Domestic violence and death of a spouse: The Osinachi matter

Last week, Gospel Music singer, Mrs. Osinachi Peter Nwachukwu died suddenly in circumstances that were at best controversial. Conflicting reports followed the announcement of her death.

The narrative emerging however is that Mrs Osinachi Peter Nwachukwu was a victim of long-running domestic violence. From the published accounts on social media, print and electronic media, Osinachi’s husband allegedly had a practice of battering and brutalising her, even going to the extent of ordering their children to beat her too.

In a report, one of the children was quoted as saying: “Our father seized mummy’s car. He said that beating a woman is good; on one occasion, he pushed her out of the car: “we do not know how mummy got back home. He would pin mummy down and encourage us to beat her.”

The evil of domestic violence ranges from battering, thrashings, torture, acid bath and rape which most times lead to death. It is estimated that one in every three women experiences domestic violence at the hands of the very persons, who claim to love them.

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Lagos State recorded 10,007 cases of domestic violence from May 2019 to August 26, 2021, according to Moyosore Onigbanjo, Lagos State Commissioner of Justice and Attorney – General. The case of late Osinachi has jolted us all out of our reverie to a shocking reality, that was either conspiratorially ignored either due to cultural, primordial sentiment or religious considerations or sheer ignorance.

Domestic Violence (DV) can be attributed to many factors, depending on the environment and the level of consciousness of the players involved. But primarily and universally, they range from substance abuse, economic pressure, sexual demands, poor parenting, and psychogenic factors.

The preponderance of DV in Lagos State, the economic nerve centre of the nation indicates economic pressure is certainly not the major driver of the phenomena. Studies by Psychologists conclude that, those abusive partners, particularly husbands, are products of faulty parenting that starts from childhood.

When a three-year-old son gets angry over food he does not like, throws it away and the mother shrugs it off, that is a bad precedent. When your toddler hits a person for whatever reason and he is not discipline, he will think it is acceptable behaviour. When he grows up this way, it is like a storm gradually gathering, to be unleashed in the future.

In recent times a new variable, with dire consequences to domestic harmony was introduced into the mix. This is the Covid-19 pandemic. A report titled ‘Measuring the shadow pandemic: Violence against women during COVID-19’ revealed that 45 per cent of women from the countries where the research was conducted have been exposed directly or indirectly to at least one form of violence.

The research was conducted in 13 countries namely Albania, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco, Nigeria, Paraguay, Thailand, Ukraine. Exposure to violence was highest among women in Kenya (80%), Morocco (69%), Jordan (49%), and Nigeria (48%).

According to the report, about one in four women is feeling less safe at home while existing conflict has increased within households since the pandemic started. When women were asked why they felt unsafe at home, they cited physical abuse as one of the reasons.

How do we detect victims of domestic violence early enough to avoid negative outcomes and the other psychological consequences? Early warning signs which friends, family members, and co-workers can look for if they suspect a person, they care about is the victim of domestic abuse include frequent absences from school or work, numerous unexplainable injuries, low self-esteem, a change in their personality, fear of conflicts, passive-aggressive behaviour, blaming him- or herself for the problems in their relationship, isolation from others.

Signs for victims to consider as red flags in a relationship include feeling demeaned, assaulted, or excessively controlled by their partner. If convinced a partner is a victim, the family and friends should show empathy and understanding. Counselling must be employed to deal with domestic abuse. If the abuse persists separation should be an option.

To minimise the risks of domestic violence, the society and government at large, should prioritise girl education, gender based economic empowerment programmes, as women are more often the victims of domestic violence, introduce toll free helpline for victims and their relations to report abuse, introduce community – based socialization programmes for youth and families as well as promote a schooling environment that promotes anger management and prevention of abusiveness in any relationship.

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