As a gender advocate it is always painful for me to witness a woman’s life ended or disrupted by violence.
However, given how misogynist and anti-woman our society still is, I suppose it was only a matter of time before we were back to the issue of women either physically losing their lives to domestic unrest or being scarred significantly from the fallout of such incidents.
At times like these, though, I tend to feel like I become repetitive in my bid to educate people. However, it seems that constant repetition around key issues as they are fresh in people’s minds is necessary.
I actually think that we are going to have to relook our guidance and counselling programmes in schools, and that training around community activities, such as sport and cultural endeavours, will also need to have embedded gender sensitization.
In order to get the behavioural change we so badly need, people must be exposed to new concepts and ways of doing things, not just around gender, but also to increase levels of emotional intelligence.
It is only then that we will see wide scale change in the comments and perceptions that surround instances of domestic violence.
Let me caution that the thought pattern that leads a partner in an intimate relationship to commit an act of violence is not triggered by any other party. Individuals who commit acts of violence in intimate settings have flaws in how they construct love.
Most of us have the ability to walk away as a facility for negotiating intimate relationships. We understand that love is a risk and that just as a person may decide to be with us today they have the right to leave at any time in the future.
There are some people, however, who due to obsessive and possessive tendencies cannot work though ending relationships. No matter how much the other partner tries to negotiate the end of the relationship, this person will find various strategies to guilt, shame and frustrate them into staying.
In some cases, a person has ended a relationship for two or more years and remained uninvolved. At the point where they try to start a new relationship with someone else, this may spur a reaction from the past problematic partner.
Another thing we must understand is that it is at the point that a person decides to leave a domestic relationship that their lives are in the most danger. When the obsessive or possessive partner feels as though he is losing his power and control over a woman’s body and her actions, he gets the feeling that nothing is left. Many also play out the often spoken affirmation that, ‘if I cannot, he cannot get her and I will make it so no one else can’. These extreme reactions to break ups cause men to kill and not because of the actions of women.
Additionally, there are some co-habiting factors. Research has shown that men who perpetrate domestic violence are predisposed to alcoholism, some of them have untreated and in some cases undiagnosed depression and many of them have general anger and conflict resolution deficits.
The best way for women to try to steer clear of toxic relationships is to clearly understand and know what is domestic violence and what are some of the major red flags that your partner may be obsessive and possessive. Look out if:
· Your partner searches your phone or seeks to control your movements; wants to choose your friends and restricts you from seeing old friends or family.
· If he calls incessantly during the day and demands that you take pictures to prove where you are;
· Your partner is unreasonably jealous when he perceives you to be getting or giving another man attention;
· Your partner belittles you, berates you or does things to make you feel incapable of running your own life;
· Hits you when he is intoxicated or agitated.
These are some of the most common warning signs that your partner constructs love in a way that is dangerous. The more of the above characteristics he has, the more you should try to plan an exit strategy.
Cheating is not a factor that triggers intimate partner violence. Yes a person may lose control upon discovering a betrayal and commit a one-off crime of passion, but domestic violence is not a one-off occurrence. Also, men who are obsessive and possessive sometimes set up suitors and relationships that their partner is having without these actually being there. The jealousy these men feel can be sometimes a figment of imagination rather than any real situation.
Another fact that suggests that cheating and intimate partner violence are only casually, and not causally related, is that several women negotiate infidelity issues without any deaths of men.
However, men are allowed to feel they cannot control their emotions upon discovering infidelity and are given permission to draw blood in a way that women are not.
In fact, women are supposed to be gracious and understand that men are men and have needs, but men’s ownership of women’s bodies means that they get permission to defend and avenge their property or alternatively punish the property in the ultimate way.
This is a kind of outline of what intimate partner violence looks like. Rather than seeking to name and shame, we must be able to train people so they can negotiate relationships and intimate spaces more effectively.
(Marsha Hinds is public relations officer of the National Organization of Women. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)