The Impacts of Domestic Violence on Women and Children in Nigeria

by Olateju Oluwatomisin
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Domestic violence.

In 2019, the Nigeria National Bureau carried out a survey that showed that “30% of the citizens between the ages of 15 and 45 had experienced domestic violence.”

The survey also revealed that “68% of the said demographic are victims of emotional, sexual, or economic abuse.” 

In 2022, the Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Agency received over 2,543 cases of abuse between January and September, which is equivalent to an estimate of 283 cases per month. 

This article will shed light on the impact of domestic violence on women and children and how to eradicate it.

What is Domestic Violence?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), domestic violence is a behaviour or a set of behaviours that are directed towards an intimate partner like a wife or husband and members of the household like children or in-laws to assume control over them. 

It is any action or set of actions that would make the person on the receiving end feel traumatized, scared, intimidated, harassed, and/or assaulted. 

Domestic violence in Nigeria varies by region and is more pronounced in a patriarchal culture. This makes the men the “Lord of the House,” who can do no wrong, and when they do, the women are helpless, since they depend on their men financially.

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Forms of Domestic Violence

Domestic violence takes on many forms, and it can be any or a combination of the following;

  1. Physical abuse

This is the most tangible form of abuse. It involves the use of brute force to subdue an individual and cause bodily harm. Examples include slapping, kicking, punching, biting, choking, and the use of weapons.

Physical abuse is often accompanied by wounds, injuries, disability, and death in severe cases.

  1. Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse is any form of non-consensual sexual act or touch carried out against the will of the victim. The most common is rape, but it also includes forced participation in sexual acts, sexual harassment, assault, and denying a partner sex as a form of punishment.

  1. Economic abuse

Economic abuse is the use of financial resources, say money, jobs, property, etc, to control people but limit their ability to cater for themselves and thus make them dependent on you. 

It is the illegal act of taking control of a person’s bank account, censoring their right to do what they want with their money, especially when they are legally, mentally, and physically capable of making such decisions on their own.

  1. Psychological abuse

This is subtle yet one of the most damaging forms of domestic violence, as sometimes the victims are unaware of their dilemma. Here, the perpetrator uses various psychological and mind-bending tactics like gaslighting, manipulation, isolation, and intimidation to damage the psychological well-being of their victim.

  1. Emotional abuse

Emotional abuse is designed to damage the individual’s sense of self-confidence, much like psychological abuse, except that it’s not subtle. Victims often know they are being abused, which is not the case with psychological abuse. 

The tactics employed are harsh criticism, humiliation, name-calling, intimidation, isolation, and gaslighting (making the victim doubt their sanity).

  1. Digital abuse

The rise and fast adoption of technology mean people now have a new medium to abuse others. Digital abuse is the use of technology to harass, insult, control, and degrade others.

Online stalking is monitoring people’s activities, like purchases and GPS, without authorized clearance. Sending threatening messages, and character assassination by posting harmful content (whether true or not) are all forms of digital abuse.

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Physical Impacts of Domestic Violence on Women

The impact of domestic violence on people, particularly women and children, is profound and multifaceted. It affects their physical, mental, and socio-economic well-being.

The physical impacts of domestic violence on women include:

  1. Injury

Domestic violence in the form of physical abuse often leaves the victims with injuries like cuts, bruises, dislocation, sprains, broken bones, gastrointestinal issues, musculoskeletal disorders, and internal injuries.

  1. Damage to reproductive health

Women who are exposed to domestic violence are at higher risk of developing gynaecological problems, contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STIs), and having unwanted pregnancies. 

  1. Chronic health conditions

Domestic violence has been shown to place victims at higher risk of developing chronic health conditions. Conditions such as cardiovascular diseases (hypertension, heart disease, respiratory problems (asthma), diabetes, thyroid disorder, etc.

Mental Impacts of Domestic Violence on Women

Women who experience domestic violence are at risk of having mental health issues like depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), suicide ideation, and eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia. 

They are also susceptible to developing unhealthy coping mechanisms such as drinking and smoking which can lead to addiction problems, substance abuse, and alcoholism. 

Women who experience domestic violence could develop low self-esteem, have trust issues, and feel unworthy of love, respect, and compassion. 

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Economic Impacts of Domestic Violence on Women

The most prominent impacts of domestic violence on women are financial instability and dependency. Economic violence censors a woman’s ability to be financially responsible for herself, making her dependent on her abuser.

Impacts of Domestic Violence on Children

In a home where domestic violence is the norm, the children in such homes suffer the most damage. Unlike the women, in addition to the physical, emotional, and psychological effects of the abuse, the children also suffer developmental damage

Developmental damage as a result of domestic violence handicaps the child’s cognitive and social development, leading to emotional and behavioural issues like aggression, withdrawal, and an inability to concentrate.  

These totals negatively affect the child’s ability to excel academically, maintain a healthy relationship with his or her peers, and become a well-rounded person as an adult.

Children raised in abusive homes are at higher risk of becoming victims or perpetrators of violence in their relationships, leading to an intergenerational cycle of violence.

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How to Eradicate Domestic Violence Against Women and Children

To eradicate domestic violence in Nigeria, the government must prioritize three strategies to combat the menace from all angles. 

  1. Prevention of domestic violence

Prevention is better than cure is a long-standing adage that remains true to date. Preventive measures must focus on education and raising the awareness of the general public. 

This includes teaching women and girls their rights and reminding men and boys of their responsibilities to protect the women and girls in their lives.

Part of preventing domestic violence is empowering women financially and challenging cultural norms that normalize ill-treatment of women and children.

  1. Protection of victims

The existing legal framework should be improved to protect victims of domestic violence, ensure strict punishment for offenders, and increase access to shelter, legal services, and medical and psychological needs of the victims.

  1. Empowerment of the survivor

The future is now not only in technology but in every aspect of our lives. By empowering children who were witnesses or victims of domestic violence, we can cut down on the intergenerational cycle of violence before it even begins.

Women and children should be given the qualitative and quantitative medical, psychological, and financial support they will need to stand on their own.

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Domestic violence is the use of brute or subtle force against a person, usually a partner or member of one’s household, to gain control over them.

The form is usually a combination of physical, emotional, financial, psychological, sexual, and digital abuse. Perpetrators often make sure their victims depend on them for something that acts as a leash to keep them from leaving them.

Children are the most impacted by domestic violence, as they often suffer developmentally in addition to injuries, trauma, and behavioural problems.

Domestic violence can be eradicated and prevented through education and awareness, protection and empowerment of victims, and punishment of perpetrators.

Edited by Priscilla Ajayi.

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