Rosemary Oshiomah Ogedengbe, PhD.
Domestic violence refers to any act of violence or abuse meted out to an individual within a domestic setting, such as marriage or cohabitation. It can take the form of physical abuse, such as hitting, slapping, bitting, burning, restriction of movement by locking up the victim. It can also take the form of verbal abuse which is the most common form of domestic violence. Domestic violence can also take the form of economic abuse where the victim is either prevented from engaging in economic activities or where their earnings are forcefully taken from them by the perpetrator or where the victim is prevented from owning or acquiring property in their own name. Other forms of domestic violence include emotional abuse which involves behaviours that diminish the self-worth of the victim, and sexual violence where the victim is forced to participate in sexual activities with the perpetrator or other persons. It is important to note that every form of domestic violence can have severe adverse effects on the victim . Hence, no form of domestic violence should be ignored.
Though women are the victims in most cases of domestic violence, men have also been reported to be victims of domestic violence. Besides the direct victim, children in families or relationships where domestic violence occurs also suffer.
Some of the commonly reported effects of domestic violence include physical injury, physical health problems, mental health problems such as anxiety, trauma, phobia, substance use, substance induced schizophrenia, depression and suicide.
People who are experiencing domestic violence need help and support from their families, friends and the society. If your relation, friend or anyone you know is experiencing domestic violence, here are a few ways you can Help.
Do not take obvious signs for granted. Some people, especially family members often ignore obvious signs that suggest that their relation is experiencing domestic violence. Some of these signs include physical injury, self isolation or withdrawal from friends and family members, depressed mood, weight loss or excessive weight gain, decline in productivity, sleep difficulty, reduced concentration, forgetfulness, general loss of interest in activities that the person previously enjoyed, decline in level of self-care, general change in behaviour. These signs could be indications of other problems but it is important to ask questions about them as many victims usually find it difficult to talk about domestic violence.
Understand that a victim of abuse is never to be blamed for their abuse. No offence or behaviour on the part of a victim can justify domestic violence.
Support help seeking behaviour. Families and friends should commend a victim of domestic violence for speaking about their experience and support them to seek help. They should avoid making the victim to feel guilty for talking about their suffering or for seeking help.
Offer financial support and empowerment where necessary. Many victims especially female victims in therapy have reported that they endured domestic violence because they completely depended on the perpetrator for their survival at that time. One of the ways to help a victim is to empower them to be able to fend for themselves.
Stand up to the perpetrator. This does not require violence but letting the perpetrator know that the family is aware of their abusive behaviour towards their relation and that he would be held accountable for the person’s safety could go a long way to make the perpetrator to slow down.
Report to appropriate authorities. It is okay to report a perpetrator of domestic violence if they refuse to stop their abusive behaviour.
Give atention to children in families where domestic violence occurs. Children in families where domestic violence occurs also need help as they could be adversely affected by witnessing the ugly situation. Some of the effects of domestic violence on children include sleep difficulty, depressed mood, loss of concentration, dwindling academic performance, depression, anxiety, relationship problems, guilt, abusive behaviours, running away from home, substance use, trauma, substance induced schizophrenia and suicide. It is important to note that people who abuse their partners are also likely to abuse their children.