I have written several articles in the past about intimate partner violence (4 running weeks between May and June 2017) that explored the prevalence, risk factors, and mental health consequences. I have received feedback and several comments, some of which I think are deserving of a response to clarify the situation. I provided this previously (15th June 2017), but I am sharing again to contribute to the ongoing discussions and to buttress a major barrier that is hindering progress: our mindset.
Comment from Mrs AG: “Thank you for your interesting article. However, you recommend that if the union is not working or one partner is not committed to change, then they should separate. This is erroneous and is not biblical. With faith in God and plenty of patience, things can turn around.
Even the worst husband or wife-beater can change and become a better man. So, I think you should also understand that faith and prayers can move mountains. Please look for a movie titled ‘War Room’ and watch it for better understanding. Thank you and keep up the good work.”
Other comments from readers had various slants on essentially the same theme: For example, a Muslim angle was that ‘males are placed a shade higher than women’ and so it is the position of a woman to be submissive so there is peace in the home. And that Islam permits ‘light beating’ of women. I will attempt to address these issues briefly.
Response: Dear Mrs AG, thank you very much for making out time to read the articles and for going a step further to share your thoughts and provide feedback. For the issue you raised, which is the role of prayer, faith and patience in the setting of IPV, I will reproduce my recommendation from last week’s article to religious leaders, before going ahead to address the point in greater detail.
“Religious leaders have a role to play, to identify when to counsel patience and when to draw the line. While not encouraging marriages to break down, if it is clear that one partner is not committed, and the life and safety of the other partner is at risk, then please do not hesitate to encourage separation. Otherwise, you may be called to officiate at the funeral.”
The ideal is for marriages to work and be successful, and I am a strong advocate for this. My advice was to encourage a separation where one partner is not committed to the union, and where the LIFE and SAFETY of the spouse are at risk.
Secondly, I have taken your recommendation and have now watched ‘War Room’. It is a movie about a young couple who were drifting apart, with a husband who was on the brink of having an affair. The wife was taught to convert a closet into a prayer room, to pray for her marriage and her family (the War Room). Miraculously afterwards, things changed for the better. A good story.
What if despite the wife’s strong faith and devout prayers, he had continued in his bad ways? However, the flip side of the coin, is that if the situation does not change miraculously as it did in the War Room movie, then the tendency will be to BLAME the victim: ‘Maybe you did not pray hard enough, ’or ‘Your faith was not strong enough to allow you to claim your miracle’. So, we may inadvertently end up making the victim feel guilty – for not being good enough. When in reality, no one should be parenting another adult, in a relationship. Everyone should take responsibility for their individual strengths as well as shortcomings.
Thirdly, to be very clear, the question to be considered is: In the context of an abusive relationship, when should enough be enough? And to address the Muslim comments too: If men are placed higher for example, does that equate to maltreating women? Did the Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him) ever raise his hand against any of his wives to ‘beat them lightly’? Why do we not seek to emulate the best of everything we do?
According to military tradition, the wife is assumed to be a rank higher than the husband. So, if you disagree with your superior officer in the military, will you slap the superior officer? Or beat the officer? If we would not dare to do so, then we must similarly learn to treat our women with respect and dignity.
For the records, deliberate emotional, verbal or economic abuse is not any better than physical abuse. It can also cause depression and lead to loss of lives (via suicide). Let’s not hide under the guise of flimsy religious excuses to justify this. I hope our religious leaders will help to preach against this menace.
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