28 November 2012

Zimbabwe: Why Given Reason for Domestic Violence Often Seems Less Than True


If it seems to you like there is something more than meets the eye, then you are probably right.

There usually is more than what is being said. More often than not.

Man kills woman over a missing button. Woman murdered for serving a cold meal. Female DJ beaten up for asking boyfriend to share chores. . . the contexts of cases is varied, endless and increasing in frequency and prevalence. Deputy Minister for Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development. Honourable Jessie Fungai Majome recently announced the country statistics: Three in four women have experienced domestic violence. This is no light matter. Not by a long shot.

Domestic violence!

At best it's an excuse or a cover-up and at worst it is a mask. Masking deeper, uglier or even grizzly issues!

Whenever a domestic violence incident occurs the reasons proffered for its occurrence often do not match the intensity of the pummelling, the maiming, the choking and anything else in between. There often is a deeper issue or issues simmering beneath the surface. And it does not necessarily mean that one is lying. The real issue is often masqueraded and peddled as something else. The real tragedy lies in that it is not only the third parties who are supposed to fall for presenting face value reason, but often the victim herself and the perpetrator too, may not have a full grasp of what their real issues are. Unless and until there is deep introspection on the part of the perpetrator on his own part and deep understanding and appreciation of the dynamics presenting between them on the part of both partners in the relationship. That is the nature of the beast - known as domestic violence, it comes with smokescreens and layers upon layers of what seems versus what is; and you best believe it.

The reason why the "story" given for why domestic violence occurred does not, at face value, seem credible is simple. Unless we see domestic violence against women for the symptom that it is and deal with it from the root up, there will always be a limit to how much impact our interventions can make. Unless we see domestic violence for the mask that it is, there will always be a crucial part of it that goes unaddressed. Domestic violence is a symptom of something deeper. It is an expression of raw and unbridled anger gone out of control, which is asymptomatic of deeper problems. More often than not domestic violence masks, on the part of the perpetrator, insecurity, sore ego/delicate ego frustration, unmet needs, unsolved issues, childhood abuse, lack of adequate communication skills, challenges in (verbally) articulating issues. And when the above issues are compounded by a lack of anger management skills, challenges in problem solving then what results is ruthless pounding of the "offending" individual.

There is real underlying issues and then there are trigger issues which are often used as smokescreens.

Take insecurity and or sore/delicate ego for example, trigger issues include actions that often leave the partner feeling disrespected, which may or not be the case, feeling less than as a man, as if a man has been challenged and shamed. Actions that are viewed as amounting to the above on the part of the "victim" (survivor) trigger the resident security and ego issues within the male partner. While serving cold food may be seen by the victim, and perhaps the public, as not that much of a big deal, to the man who then perpetrates the violence it is seen as a huge affront to his manhood, his ego, his status as father of the house as he perceives it. And if these perceptions are not congruous and the assigning of meaning to the actions is different for the two involved, then challenges will occur. The real root issues here are the trigger points and the real feelings at the bottom of it all, which are more often than not masked.

A self-proclaimed reformed abuser celebrity Sello Maake ka Ncube (Daniel in the South African soapie Scandal) publicly confessed he was violent with a former girlfriend. He admitted it was insecurity that made him beat her up. She was quick with her mouth he said. That was the presenting reason he gave. "When I said one, she would say five . . . and I could never keep up." It made him feel very insecure, he said, so he used to beat her up.

The underlying feelings need to be constructively addressed and in an ideal situation open communication can facilitate the coming together in agreement and compromise. But of course we don't often have ideal situations.

The trigger issues need to be addressed as much as the feelings triggered.

Stopping at the trigger issues alone does not fully address the problem of domestic violence.

After all is said and done: there really is no excuse for domestic violence. As civilised and mature people we should seek constructive, violence-free means of addressing our differences.

We are always going to be provoked back and forth, we are always going to have our sore points rubbed the wrong way, earnestly or mischievously others could blow our gaskets, but the take home point is: violence will not solve anything. Not in the long term and not ever.

Unless and until you get this, brother, you sure could end up in jail. You can't control what people are going to do to you, but the call on all of us is to control how we react. Self-control, restraint and self-management.

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