Life is short and for a growing number of Nigerian women, that saying has assumed a literal meaning. For some time, there have been an increasing number of stories about women who are being abused, have suffered abuse, or even murdered by their boyfriends or husbands. This makes one wonder if there has actually been an increase of abuse in our system or just an increased awareness due to instant and widespread communication courtesy of the digital age. Whatever the case, it is indeed extremely worrisome and calls for some level of retrospection.
A look at some of the statistics in the US reveals that:
• On average, more than three women a day are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends in the United States.
• Every nine seconds, a woman is beaten in the United States.
• Intimate partner violence is the leading cause of injury to women. It affects 1-3 million women a year in the U.S, making it more common
Going by this data, the very high number of abused women is quite alarming especially as the country in question (the US) is supposedly a civilised and liberal society with high regard for the rights of women. Unfortunately, there is no data to determine the situation in Nigeria but I have a feeling that if there was, it would show some scary numbers. Ours is a country still struggling to accept that women can exist as freely and rightfully as their male counterparts and this strong sexism is the reason why many women would almost rather die in silence than speak out when there has been abuse, in any form, against them. It is easy to see why tooin a society where an abused female is derided and practically always blamed for her misfortune, you would have to be an extra ordinary woman to stand up and be counted as an abused woman with its implications of possible social stigma.
But despite this, should the woman stay silent while she is being slowly killed? The case of Titi Arowolo is a very good example of what happens when you do…six feet beneath the ground will be your new home.On the positive side (if one can even apply the term to such a gruesome event), her untimely passing at the hands of her ‘alleged’ killer husband has opened many female eyes to the need to acquire some wisdom in their relationships with the physically stronger sex.
From heart wrenching wickedness, emotional abuse, unbelievable cruelty and constant threat to life, stories abound of many women’s struggle to hold on to unions that are killing them slowly. They endure physical abuse (torment of their bodies), emotional abuse (torment of their spirits) and will, most times, go back to their boyfriends or husbands once they call with apologies. Of course, there is never a lack of reasons for going back – he has apologised and loves me; he said he won’t do it again and doesn’t know what came over him (probably the devil); I have to go back for the sake of my children; husbands are scarce and I want to hold on to the one I have; I can’t survive without him because he is the bread winner; it was my fault, I provoked him. And to all these excuses, I say ……yea…right.
The truth of the matter is this: if we don’t define who we are, then the people in our lives will define us. Are you willing to label yourself a self aware woman – a survivor, or will you let your partner label you a victim?
The serenity prayer talks about having the courage to change the things we can, the serenity to accept the things we cannot change and the wisdom to know the difference. Reviewing this prayer, it’s all about being strong enough to do the right thing at the right time. Are you strong enough to stand up and point out your rapist, knowing people will point back at you and speculate about your innocence? Are you strong enough to stand up and proclaim your refusal to be someone else’s punching bag? Are you strong enough to rise up from the ashes of emotional abuse and fortify the walls around your heart with positivity so as to reduce the power of another’s negativity? Are you strong enough to refuse to be manipulated into throwing your values away just to satisfy someone else? Are you strong enough to walk away from a life threatening situation even when the odds seem to be against you? Are you strong enough to conquer your fears – of being alone, of raising your children alone, of being mocked, of being labelled a failure – so that you can save your life? Most importantly, are you strong enough to stand up for those who really love you and will be devastated if anything happens to you?
Everyone is born with power – the power to stand up and take action – for your good and the good of others. But that power is not handed to you anytime you need it… you have to dig within and bring it up for your use. So, what should be the goal of every woman? It probably should be to aspire to be strong enough to dig out the power we need when we need it. Every one of us should aspire to be the serenely extraordinary woman – a woman who has the wisdom to recognise the difference between a changeable situation and one that is not so that she can make the best possible decision; a woman who chooses life over untimely death at the hands of an abusive partner; a woman who knows when the end has come and its time to take a bow; a woman who can cry real hard, wipe her tears, freshen her make up and move forward; a woman who knows that the best form of revenge for any abusive situation is to live your best life.
Once, on TV, I heard the inspirational Maya Angelou say that when people tell you who they are, believe them. This simple sentence summarises it for every person, not just the woman. When that man shows you his intense hatred for you or his capacity to commit murder either intentionally or unintentionally, believe him…and protect yourself.