20 February 2012

Zambia: A Look Into the Psychological Effects of Domestic Violence

VIOLENCE perpetrated against women is one of the most pervasive and old fashioned ways in which gender inequalities are manifested in Zambia.

Gender violence or domestic violence is a serious problem in Zambia and battering of women by their spouses still remains widespread.

In the recent past, there have been numerous ordeals of tragic stories of domestic violence where women are either physically wounded or even murdered in cold blood by their spouses.

A woman of Lusaka's Kuku Township was found dead in her bedroom suspected to have been murdered by her husband, while another, from Kabwe was brutally battered, her nose sliced and the house set ablaze by the man she once shared a home with -her husband.

The statistics are there for all to see and read on how grave the problem has become in our society.

The scourge is complex because it encompasses people of all social status.

It has gained prominence as renowned individuals who are respected by society also get entangled in domestic violence cases.

It is a pity to note that society concentrates more on the physical damage than the psychological effects that domestic violence has on the victim, survivor, and children as well as dependants.

Psychologist, Wilson Zimba says there is need to broaden the scope of the concept of domestic violence as it has severe psychological effects which are passed on from one generation to another.

It should be accepted that domestic violence is a crime not just against the individual but society because it shatters the dreams of the victims, survivor, children and dependants who later vent their anger on society.

"A woman who is usually beaten by her husband suffers ruthless psychological effects which are more brutal than physical wounds," he says.

He says such women are depressed and live in social isolation or shame because their emotional strength is torn apart.

Those are the kind of women who lose a grip on life because they are belittled by their husbands.

They are disturbed in a way that they lose focus and direction.

They cannot run their homes accordingly and even their sexual drive drops. In some cases they even commit suicide, that is, if they are not murdered by their husbands.

It is touching to note that as the poor woman is passing through such an episode of abuse, her innocent children are not left out. They are equally affected as culture influences genes.

Mr Zimba explains that children from broken homes where parents usually fight are psychologically disturbed and are not usually attached to their mothers. He says attachment, which is the bond between the child and the principal care giver is proved to be effective only when the care giver is in the right state of mind and not otherwise.

The children and dependants feel neglected.

This social phobia prevents such children from exhibiting their potential in life because they fear authority figures.

Such children grow up to be pupils who cannot even raise their hands up in class to answer a simple question.

The children have no social bond even with other people in their adult lives.

That is why others grow up to be bullies and the hostility reflects in their adult lives because they have learnt that disputes are to be dealt with using fists and insults.

"A batterer will also produce a batterer. So these are the kind of individuals who later beat up their wives when they grow up because they think it's normal,"says Mr Zimba.

Mr Zimba's point justifies the fact that domestic violence needs serious attention because it hinges on culture. Hence, the need to bring on board psychologists who can offer professional counselling to the individuals involved.

It is a norm for parents to lecture kids about respect but if that is not matched with appropriate behaviour, the message is lost.

This is something parents should exemplify when children are growing up.

They need to set the example that disagreements in the home are settled maturely through discussion.

There is need to talk to children and explain the necessity for civil dialogue by not calling one another filthy names and throwing blows in a heated discussions.

Psychologist Jeffason Mubita, who is also a police officer, says the causes of domestic violence in most Zambian homes, are centered on power which takes us back to culture, where the husband is viewed as a sole parental authority and makes most of the important household decisions.

He also states that a woman will be abused by the husband if she is the sole provider because her husband will always feel inferior.

"In order to prove that he is really the man of the house, he will start beating up the wife, coming home late and subjecting her to different forms of torture," he says.

It is imperative to note that men always want to lift their egos and that is why cases of rape and polygamy, which are determinants of domestic violence, have become rampant.

He said some individuals abuse their partners because they are mentally ill even without knowing it themselves or the people around them.

It is therefore important to seek psychological help from qualified therapists.

In redressing the rampant domestic violence cases, Mr Mubita says there is need to bridge the gap between the Government and technocrats.

"The Government should recognise therapists in eradicating the scourge as the traumatised victims require intensive professional counseling," he says.

He observed the good work of the Victim Support Unit(VSU) in combating crime but strongly emphasised the need to incorporate psychologists who can offer professional assistance.

He says the Government should introduce domestic violence in the school curricula to enlighten pupils on the scourge.

The fusion of domestic violence lectures in schools would help break the circle as victims would be enlightened and realise that there was still hope and that they could lead normal lives.

The victims should also be empowered with skills in order to prevent the withdrawal of cases.

It is believed that women withdraw domestic violence cases because they have no financial grip and perpetrators take advantage of this economic factor.

A woman who is not in gainful employment chooses to suffer in secret as she has no means of sustaining her life once she leaves the husband.

Hence, the Government should come in handy and empower victims with skills such as tailoring, if the vice has to be wiped out.

There is also need to form a psychologist association where people could go for professional assistance.

The association would collaborate with the VSU in order to eliminate domestic violence.

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