intimate Partner Violence/Domestic Violence. I say survivors because they moved from being victims to survivors and they preferred to be referred to as Survivors. Note, I am not suggesting that males do not experience abuse in the homes, workplaces, or in relationships, my focus at the time was on married women. One important question you might want to ask me is “why women or is it because you’re a woman? But you’re not even married.
To answer the question of Why?
Experiences and preconceptions shape us into the people we are now as I have found in my journey. Wendy Sharer states, “I can encourage new scholars to find topics via their lived experiences because those experiences help us to recognize what is significant, even if we are not able to articulate a rational, ‘neutral’ reason for that significance.” Growing up was not or does not only remain traumatic for me, but it also drives my interest in social research on family and relationships among others. My interest draws, not only from lived experiences, but also from general intellectual interests. I hope you understand my justification.
I know what most researchers might basically focus on is the effect the abuse has on individuals, but I took a step forward to investigate how they cope despite the stress they undergo in their relationships. It is noteworthy that the phenomenon of domestic violence goes beyond a private family issue to a critical social and psychological one.
At the time of the research, most of my participants had left the abusive marriages and had either moved on to another marriage, done better with their lives/careers, or remained single parents. Unfortunately, the dents that the abuse had on them remained for some even if it was not strong. They spoke about their experiences, it was traumatizing for me as a listener/researcher and retraumatizing for them as they share their stories. There were times we had to stop the interview for some participants so they could cry, yes let it out by crying.
Why am I writing all these? I am writing because when I hear stories of such abuse, I am pained, I am touched, and I always wished I could do more. Our upbringing as individuals, our decisions as individuals, our training as parents, our pieces of advice as friends, our government, our culture, our leaders (Church, Mosque, anywhere), our social constructs on family matters, relationships, parenthood, and so on play a significant role in what we see in our society today. For some people, a few of these combinations affect them, while for others all of these affect them.
I have heard “I stayed, or I am staying because of my children,” my dear if you die, the children will still live, and you would not want them going through life trying to live without you. If you are worried about what society will say, no doubt they will talk, but it will be temporal.
My take on what the victim might do
- Believe in yourself because the abuser always wants you to feel unworthy or small about yourself.
- Seek voices of encouragement-speak up, seek help
- Set a boundary line- it won’t be easy trust me (boundaries are not an easy thing for some of us). You just might need to cut the abuser off to live your life.
For those who are not victims
- Listen-I say this emphatically, listen to them, take them seriously
- Act with wisdom
- Be honest-not criticize
- In all, respect their boundaries
I say my take because it is my suggestion, my opinion.
Here’s a link to My Research on IPV to read my previous research. It’s a long read but you can use the table of content to go to chapters you find interesting.
“It is not the bruises on the body that hurt. It is the wounds of the heart and the scars on the mind.”— Aisha Mirza