When you meet victims of abusive relationships, one thing that’s common among them, is that none of them knew from the get-go that they are entering in to an abusive relationship, even when the signs are obvious.
Some even fail to tell the signs months in to the relationship, despite of all that unfolds.
It takes an average of five to seven acts of violence before a woman finally leaves her abuser. In some cases, women refuse to acknowledge that they are in an abusive relationship.
Instead of having to go through the ordeal of being with an abusive partner, why not avoid entering in to an abusive relationship in the first place?
Abuse manifests itself in different forms. It doesn’t have to be physical; there are other acts that lead to emotional and psychological abuse.
Mwantumu Mohammed, 35, a fruit vendor in Tandika, Dar es Salaam, is a surviving victim of gender violence. The ordeal that she had to go through at the hands of her abusive partners made her not to want to get married ever again.
It all started when she was first introduced to her now Ex-husband, Mr Shabani Iddy. In the beginning he was the most caring man she had ever met.
“He made me believe in love, something that I never thought of before. By then I was only 17, and even though he was 14 years older than me, that didn’t matter to me, all I thought about was our future together – spending the rest of my life with him,” says Mwantumu.
Things started off on the right footing. The couple lived harmoniously, but after some time, Mwantumu discovered that her husband had another wife prior to marrying her. Such discovery, however, didn’t leave her completely distraught; this is because her husband was a Muslim and so his religion made it permissible for him to marry more than one woman.
After a few months of living harmoniously together, things took a sudden turn when Mwantumu became pregnant.
“Shabani was no longer the man I met and fell in love with, he would from time to time make negative remarks about my appearance, out of the blue he started saying that I was dirty and smelling, an issue he had never raised before,” she says.
Mwantumu tried to withstand the verbal abuse, but before long, she started hearing rumours that her husband was having an affair with another woman he wasn’t married to. Before she could even wrap her head around the situation, Shabani moved the ‘other woman’ into their matrimonial home.
“The woman would insult me in front of him and he did nothing. I finally had enough of the insults and decided to leave and went to give birth at home. While at my parents place he sent me divorce papers,” she says.
Even though her husband never abused her physically, the constant insults made her have low self-esteem, to a point where she questioned her worth as a human being. Mwantumu often wondered whether she’d be able to find anyone who’ll love her for who she is.
Mwantumu, distraught and now with a baby to worry about, decided to move on with her life. She however didn’t fully give up on love. A few years later, a rejuvenated Mwantumu met another man and things started heating up very quickly.
“From early on in our relationship every one warned me about his drunken behaviour and how he slept around with different women but I was so blinded that I never saw all his shortcomings as big issues to worry about,” she explained.
They went ahead and got married and had a child. After a while Mwantumu started to see what everyone was warning her about.
“He would go out to drink and come back home very drunk and sometimes he wouldn’t return home for several days,” she says. This behaviour went on for several years and only got worse with time.
Mwantumu had survived an abusive relationship that wasn’t physical before, unfortunate for her; this time around the abuse was physical. “He’d spend all the money we earned on alcohol and women and whenever I confronted him he’d hit me or threaten to leave the house together with the child I had with him,” she says.
After putting up with the abuse for long enough, Mwantumu one day decided to leave with her children. She’s now living an independent life free of any form of abuse.
One of the common occurrences in domestic violence cases is the naivety and ignorance of the victims who are mostly women, when it comes to dealing with the matter.
Gender desks put up at police stations to deal with such cases, often report on situations where women continue to live with the abuser even after the matter has been reported to the authorities.
For Mwantumu, after having survived an abusive relationship before, she fell in to the same trap once again. As a result, she was a victim of both physical and verbal abuse.
According to Tanzania Demographic and Health Statistics and Malaria Indicator Survey (TDHS-MIS) 2015-16, one in every 10 women has experienced physical violence since the age of 15.
“Experience of violence increases with age, with 22 per cent of women aged 15-19 being victims of physical violence compared to 48 per cent of women aged 40-49,” reads the survey.
The statement further explains that 17 per cent of women have ever experienced sexual and physical violence. The experience increases with age. From 11 per cent for women under 19 to 18 per cent for women aged 40-49.
Signs of abuse
Speaking on early signs that show that a man is violent, Ms Lilian Liundi, the Executive Director of Tanzania Gender Networking Programme (TGNP), said that women should not only consider physical abuse as the sole sign of violence in a relationship.
According to her, women either in a relationship or married should watch out for men who say it clearly that one day he will do something bad to them with the intention of harming them.
“When someone says they will hit, kill or slaughter you, just know that one day he will do so, and a person saying he will do harm to you in any way, is one of the signs of violence”, she says.
Another sign, says Lillian, is a man who progressively uses disgraceful words to women for no specific reason.
“When a person continuously uses bad speech and insults women, this causes psychological damage because it breeds inferiority complex among women. As such, they should learn to run away from such type of men,” she adds.
Another sign which many women fail to consider before starting a relationship is upbringing. When a person is brought up in a family that has history of violence it is very likely for that person to also be violent.
“Most people starting a relationship don’t consider background, but it is important to know someone’s upbringing. Most children who have grown up in a violent environment either physical or psychological take that with them to adulthood,” she points.
Furthermore, a man with superiority complex, according to Lillian, is someone to be watchful of because they tend to take someone’s achievements negatively.
Lillian says violence doesn’t start out of the blue, “it begins with someone’s thoughts, thoughts that are mostly driven by anger,” she says.
Lillian further says that the solution for violence in relationships is counselling, seeking psychological help. She says that violent men also deserve an opportunity to seek help because if left alone the situation continuous, and can potentially escalate.
Sebastian Mwiru, a Dar es Salaam resident, said most men tend to become violent when provoked but according to him, anger and depression does not justify violence.
“Most of the time you find a man angered by other people and when they get home they manifest their anger to their wives either physically or verbally,”says Sebastian.
He further adds that women should sometimes learn to study the mood of their spouses and know when not to provoke them in order to avoid situations which can lead to violence.