By Damilola Ojomu Ceaf staff
What You Need to Know Right Now About Domestic Violence
Domestic violence doesn’t only happen at home. It spills into the places we take for granted as safe—schools, stores, salons, or any workplace. Cosmopolitan investigates how relationship violence puts us all at risk…and how the protective orders intended to give us peace of mind sometimes aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.
BY RALPH BLUMENTHAL
June 13, 2012, Buffalo, New York—Receptionist Jacqueline Wisniewski, 33, shot and killed by ex-boyfriend at the hospital where she worked. July 13, 2012, Ellicott City, Maryland—Spa technician Lan Phan, 34, shot and injured on the job by ex-boyfriend. He was violating a protective order. September 11, 2012, Sioux Falls, South Dakota—Manager Amanda Collins, 24, shot and killed at the salon where she worked by her employee’s boyfriend. He was violating a protective order.
September 27, 2012, Orlando, Florida—Hotel workers Carlene Pierre, 28, and Vanessa Gonzalez-Orellanes, 28, shot and killed at the reception desk by Pierre’s ex-boyfriend. He was violating a protective order. October 18, 2012, Cassel Berry, Florida—Hairstylist Marcia Santiago is wounded and her coworkers Noelia Gonzalez-Brito and Eugenia Marte and customer Gladys Cabrera are killed by Santiago’s ex-boyfriend. He was violating a protective order. October 21, 2012, Brookfield, Wisconsin—Estranged husband of spa worker Zina Haughton fatally shoots her and coworkers Maelyn Lind and Cary Robuck. He was violating a protective order. November 1, 2012, Casper, Wyoming—Heidi Arnold, a math instructor, stabbed to death by her boyfriend’s son; he then executed her boyfriend in front of a class he was teaching at the local community college. December 4, 2012, Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina—convenience-store clerk Crystal Lockley, 24, and her coworker, Jennifer Ruffin, both stabbed, allegedly by Lockley’s boyfriend. December 14, 2012, Las Vegas, Nevada—Concierge vendor Jessica Kenny shot in a murder-suicide by an ex-boyfriend in the lobby of the Excalibur Hotel. January 28, 2013, Annapolis, Maryland—Washington Post newspaper carrier Tracy Lynn West shot by her estranged husband. A judge had reportedly denied her request for a protective order.
NO PRIVATE MATTER One in four large employers reports a threat due to domestic violence each year. Ashleigh Lindsey’s ex targeted this café where she worked.
It was Friday the 13th of last July when Tara Woodlee turned on her iPad at her home in Windom, Texas, a remote speck in the hills northeast of Dallas. She was frantic: Two men had been stalking her 20-year-old daughter, Ashleigh Marie Lindsey.
For months, Ashleigh—5 feet 3 and pregnant—had been on the run from her violent ex-boyfriend, Joshua Mahaffey, and his friend Joshua Scott. Now, they seemed to be closing in. Ashleigh was hiding out in Oklahoma at the home of her close friend, Heather Lara. But every hour, the two men bombarded her with phone calls, trying to lure her back.
Then, Woodlee pulled up Scott’s Face book page—and saw a photo of a .22 caliber revolver.
“I thought, Oh, god, no!” Woodlee says. “She was in the worst danger I could imagine.” Her husband dialed the county sheriff’s office, and not for the first time. Ashleigh had filed assault charges against her boyfriend, reached out to the county domestic-violence program, and obtained multiple orders of protection—all of which Mahaffey had blatantly violated. He had made so many threats against the strip-mall café where Ashleigh worked as a waitress that police had considered filing federal terrorism charges against him and bringing in the FBI. He had beaten and burned Ashleigh, kicked her pregnant belly, threatened her family. After all the attacks, the response to this latest call, Woodlee says, was dismaying: “We can’t do anything about a picture on Facebook.”
By that time, the gun had been used.
Hours after posting the photo, prosecu tors allege, Joshua Scott had shot dead his mother’s boyfriend. Then, in the blood-soaked car, he picked up Mahaffey to go looking for Ashleigh.
They all slept late that morning in Heather Lara’s house in Kingston, Okla homa. Ashleigh got up around 12:30 p.m. and headed out for her shift at the café. “I love you,” she called out to her friend.
Heather’s boyfriend, John Coleman, in the bedroom watching TV, heard doors slam and a gasp. “He’s here! Oh my gosh!”
Then, three gunshots.
Heather lunged for her phone and wrestled with Scott before she ran out the back door. Scott soon fled in the car.
Mahaffey lay dead on the bathroom floor, curled over the gun. And under him was Ashleigh, shot in the head and shoulder, blood pouring from her wounds.
Eerily, her cell phone began to ring. Coleman, in shock, automatically picked it up. It was Ashleigh’s mother, calling her daughter to warn her about the gun.
MOST OF US HAVE HEARD THE GRIM STATISTICS. Every day across America, four to five women are murdered by an inti mate partner or ex, most of them within three to six months of a breakup. What you may not realize is that so-called domestic violence is not limited to the home. Mahaffey’s threats on his girl friend’s workplace and his attack on her friend’s home turn out to be typical beha vior. Nearly one-third of domestic-violence deaths are family members, friends, and supporters of the primary victim, a Massa chusetts study found. And for every 10 targeted victims, more than 8 others, includ ing random bystanders, die in the bloods hed.
A Cosmopolitan survey of state data found at least 33 workplace domestic-violence killings in 2011. Last September, a 24-year-old salon manager in South Dakota was killed by a coworker’s violent boyfriend. The next month, men target ing partners killed four people in a Wis con sin spa and four in a Florida hair salon. In December, domestic violence sparked a stabbing at a North Carolina convenience store and a shooting in a Las Vegas hotel. In a Cleveland airport parking lot, a man shot his security-officer wife, fired at a colleague, and took his own life.
Michael P. Johnson, PhD, emeritus professor of sociology at Penn State University, has a chilling term for crimes like these: “intimate terrorism.”
Some gender-violence experts see an underexplored link to crimes like the December school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. Adam Lanza’s first victim was his own mother, shot four times as she lay sleeping. Before Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people at Virginia Tech in 2007, two women had reported him to campus police for stalking. John Allen Muhammad, the sniper executed for his role in the killing of 10 people in the Washington, D.C., area in 2002, had a history of abusing his wife. She later said she thought he staged the shootings to make her planned murder appear random. “Most domestic-violence homicides and the vast majority of mass shootings are committed by young men,” says Jackson Katz, PhD, a Los Angeles–based educator who runs corporate violence-prevention programs. “This is hardly coincidental.”
Here’s what else many of these crimes have in common: In case after case, the women had gone to the police and secured a protective order that was supposed to keep them—and everyone around them—safe. “What’s wrong with this picture?” asks Diane Rosenfeld, a lecturer on law and director of the Gender Violence Pro gram at Harvard Law School. “Domestic-violence homicide is so predictable as to be preventable,” she says, yet protective orders too often fail because police, prose cu tors, and courts lack the resources, or the will, to enforce them.
“If they look at it as just one more day-by-day incident, like a car wreck or a burglary, they will shrug it off,” says Mary Lauby, executive director of Jane Doe Inc., the Massachusetts Coalition Against Sex ual Assault and Domestic Violence. But a violence complaint is rarely an isolated episode—or a “lover’s quarrel,” as one deputy described Mahaffey’s rampage. It is usu ally part of a continuum of abuse that may easily escalate, Lauby says.
The public shootings we call “senseless” are often not random at all. And every time a man threatens a woman he’s in a rela tion ship with, he could be one step closer to a crime with a greater scope.
GROWING UP IN RURAL NORTH TEXAS, ABOUT 70 MILES NORTH OF DALLAS, ASHLEIGH LINDSEY HAD A DIFFICULT CHILDHOOD. Her father, Wood lee’s ex, couldn’t keep a job and lashed out at his two daughters. “She was dating a lot of different guys and getting used,” her mother says. And then just before Thanksgiving 2011, she met Joshua Mahaffey. She was working in a customer-service call center in Durant, Okla homa, when a coworker, Joshua Scott, introduced her to his friend. Mahaffey was a “cowboy Casanova,” Heather Lara says. “He was very charming—’Hey, give a hug!’—and he looked like James Dean.” Heather warned her friend that Mahaffey had a past—at least one ex-wife and a couple of kids. But Ashleigh was smitten. After only a month, she moved in with Mahaffey.
Woodlee had remarried in 2006, and she and Ashleigh’s stepfather were uneasy. It wasn’t so much anything Mahaffey did or said, Jim Woodlee says. He just left you with a strange feeling in your gut. “There’s something wrong with him,” he warned Ashleigh. “Run!”
UNTIL THE 1970S, MEN WHO BEAT THEIR WIVES OR GIRLFRIENDS WEREN’T ARRESTED. Instead, the courts forced couples into mediation, which rarely stopped the attacks, says Marjory D. Fields, a for mer New York State Supreme Court Justice. In 1976, spurred by the women’s movement, Pennsylvania became the first state to allow residents to obtain protective orders. And since then, women (and some men) have had to rely on this slip of paper to stay safe.
Today, about 1.2 million targets of rape, assault, and stalking receive such orders annually, and many will say the action saved their life. Every dollar spent on protective-order intervention saves society $30.75, a 2009 Justice Department–funded study concluded. But a growing demand for services and drastic cuts in state budgets have created “a dangerous gap,” according to a 2012 study by the Campaign for Fund ing to End Domestic and Sexual Violence. Last year, the National Domes tic Violence Hotline was unable to answer 53,000 calls and 65 percent of rape-crisis centers had waiting lists.
There are nearly 18,000 county, muni cipal, town, or township govern ments enforcing these orders, notes Christine Armstrong, founder of Domes tic Violence Crime Watch, an online resource center. Opportunities for a woman to fall through the safety net seem endless. A judge must give her a sympathetic hearing, then police must find and legally serve the abuser. The offender can respond to the charges in court. Police may or may not collect his guns. Orders expire—they can last years or days—so the woman has to go back to court to renew it. If her ex vio lates it, the police must arrest him and prosecutors must decide to charge him.
Some police forces are more diligent than others.
Abusers violate orders anywhere from 7 to 81 percent of the time, depending in part on where they live. Overall, an American Civil Liberties Union report found, orders were violated in two-thirds of rape cases, half of physical-assault cases, and 69 percent of stalking cases. And when police fall short, women have little legal recourse, as Jessica Gonzales of Castle Rock, Colorado, found out. After authorities failed to enforce a restrain ing order against her estranged hus band and he killed their three daugh ters, Gonzales sued the town. But in 2005, the Supreme Court threw out her action, ruling that she did not have a constitutional right to have the restraining order enforced.
ASHLEIGH’S STEPFATHER WAS RIGHT. There was something wrong with Mahaffey. He could explode over anything. Once, Heather says, “he put Ashleigh’s head through the wall, through the ply wood,” then he took out a penknife and stabbed himself in the stomach. “She told me he would burn her with cigarettes,” Heather adds, horrified at the memory. “He would rape her. He wouldn’t let her go on the Pill. I said, ‘Ashleigh, you need to leave him!’ I begged her to stay at my house.”
Ashleigh’s phone kept disappearing, destroyed by Mahaffey, and her parents kept buying her new ones. She called Oklahoma deputies, but Mahaffey eluded them, sometimes hiding under their house and other times posing as his brother, Neil. Somehow, the police didn’t notice the name Joshua tattooed on his neck and knuckles.
On May 14, three weeks after find ing out she was pregnant, Ashleigh fled home to Texas. That week, a scream ing Mahaffey besieged the family home in Windom, escaping before Texas depu ties could capture him. On June 4, Ashleigh disappeared to move in with friends in Texas, leaving her frantic parents to file a missing-person report.
Deputy Steve Beebe tracked her down on June 8, and she reported the abuse. When Beebe filed charges, he found that Mahaffey was also wanted for violating a protection order from one of his ex-wives.
Deputies never could lay hands on Mahaffey, although he found Ashleigh easily. When she moved in with Heather in Oklahoma, her parents begged her to come home. But she refused, explaining, “He said if I went home, he would kill you, and he would kill my sister.”
The police had advised Ashleigh to remain in Marshall County, Oklahoma, where they said they would have an easier time arresting Mahaffey (although thanks to the Violence Against Women Act, orders of protection are supposedly enforceable everywhere). Staying put was a terrible idea, Woodlee says. “It made it easier for him to find her.”
Continuing to elude arrest, Mahaffey and Scott harangued Ashleigh with relentless calls to drop the abuse charges. She called Anna Marcy, advocate at the Crisis Control Center in Durant, Okla homa, now serving four counties since cutbacks had closed the center in nearby Madill. If Ashleigh had been able to take shelter in Madill, she could have kept her job. But Durant was an hour’s drive away, and she couldn’t afford the gas.
On June 11, the family got an order of protection barring Mahaffey from “any contact whatsoever” with Ashleigh.
But still, he kept after her. He was once pulled over for speeding, but he showed his brother Neil’s ID and went free. On July 4, Deputy Doug Blevins was at Heather’s house when the phone rang with one of Mahaffey’s incessant calls. Blevins spoke to him for 20 minutes. “I advised Mr. Mahaffey to quit contacting Ms. Lindsey,” the deputy reported. “He refused to meet with me.”
The next day, a third deputy, Michael Henry, visited the Enos Mall where Ashleigh worked as a wait ress. Mahaffey had been calling, “making threats as to where he was going to show up and do bodily harm to the employees,” Henry reported. “Mr. Mahaffey is out of control.”
Ashleigh renewed the protective order on June 20 and, after a brief hospital stay for stress and dehydration, again on July 11. Her parents and Anna Marcy finally convinced her to give up her job and move to a women’s shelter in Texas. But she wanted one last paycheck for the baby. She had already picked out a name: Patience. She never did have much, she said. This way, at least, the Lord would give her a little Patience.
FATAL BREAKDOWNS LIKE THOSE THAT DOOMED ASHLEIGH HAPPEN TOO OFTEN. But they don’t have to, says Suzanne Dubus, chief execu tive director of the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center, in Newburyport, Massachusetts. In 2002, the center helped a woman secure a protective order against her hus band. But he came back with a gun to kill her and himself. Hor rified, Dubus and her assistant direc tor, Kelly Dunne, created a new way to thwart such attacks. Called the High Risk Team Model, it has been lauded by the Obama admin istration as the nation’s most effective approach to domestic violence.
The model identifies 20 situ ations that may demand an emer gency response, includ ing extreme jealousy, access to guns, forced sex, and other risk factors drawn from the research of Jacquelyn Camp bell, PhD, at Johns Hopkins Univer sity, in Baltimore. Police are trained to ask questions such as: “Has he threatened to kill you? With a weapon? Do you believe he’s capable of it?”
When women are at high risk, police notify the rest of the team—prosecutors, crisis counselors, hospitals, and proba tion departments—and they work together to isolate the offender while aim ing to keep the woman in the community. One of the best ways to do this is GPS; in Massachusetts, judges now have the option of making high-risk domestic-violence offenders wear an ankle bracelet that alerts the victim and authorities if he is entering an exclusion zone.
Prior to forming the high-risk teams, the Geiger center recorded eight domestic-violence-related deaths in 10 years. Since then, zero. And 93 percent of high-risk women have avoided fleeing to shelters. The model has now been adopted by at least 25 other communities in Massachu setts and others in five other states. With greater awareness and funding from state legis la tures, the center could do even more training, Dubus says.
At Harvard, Rosenfeld heads a team of law students who aid victims seeking protection orders in high-risk cases and work with states to promote GPS monitor ing. Why should a woman essentially be imprisoned, she reasons, while the person terrorizing her walks free? “Shelters were a step forward when they were built in the ’70s, but they weren’t intended to let the justice system off the hook,” she says. “We need to stop asking, ‘Why doesn’t she leave?’ and put the responsibility for vio lence against women on their tormenters. Why don’t we make him leave?”
MINUTES AFTER ASHLEIGH WAS SHOT LAST JULY 13, DOCTORS FLEW HER TO A HOSPITAL IN PLANO, TEXAS. She was brain-dead, but doctors said there was a slim chance of saving her 16-week-old fetus if they could keep her on life support long enough.
Woodlee stood by her daughter’s bed side, gripping her hand as the line on the fetal monitor went flat. She leaned close and whispered, “Ashleigh, honey, I know you were fighting for your baby. But your baby’s gone. It’s okay to go with your baby.” Ashleigh died within 15 seconds.
Police soon found and arrested Joshua Scott, who pled not guilty to first-degree murder and is being held without bail. “What happened to Ashleigh was hor rific,” says Craig Ladd, the Oklahoma dis trict attorney serving Marshall County. He said that police had searched “fairly aggressively,” but “it’s always easy to come back Monday morning” with criticism. Marcy, the crisis counselor, added that “people who were supposed to be working together were not. It takes a community to keep a victim safe. We all failed Ashleigh.”
Deputy Henry confirmed that after Mahaffey threatened Ashleigh’s work place, the plan was to charge him with terrorism—something that would have mobilized the FBI. “All the events hap pened too quickly,” he says. “There are just some things you can’t stop.”
Woodlee doesn’t see it that way. She’s begun speaking to domestic-violence groups and lawmakers, raising money for a documentary, and urging the use of GPS and high-risk teams that might have stopped Mahaffey. “That’s what makes me the angriest,” she says. “There were so many times when he could have been caught. He could have been caught before he even met my daughter.”
WHAT ASHLEIGH DIDN’T KNOW
When she met Mahaffey, he had been married three times—once for seven days, court papers show—and had a record of violating orders of protec tion, concealing stolen pro perty, and assault and bat tery. He’d shot himself in the stomach in 2008, not his first suicide attempt, leading his mother to tell police he had “mental problems.”
“IF IT HAPPENED TO HER, IT CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE.” Woodlee hasn’t changed Ashleigh’s bedroom. After the funeral, her daughter’s friends and even strangers deluged her with confessions that they too were in abusive relationships. “They didn’t want to be like her and wait too long,” she says.
It Happened Here…
Excalibur Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada
“A SICKNESS KILLED JESS”
Last December 14, the 4,000-room hotel on the Las Vegas Strip was bustling with guests, including dozens of cheerleaders in town for a competition. Around 8:30 p.m., Edward Brandt, 31, approached the concierge desk where his ex-girlfriend, Jessica Kenny, worked and fired multiple times with a handgun, killing Kenny and then himself. Debbie Kenny, Jessica’s mother, had talked to her only minutes earlier.
“JESSICA CALLED ME THE AFTERNOON OF DECEMBER 14 UPSET. She said, ‘Did you hear about those 20 kids?’ Newtown had happened that morning, and all I could think about were those poor par ents. Christmas will never be the same.
“Jessica and I were living together in Las Vegas. She was my daughter and my best friend. Jess worked evenings as a con cierge, and at the time, I worked as a life-safety operator at the Paris Hotel. My job was to field calls from guests and send security officers to dangerous inci dents. I dealt with domestic disputes all the time—calls from women screaming, ‘I’m being beaten.’ And 9 times out of 10, when I sent the police up, the women would not even open the door. They felt trapped in these unsafe relationships. And I was so glad Jess was no longer in one.
“Jessica met Eddie when she was 22 and living in Lakeville, Illinois, where she grew up. He was a rich kid—he spent all day at the gym. He didn’t like that Jess worked, so when they moved to Las Vegas, in 2007, to be closer to me, she didn’t get a job—but then he never gave her money. So Jess asked to borrow money from me. I said, ‘Jess, this is nuts! You have to get a job!’ She did, and when she came home from her first day at work, Eddie had left.
“I was relieved. Eddie scared me. Jess swore to me that he never hurt her, but when she was living in Illinois, she’d call me at 3 a.m., crying after bad fights. She realized Eddie had serious problems. He called her a few years after he left to say he was in treatment for mental issues. So she was surprised when he called her to say he was staying at the Excalibur.
“That was December 6. He texted her twice over the next few days to ask her to dinner, but she texted back ‘no.’
“A week later, it was a Sunday night, and we had just ordered Chinese food and opened a bottle of wine. She got a text from Eddie that read, ‘I will pay you $20 to go have a drink with me.’ This time, she didn’t respond at all.
“That Thursday, I asked, ‘Have you heard anything from Eddie?’ She said no, and we joked that he’d found someone else.
“And then the next day was December 14. Jess called at 8:30 p.m. to say she was going out with her former coworker Tahnee after work. I told her to have fun and then took her dog out for a walk. When I went out into our courtyard, my friend David showed up and he looked upset.
“He said, ‘Where is Jessica? A guy shot a woman at the Excalibur.’
“I called Jess. No answer. I tried Tahnee, and it went to voice mail. David and I had already jumped in the car when Tahnee called back. She was crying so hard, she could barely speak. I knew then that Jess had been shot. I asked, ‘Was it Eddie?’ She said, ‘Yes.’ My heart burst. I just lost it. The detectives had ques tions for me, but I was too devastated.
“My two sons, Josh and Justin, flew in the next day. Josh said that Jess had told him she was scared of what Eddie might do. Justin said this was his biggest worry too. We all have to live with won der ing what we could have done differently.
“I know Eddie’s mother wants to talk with me. I have no hate in my heart for her—she is in worse shape than I am. One day, when I’m able, I will sit down with her. And maybe together we can figure out what went wrong. If we can do that, then maybe we can protect some one else. This had nothing to do with love—a sickness killed both Eddie and Jessica. The cruelty is that Jessica wanted no part of it. And she died anyway.”
It Happened Here…
Las Dominicanas M&M Hair Salon, Casselberry, Florida
“FOR SOME REASON, I WAS SPARED”
Last October 18, 36-year-old Bradford Baumet was due in court, where his ex-girlfriend, Marcia Santiago, had filed a restraining order against him. Instead, he headed for the hair salon where Santiago worked, wounding her and shooting to death the owner, a customer, and a worker who was five-months pregnant before turning the gun on himself. Kathy Batista, 29, was there with her mother, Gladys Cabrera.
“THAT DAY, I DROPPED MY SON AT KINDERGARTEN AND WENT TO MY PARENTS’ HOUSE FOR COFFEE. I work as an ER secretary at Orlando Hospital but didn’t have to be at work until late, so I asked my mom if she wanted to go to a salon that had just opened about 20 minutes away. Mari was the co-owner and one of my favorite stylists. My mom agreed but wanted to get her eyebrows done at another salon too. I said, ‘Fine, but let’s get our hair done first.’
“When we arrived, Mari intro duced me to her partner, Marcia. Mari was putting dye in my hair when the phone rang. An employee picked it up and said, ‘She’s here, but we don’t want any problems.’
“I saw Marcia stiffen. Mari said, ‘Just hang up,’ and then explained that Marcia was on her way to court to finalize a restraining order. That was her ex on the phone.
“The phone rang again. Mari said, ‘Kat, can you tell this man that you’re a police officer and that you’re going to arrest him for harassment?’ This sounded serious, so I said, ‘I don’t want to get involved.’
“Mari finished with the dye, and I moved to another chair. Then my mom sat in mine, her hair wet and ready to be cut. A minute later, a man entered the salon.
“I don’t scare easily, but this guy put fear in my heart. His eyes were full of rage. Mari walked toward her phone, near me, when he took his gun out and said, ‘Don’t even think about it.’ And then he shot her.
“Mari was like me, tough. I could feel the anger he had toward her.
“I started trembling and saying, ‘Oh my god, please don’t kill me or my mother.’ He screamed, ‘Shut up,’ and then ordered me to kneel on the floor with my head down. I heard him move toward me. My mother said, ‘Lord, no, not my daughter.’
“There was no screaming, just the gun being fired—bang, bang, bang—followed by the tinny sound of the shells dropping on the tile floor. I heard his boots as he was walking through the salon, shooting.
“I thought about running, but I weigh 130 pounds and he was big. Instead, I lay still. Sweat was literally dripping off my face. I thought, This is just a bad dream.
“Then I heard him leave. I looked up and saw Mari next to me, her hand limp on my foot. I locked the door and then ran to my mother, only three feet away, lying very still.
“I know CPR, so I started pump ing her chest, saying, ‘Wake up, Mom! You’re going to be okay. Please, Mommy! You have to be okay.’
“But then I saw the bullet hole in her neck. I closed her eyes and then held her waiting for the police to arrive. I was the only one left in the salon other than the four women he shot: Mari, my mother, and Noelia, another stylist, were dead. Marcia was unconscious. This monster had shot her five times in the face.
“I learned later that day that she’d survived, and he was still at large. Then, I heard he’d killed himself. That made me so angry! What a coward. Why not do that first? Why kill three people? Why my mother? She had nothing to do with him.
“I went home to shower—the whole time I had dye in my hair. All my friends came over to support me. And I kept reliving the scene. Why did I not go to the eyebrow salon first? But my older brother kept saying, ‘You cannot blame yourself.’
“So I started doing research. I learned that Bradford Baumet had arrests for domestic vio lence, assault, and burglary. I learned restraining orders often set people on killing sprees. I know it’s complicated, but I wish there were some way a GPS tracking device could’ve been installed when Marcia first filed that restraining order.
“For some reason, I was spared that day. The only way I can deal with this loss is to make sure it doesn’t happen again. My brothers and I have started an anti violence organi zation called I Am Gladys Cab rera. She is proof that we need laws to pro tect not only victims of domes tic violence but totally innocent bystanders too.”
THIS THREAT IS REAL”
Last October, Zina Haughton filed for protection from her estranged husband, Radcliffe. Despite the order, he took a semiautomatic handgun to the spa where Zina worked, killing her and two cowork ers and injuring four people before killing himself. Tami Gem mell, 34, owns the spa.
“AT 12:30 P.M., I HAD JUST LANDED IN CHICAGO FROM A TWO-WEEK TRIP. We were taxiing to the gate and I turned on my phone. It started blowing up with texts—just ding, ding, ding, ding. ‘Where are you?’ ‘Our prayers are with you.’ ‘Your sister was there. She got out.’
“I got on the phone with a friend, and she told me there had been a shooting. I started to hyperventilate, to dry-heave. I have 65 employees, 64 of whom are women. I feel respon sible for all of them. I just had to get out of that plane.
“When I finally got there from the airport, police had surrounded the building, and the witnesses were at a bank two doors down. There were public buses to provide shelter for my employees, and they were reuniting with their families. The Salvation Army was there and people from the Sikh temple. They brought water, food, tissues.
“I found my sister. She still had a towel around her head. And she was barefoot because she had basically run out of her shoes. She cried, ‘Maelyn was doing my hair when he killed her!’ He had run after my sister but had to reload. That gave her time to hide in a supply closet.
“When we learned that Rad had killed himself, there was a little bit of relief, but then you think, it’s just so pointless. He left behind a 13-year-old daughter and a 20-year-old stepdaughter who worked at the spa and witnessed the entire thing. I mean, to take their mother from them.…I don’t understand that.
“Police told me later that Zina had taken out a restraining order. She had called 911 20 times over two weeks. Officers came to her home and saw Rad had a gun, but Zina refused to press charges. Police say, well, she wasn’t cooper a tive. But that’s why we have laws to protect people who are terrorized by somebody who claims to love them. They’re not going to cooper ate. They’re scared to death.
“I guess we all knew about domestic violence, but it’s never in the forefront of your mind. You hear about these things, but it’s on TV. It doesn’t happen to you…until it happens to you. And then you’re very much thrust into the facts. And the facts are, this is a very real threat, and it’s going unchecked.”
—AS TOLD TO LIZ WELCH
When Violence Happens
Whether you know it or not, one of your coworkers is probably threatened by relationship violence. Homicide is the second leading cause of death for women at work—and the vast majority of those murders are at the hands of an ex. “Even if the abuser doesn’t know where his ex lives, he knows where she works,” notes Pam Paziotopoulos, a corporate consultant on workplace violence. The good news is, companies are realizing that “private” violence is a public-health crisis. “The most dangerous situation is thinking, It can’t happen here,” says Kim Wells, executive director of the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence, which helps companies tackle the issue. “People in any workplace, big or small, can help prevent it.”
Join the No More to violence campaign at NoMore.org.
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IF YOU’RE THE TARGET
“In a perfect world, a victim can tell her employer she needs help,” Wells says. In the real world, this takes tremendous courage. If you can take the first, difficult step of admitting the problem, these steps come next.
1. Ask yourself, can I approach my boss and not lose my job? See if your company has a workplace policy online or in its handbook. If there’s no policy and you’re worried you won’t be supported, call the national hotline at 800-799-SAFE.
2. If you do speak with a manager, human resources, or security, start by saying: “I’m coming to you with something very private. I trust that you will keep this confidential.”
3. If you feel comfortable, let your employer know if you have a protective order, and include your work address on the order, suggests Maya Raghu, an attorney for Workplaces Respond to Domestic and Sexual Violence. Give your employer a photo of your ex to show security, reception, and coworkers.
4. Ask for a new phone extension. “You can also ask that your old one remain, so the perpetrator doesn’t know,” Raghu says.
5. Change your routine: Drive different routes to work; ask for a parking spot close to the entrance (or a security escort from mass transit). You might try to come in earlier or leave later, work different shifts, or even transfer to another site.
IF YOU’RE THE BOSS
The most important thing is to create an environment where victims know they won’t be ostracized or fired if they come forward. Having a domestic-violence policy helps do that, and in some states, it’s the law. Start here.
1. If you are a small business, invite a local domestic-violence service provider to come talk to your employees. “This sends a message that domestic violence is an issue you’re committed to address ing,” Raghu says.
2. Hang posters in the bathroom or on the bulletin board that say domestic violence will not be tolerated. As Wells notes, “If victims are working for you, that means batterers are too.”
3. Do a workplace-safety assessment: How easy is it for members of the public to enter and exit the building? Is the parking lot well lit? Are there hedges near the entrance where someone can hide?
4. For larger employers with human-resources departments, set up awareness trainings with your local domestic-violence organization or your employee-assistance program.
5. Finally, create a domestic-violence policy that addresses various scenarios, including what to do when an employee tells you they’ve sought a restraining order. Visit CAEPV.org or WWorkplacesRespond.orgfor ideas and sample policies.
IF YOU’RE A COWORKER
Cubemates are often the first ones to notice the abuse, but that does not mean you need to get deeply involved. In fact, Paziotopoulos says, you shouldn’t—it’s straight-up dangerous. Follow this advice instead.
1. Recognize abuse. “Changes in mood or behavior are signs a colleague is in trouble,” Wells says. “Maybe she no longer joins you after work for drinks or she seems withdrawn.”
2. You may see physical signs—long sleeves in summer, injuries she explains away. And her work may suffer, as she’s likely getting distressing calls or texts and taking sick days.
3. Approach the topic generally without making assumptions (not “Did your idiot ex just call again?”). Raghu suggests you say, “I’ve noticed you’re not yourself, and I’m here if you need anything.” It’s an invitation for her to confide in you.
4. Don’t be a hero. “No one is looking for you to be a social worker, therapist, or bodyguard,” Raghu says. Consult your job’s policy; if there isn’t one, give her the hotline number.
5. What you can be is an advocate: If your company doesn’t have a policy, ask for one. “Don’t wait for something bad to happen in order to get a work-safety policy in place,” Wells says. Walk in to your manager armed with this article.
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The beginning of the end started with a pointed finger jabbed into Rita’s shoulder. It was just forceful enough to knock her off balance and leave a slight bruise … but not a huge deal, right? Wrong!
Rita had been dating Mitch for a year and a half. The Dallas couple had begun their relationship with strong attraction, intense feelings, and high expectations. Mitch was a guy his friends would describe as “high strung.” He was known to get into shouting matches when discussing the latest Cowboys’ loss, and he sometimes blew his cool during fiercely contested racquetball matches. No doubt, he was hot-blooded, passionate, and emotive. Which was one thing Rita liked about him initially — he wasn’t afraid to express his feelings toward her and make a big show of how much he loved her. But as the months went by, it became more and more evident that Mitch had a hard time controlling the emotions he felt so strongly.
As their relationship settled into a predictable routine — and the ecstatic feelings of new love wore off — Mitch had begun to yell at Rita over minor mistakes. Discussions became heated debates. Soon he started regularly lobbing verbal hand grenades — putdowns, sarcastic remarks, belittling names. And then came that finger jab into Rita’s shoulder, and she knew their relationship had crossed an unfortunate threshold. It wasn’t much longer before she gently broke the news to Mitch — their relationship was over. A nasty break-up, to be sure, with accusations and threats by Mitch, but Rita stuck to her decision while being cautious to protect herself in the process.
How did Rita find the courage to end the relationship when it started to go sour — and abusive? She explains: “I’d had friends who got entangled in toxic dating relationships where they ended up being physically abused — slapped and punched by their boyfriends,” she said. “I knew that once a relationship started heading in that destructive direction, there’s little chance it will turn around. Once the red flags begin showing up, it’s best to get out and move on as quickly as possible.”
This problem is more widespread than we’d all like to admit. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, from 25 to 50 percent of all women in heterosexual relationships are abused in some way. When we hear the words “abusive relationships,” our minds immediately go to the most obvious and apparent forms — physical or sexual assault. But there is a continuum of abusive behavior that ranges from subtle to obvious. Emotional abuse can be as damaging as physical abuse, though it is often harder to recognize. This kind of “covert warfare” causes self-esteem problems and psychological damage. And this situation certainly is not unique to women — men are also the victims of abusive relationships as well.
Further, what Rita said was correct: Abusive relationships are almost always progressive — they only get worse over time. Emotional and verbal abuse frequently changes to more overt threats or physical abuse, particularly in times of stress.
Although it’s impossible to go into detail in this short space, let’s look at several behaviors that qualify as an abusive relationship:
Intimidation. Does your partner make you afraid by using menacing expressions, posture, gestures, and tone of voice? Does he make threats—or even carry them out—to harm you? Does he bully you to get his way?
Belittling. Does your partner put you down or try to make you feel inferior? Does he embarrass you or make fun of you in front of others?
Harassment. Does your partner call or text you excessively? Does he follow you or show up to make sure you are where you said you’d be?
Isolation. Does your partner try to control what you do, where you go, and who you talk to? Does he try to keep you away from certain friends or family members?
Emotional abuse. Does your partner manipulate you or play “mind games”? Does he minimize your feelings, dismiss your complaints, or blame you for all the problems? Does he exhibit “Jekyll-and-Hyde” behavior: nice one moment, nasty the next?
Unwanted sexual advances. Does your partner ever touch you inappropriately? Does he pressure you sexually for things you aren’t ready for?
Physical boundary violations of any kind. Does your partner treat you roughly—grab, shake, push, shove, or hit? Does he restrain you from leaving?
The bottom line is this: You deserve a healthy, respectful, loving relationship. Refuse to settle for anything less! If you see warning signs that your relationship is turning abusive, then do yourself a huge favor — move on to someone who will treat you with utmost care and kindness.
For more detailed information about abusive relationships, please see: The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Also see: Women’s Center at University of Virginia, Sexual and Domestic Violence Services.
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BY EBUN SESSOU
Two out of three women in Nigeria are subject to domestic violence in their homes. Domestic violence affects all social groups and can consist of physical, sexual and psychological abuse. In this interview, human right activist, Dr. Joe Odumakin explains that although men can also be affected by domestic violence, but in most cases women are always at the receiving end of domestic violence.
According to her, the trend of domestic violence in Nigeria is increasing on a daily basis because the religious and cultural beliefs make the woman to always submit herself to whatever prejudice she suffers in the hands of any man.
What is the rate of domestic violence in the country now?
Domestic Violence is “pervasive” in Nigeria. About 20 percent of Nigeria women experience physical, sexual and psychological violence from spouse or male relative.
The level of violence against women in Nigeria are increasing by the day with two out of every three women in certain communities experiencing violence in the family.
It is difficult to determine the extent of domestic violence in Nigeria because official statistics on violence in the home are not collected. Incident of domestic violence tend to go unreported.
How is the trend related to poverty and socio-economic challenges of the country?
There is no doubt that the high level of poverty and socio-economic challenges in the country have contributed in no small measure to the prevalence of domestic violence in Nigeria.
Economic and financial hardship, unemployment and the attendant challenges lead to frustration and emotional stress for many men and young people who after-all visit the anger on their counterparts through battering, sexual assault among others.
Also, the fear of financial insecurity has made most women embrace the culture of silence even at the face of great danger and death threats in situation of domestic violence.
To what extent have religious and cultural beliefs affected the cases of domestic violence.?
Religion and cultural beliefs continued to encourage domestic violence in Nigeria. Domestic violence in Nigeria affects women of all communities. It involves women of all ethnic and religious groups and all socio-economic groups both in the rural and urban areas. Nigeria for instance has experienced virtually one or more types of domestic violence and culture of polygamy involving spousal abuse is particularly common in Nigeria.
All the religions practiced in Nigeria encourage women to endure the atrocities of men and keep their homes. Most of the religions profess that women are “home makers” at all cost even in the wake of violence against them.
Cases of domestic violence are rampant because most of the people are encouraged to respect tradition even when it is harmful or barbaric.
How many cases of domestic violence do you receive in a week, and how many have you been able to conclude or settled?
At the Women’s Human Rights Clinic which provides support, an average of 3 cases are received in a week.
Most of the time we adopt Alternative Dispute Resolution, ADR mechanism to resolve the cases if the level of injury is not severe or if the abuser is a first offender, the abuser is taking through two weeks counseling session, and is thereafter issued a “yellow card” a kind of warning and an undertaking to stop the abuse. This is adopted in cases of spousal abuse, such as battering among others. In this instance not less than 300 cases were settled amicably between January 2011 and May, 2013.
But, about 20 cases are pending in the cases of rape and grievous injury we have three cases on-going in court.
Which of the cases is more prevalent these days between battering and rape?
The case of battering is more prevalent while rape is also on the increase. However, we receive more of battering cases (spousal abuse) than rape.
How has the issue of stigmatization been affecting your intervention and prosecution?
The issue of stigmatization is more pronounced at the intervention level and it has been a serious impediment to achieving success or plugging the gap of domestic violence in Nigeria. For instance the Nigerian Police do not respond adequately to complaint from women on domestic violence. Domestic violence is generally regarded as an issue to be settled within the family.
At the religious level, most pastors believe that women should be submissive to their husbands and therefore should endure whatever treatment they get from their husbands. Some will say, “what God has joined together no man should put asunder.” So most times it is the women that will be at the receiving end.
Most people and institutions often dismiss issue of domestic violence, most especially when it involve women as a non-issue, so, most of the time they try to frustrate one’s effort at getting justice.
How functional is the prohibitive law in deterring or curbing domestic violence?
Well, the law of prohibition of violence against human persons or domestic violence law exist in Lagos State and its provisions if well implemented will surely deter or reduce domestic violence.
As I speak, there is a low awareness of the law among stakeholders in Lagos State. A lot of people are not familiar with the law and its provisions, even some lawyers.
Also the Chief Justice CJ’s office which is bequeathed with the responsibility to implement the law will need to be alive to its role of ensuring that the law is fully implemented for example, the CJ’s office is mandated by the law to establish counseling centres in all the LGAs of Lagos State where victims can report and get support services, this is yet to be done.
But I am sure that with adequate awareness and full implementation of the prohibitive law will no doubt help in curbing incidence of domestic violence in Lagos. The Domestic Violence and Related Matters Bill is yet to be passed into law at the National level. There is need to intensify efforts at ensuring the passage of the bill at the Federal level.
Would you blame the institution or individual or emotional and physiological collapse which are mostly responsible for violence at home?
There is no need to emphasize the fact that the collapse of institutions, bad governance and high level of corruption are responsible for the prevalence of domestic violence in Nigeria. Government institutions have failed to respond to the immediate needs of the people. Government at all levels have also failed in their responsibility to the people as well as ensuring the welfare of the people so we continued to experience high level of domestic violence as the people visit their frustrations on one another.
As an expert in this area, what is your advice in stopping the trend in Nigeria?
Implementation of pro-people policies and programmes that will put roof on the people’s head, food on their tables and safe movement from place to place will surely stop the trend of domestic violence in Nigeria.
Also, the enactment of the Domestic Violence and Related Matters Law at the National and State levels will also help in curbing the situation of domestic violence in the country. The Passage of the Equal Opportunities Bill at all levels will also provide equal opportunities for men and women thereby enhancing equal participation and reducing the existing gaps.
Civic education, training and re-training of the Police on issue of domestic violence and its implication on human persons is also a sure way of ending domestic violence in Nigeria.
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By Elizabeth Arthur
Are you being abused without even realizing it? Use these self reflecting signs to find the answer to your question, ‘Am I in an abusive relationship?’
You love your partner.
And your partner loves you.
And the world’s a beautiful place.
But what do you do when abuse finds a way to seep into your romance?
Of course, as humans, we won’t be sitting ducks just waiting to be abused by someone else.
But what do you do if you don’t see the signs?
What if you just don’t realize you’re being abused by your partner or someone in the family?
After all, many lovers are abused in relationships in one way or another. But how many abused lovers even realize they’re being abused?
What is an abusive relationship?
An abuse relationship is a relationship between two people, where one person controls and dominates the other person in different ways, be it sexually, emotionally, physically, or economically.
The abusive person could dominate the other person in one of these ways or in all of these ways.
And because it starts so slowly and works itself into the relationship, it may be very hard to see the signs of an abusive partner even if you’re neck deep in abuse already.
A bruised arm or a busted lip is easy to see, but when abuse comes in other forms, you won’t realize what’s happening. You’d only feel weak and helpless. [Read: 15 ways to stop selfish people from hurting you all the time]
How abuse enters the relationship
Your love for someone can blind you from all the abuse they’re hurling at you. You love them so much that you may choose not to see the glaring signs of abuse.
You can feel it, like there’s something wrong in the relationship, but you just don’t know for sure. [Read: The ugly consequences of making someone a priority when you’re only an option to them]
And each time you wonder if something’s wrong, your partner does something romantic or nice to suppress those fears down.
Why we fall prey to abuse in a relationship
Not all lovers are abusive. But any of us can fall prey to abuse in a relationship. When you truly love someone, you’d be willing to let them into your heart and life. But instead of doing the same in return, an abusive partner takes advantage of the access you’ve given them.
You’re willing to give your power to them. You’re willing to bend over backwards for them. You sacrifice your time and your dreams in the hope that your partner would respect you, love you and learn from you. You see the selfish side of your partner, and wait for them to change. You believe that love can change everything with time and patience.
And one day, you’d realize that love does change everything. But your abusive partner has chosen to love power and control in the relationship, over the love they have for you. [Read: 20 glaring signs of a control freak who wants to control everything]
You can’t change an abusive partner
An abusive partner can change only if they truly believe they need to change. If an abused partner tries to change an abusive partner by confronting them, the abusive partner would only get more abusive or aggressive.
After hurling abuses at you for several months or years, their abusive nature merges with their ego, and makes them truly believe they’re completely in control of the relationship. And when their ego senses you trying to regain control back again in the relationship, your partner would do everything they can to withhold that power from you. [Read: 15 subtle signs of a controlling boyfriend]
The only way to change an abusive partner is by walking away. When they truly realize what they’ve lost, their pride and ego may break down and they may realize your worth.
But then again, the abusive traits of an abusive partner are ingrained in them. They can’t change, and very few abusive lovers ever do.
Even if you do get back with this person after taking a break in the relationship for a few months, the relationship may seem perfect initially. But once they get a taste of your forgiving and self sacrificing nature again, the abusive monster in them would reawaken all over again. [Read: How taking a break in the relationship really works]
Am I in an abusive relationship? – The 17 sure signs to find out
If you feel like you’re being abused in the relationship, whether in a small or a big way, just read these 17 signs and ask yourself if you can relate to these signs. If you can relate to these signs, but still don’t believe your partner is controlling or abusive, talk to them about it.
By helping your partner see these signs sprouting in them, both of you can work together to overcome these issues, and better the relationship with time. [Read: 25 topics all happy couples talk about in a relationship]
So are you in an abusive relationship? Read these 17 signs, and you’ll have your answer!
#1 You feel alone. You feel lonely and helpless all the time. You may be in a happy relationship, but somehow you feel powerless and weak in it.
#2 You don’t ask for help. You don’t always realize it, but you’re scared to ask your partner for help. You believe you’re not asking for help because you don’t want to bother your partner or trouble them with your worries. But could it be because your partner makes you feel small and dumb each time you ask for help?
#3 Anger. You’re scared of your partner’s anger. You don’t like confrontations with your partner. You never argue with them about anything, and just choose to accept what they say. You convince yourself that it’s better to do something behind their back instead of confronting them. [Read: 18 critical signs of an unhealthy relationship]
#4 You bend over backwards for your partner. But at the same time, you’re completely aware that your partner would never do the same for you.
#5 You can’t get anyone else. You don’t want to leave your partner because you think you can’t get anyone better than your partner. You believe all people are bad within closed doors and your partner is one of the better people in the world.
#6 Unpredictability. You feel like your partner is unpredictable. You just don’t know how they’ll react to what you have to say. Every time you have to talk to them about something, you feel nervous or awkward. [Read: 22 early warning signs of a bad boyfriend]
#7 You convince yourself. You know your lover isn’t good enough or is full of bad qualities, but yet, you convince yourself that they have other traits that make up for it.
#8 You don’t go out. You fear going out with your lover because you’re afraid of being humiliated in public by them. You realize your partner loves putting you down and humiliating you in front of others, and instead of confronting it, you choose to avoid such situations completely. [Read: How self respect affects you and your relationship]
#9 Your partner is manipulative. Your partner abuses you physically, yells at you and treats you badly. And every time you’ve collected the strength to face your partner, they give you the silent treatment or bring up old issues that make you feel stupid or helpless.
#10 Everyone thinks you’re wrong. An abusive lover isn’t just abusive. They’re very good actors too. They pretend to be the victim in front of everyone else. Your partner would tell everyone with ears that you’re the bad one and they’re having such a hard life only because of you, your stupidity, your dumb nature or your attitude.
And before you realize it, your partner would convince everyone that you’re the one who’s bad. And many people may even start to believe your partner over you.
#11 You doubt yourself. Sometimes, you wonder if there is something wrong with you. Your partner constantly puts you down or makes a big deal of a small issue each time you make a mistake. You start to doubt yourself and wonder if you’re the one who’s not good enough for your partner. [Read: 10 signs your negative thinking is ruining your life]
#12 You try hard to please. No matter how hard you try to please them, your partner always finds a flaw with what you do. And each time a flaw is pointed out, you just feel more like an idiot.
#13 Your big excuses. Every time your partner treats you badly or behaves arrogantly, and someone tries to sympathize with you, you make excuses for your partner’s behavior and tell everyone that you deserved it just to make your partner look good in their eyes.
#14 You’re scared. You’re constantly scared your partner will leave you or find someone better. You start to believe that you’re not good enough, and you feel grateful to even have a partner who can put up with you. [Read: 12 signs you’re walking on eggshells in your relationship]
#15 You believe you’re being abused. You may try to paint a rosy picture to the world, but somewhere deep inside, you feel like you’re being abused in some way. You just can’t pinpoint the actual ways, but you can feel it.
#16 You feel guilty. You feel guilty about everything, for taking a stand, for arguing back, for deciding something on your own or buying something without asking for permission from your partner first. All of a sudden, you feel helpless and need your partner’s approval to do anything at all. You constantly ask yourself “would my partner be alright if I did this?” for the silliest of things. [Read: 20 signs you’re a people pleaser and don’t even know it!]
#17 You think this is your destiny. You realize that you’re being abused. You know you’re in an abusive relationship. But you also genuinely believe there’s nothing you can ever do about it. You think you’re cursed to live through this with no hope, and you don’t fight the abuse. Instead, you just put up with all the abuse quietly.
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Between half and two thirds of Nigerian women are subject to domestic violence in their homes. Domestic violence affects all social groups and can consist of physical, sexual and psychological abuse. Although men can also be affected by domestic violence, women suffer disproportionately.
This trend occurs across much of the world, but Nigeria’s discriminatory laws and dismissive police compound its particularly high rates of domestic violence. Most potently, its prevalent culture of silence and stigma for the victims of domestic violence hinders public acknowledgement of the problem. There exists an urgent need to challenge the social prejudices and institutional structures in order to protect its women, not just from danger, but also from ridicule, fear and isolation.
Stephane Mikala, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Africa program, said:
“On a daily basis, Nigerian women are beaten, raped and even murdered by members of their family for supposed transgressions, which can range from not having meals ready on time to visiting family members without their husband’s permission,” adding that “husbands, partners and fathers are responsible for most of the violence”.
Although more widespread in South Asia, acid attacks on women which cause extreme pain, disfigurement and can be fatal, have also been on the rise in Nigeria, and have failed to be taken seriously as an offence by the Nigerian authorities.
What is happening and why?
A combination of factors contributes to the high rates of domestic violence in Nigeria. In general, domestic violence is seen as a ‘private’ matter to be dealt with by the family, typically a domain of male authority. Nigerian women are expected to behave with subservience to their husbands, and domestic violence is often accepted as a part of marriage. According to Amnesty International, many believe that a woman is “expected to endure whatever she meets in her matrimonial home”, and to provide “sex and obedience” to her husband, who has the right to violate and batter her if she fails to meet her marital duties. For some victims, domestic violence is seen as a sign of love. Domestic violence in Nigeria is often viewed as a necessary corrective tool for women, at best a part and parcel of married life.
Two key factors help to perpetuate domestic violence. The first is the inability of many women to escape violence and domination due to their disadvantaged economic status. Many women and girls depend on the financial resources of their husband, father or families. This forces them to put up with domination for fear of the withdrawal of this financial support. In Nigeria, female adultliteracy is below the national average at 54.6% and the number of women below the poverty line is 65% compared to that of men at 35%. Yet even for educated women, domestic violence poses a serious threat to their safety and wellbeing. According to a recent study by the Global Press Institute, 65% of educated women have been beaten by their husband or boyfriend.
A second crucial factor is a culture of silence that stigmatises the victims of domestic violence rather than the perpetrators. Funmi Tejuoso of the Lagos State House of Assembly claims that women were told to “go home and be a good wife” when they brought complaints to the police, making women fear the label of being a “bad wife”. This reinforces the need for raising awareness about women’s political rights and to educate women that they are not to blame for the physical, sexual or psychological abuse to which they are subjected.
Lack of institutional support
Many Nigerians have little faith in the integrity or capacity of the police to redress crimes of domestic abuse. This can be attributed to corruption and under-resourcing of the police as well as perceived pervasive institutional sexism. Itoro Eze-Anaba of the Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) said, “The police and courts often dismiss domestic violence as a family matter and refuse to investigate or press charges”. Like much of the world, women in Nigeria facehumiliating rules regarding evidence in court when it concerns violence against them.
This results in a very low level of reporting. In 2005, only 18.1% of 10,000 women who said they had been raped went to the police. Furthermore, women who have been raped were unable to obtain medical examinations and did not know how to report rape or obtain help.
Dr Mairo Mandara, Chairperson of the Right to Information Initiative Nigeria (R2K), and Director of the charity Girl Child Concerns, spoke to Think Africa Press regarding the futility of making police complaints:
“Domestic violence is pretty common in Nigeria and rape is on the increase…Unfortunately, the police and support systems for these cases are very poor. Unless the victim is lucky to be supported by Civil Society groups, seeking redress is almost a waste of time.”
Discriminatory national laws pose a serious threat to women’s safety in Nigeria. The penal code in Northern states allows the correction of child, pupil, servant or wife as long as it does not amount to grievous harm (Section 55). Furthermore, marital rape is excluded from the definition of rape under state-level Sharia penal code in Northern states and under the criminal code in Southern states. Specifically, section 295 of the criminal code recognises “the resort to some degree of violence for correctional purposes”.
Nigeria is failing to implement its current obligations under international law. In early 2007, Nigeria’s National Assembly rejected the domestication of the international law of CEDAW (the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women), despite havingratified it in the 1980s without reservation.
However, some legal reform has got underway. In 2007, the Lagos State House of Assembly passed a law “to provide protection against domestic violence”. However, Funmi Falana, Chairwoman of Women Empowerment and Legal Aid (WELA) said that since being passed, “the law has rarely been tested by victims of domestic violence”. The Domestic Violence Protection Bill 2006 has only passed its first reading at the National Assembly, and out of the 36 states in Nigeria, only four have enacted the Domestic Violence Law.
There are certain alternative authorities to the courts that are often consulted when settling a case of domestic violence. However, discrimination against women may continue in the consulting of community elders, and women’s version of events may be dismissed out of hand. Rape cases in particular are often settled financially out of court.
This results in a serious lack of data on the levels of rape in Nigeria. Not only does a culture of silence and distrust prevent women from coming forward, but government policy prevents records of gender-based violence such as rape going public. The reasons for this may be manifold but it is notable that violence against women is perpetrated not just inside homes but directly by the police and security forces. An Amnesty International report documents sexual violence including rape by members of the police against women in their homes, in the street and in detention. Currently, the Public Officers Protection Act prevents prosecution of state actors charged for rape.
Clearly, the provision of gender sensitivity training to Nigeria’s police and security forces, judges, and other officials in the criminal justice system and lawyers would go a long way. However, long-term behavioural changes will not be incurred through top-down approaches. The public must be educated about women’s rights, women and men must have access to safe houses where they can escape domestic violence, and thorough documentation of cases of domestic violence must be gathered, and the statistics made publicly available. Only then will the culture of impunity be confronted.
Murmurs of improvement
There are murmurs of improvement on some of these issues. After years of wrangling, the Freedom of Information Bill, which guarantees the rights of access to information held by public institutions, was passed by Goodluck Jonathan in June 2010. In terms of public awareness, WELA held a seminar in 2012 on domestic violence aimed at encouraging civil rights organisations to utilise the new law on domestic violence.
Funmi Falana of WELA highlighted that the current Lagos law on domestic violence had failed to deter perpetrators because it was still being viewed as a private matter, and called for advocacy, counselling, and political activism in order to rid Nigerian society of ”all inequities and discrimination against women”.
Nigeria’s successful film industry also has the potential to defy the patriarchal culture that currently accepts violence against women. A recent music video from Nigerian artist Waje about a woman who refuses to let her husband’s abuse get to her is one example of the ways in which popular culture can be mobilised to raise awareness of human rights violations such as domestic violence.
Men and women in Nigeria have no small task ahead of them in challenging the sexism that keeps women at a disadvantage in society, starting with their low levels of literacy, education and economic dependence on men. Furthermore, civil activism must hold the government to account and push for a transformation of the legal and institutional structure that, at present, puts women’s lives at risk. It is unacceptable that members of the Nigerian government, police, military and the legal profession are able to treat women’s safety and security as a private concern that deserves little recognition at best, and ridicule at worst.
Think Africa Press welcomes inquiries regarding the republication of its articles. If you would like to republish this or any other article for re-print, syndication or educational purposes, please contact:email@example.com
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If you or someone you love identifies with these signs, it may be time to escape.
Women don’t plan to enter into abusive relationships. In fact, many women who have escaped abusive relationships swear to themselves that they will never get into another one, just to find themselves in another one.
Sadly, it takes an average of five to seven acts of violence before a woman leaves her abuser. So, why not plan to not enter into an abusive relationship in the first place? 5 Steps To Escaping An Emotionally Abusive Relationship
It may be easier to avoid an abusive relationship if you’re able to detect the early signs. The following list “15 Warning Signs of an Abusive Relationship” is distributed by The Women’s Center to women seeking domestic violence counseling. A path to a safer, healthierand happier life often starts with a bit of knowledge. If your partner displays the following behaviors, you may be in an abusive relationship. The Happiness Two-Step
1. He pushes for quick involvement. He comes on strong, claiming, “I’ve never felt loved like this before by anyone.” You get pressured for an exclusive commitment almost immediately.
2. There is jealousy. Your partner is excessively possesive, calls constantly, or visits unexpectedly.
3. He is controlling. He interrogates you intensely about who you talked to and where you were; checks mileage on the car; keeps all the money or asks for receipts; insists you ask for permission to go anywhere or do anything.
4. He has very unrealistic expectations. He expects you to be the perfect person and meet their every need.
5. There is isolation. He tries to cut you off from family and friends; deprives you of a phone or car, or tries to prevent you from holding a job.
6. He blames others for his own mistakes. The boss, family, you – it’s always someone else’s fault if anything goes wrong.
7. He makes everyone else responsibile for their feelings. The abuser says, “You make me angry” instead of “I’m angry.” “I wouldn’t get so pissed off if you wouldn’t…
8. There is hypersensitivity. He Is easily insulted and will often rant and rave about injustices that are just part of life.
9. He is cruel to animals and children. He kills or punishes animals brutally. He also may expect children to do things beyond their ability, or tease them until they cry.
10. His “playful” use of force during sex.He enjoys throwing you down or holding you down against your will; he says they find the idea of rape exciting. Intimidates, manipulates, or forces you to engage in unwanted sex acts.
11. There is verbal abuse. He constantly criticizes you or says cruel things; degrades, curses, calls you ugly names. He will use vulnerable points about your past/life against you.
12. There are rigid gender roles. He Expects you to serve, obey, and remain at home.
13. He has sudden mood swings. He switches from loving to angry in a matter of minutes.
14. He has a past of battering. He admits to hitting women in the past, but states that they or the situation brought it on.
15. There are threats of violence. He makes statements such as, “I’ll break your neck,” but then dismisses it with “I really didn’t mean it.”
If you’ve experienced domestic violence in the past, you may benefit from this article: Healing From Trauma With EFT. If you need help, or protection, to get out or stay out of an abusive relationship, get in touch with your local (The) Women’s Center, or search their main site atThe Woman’s Center.
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My name is Omalinze Okonkwo. I am a 33 year old Nigerian woman, who fled to the US to get away from a violently abusive husband/marriage. It had been hell, pretty much from day one of our 10 year marriage, with lots of hospitalizations and two separations in between. And it was ALL forms of abuse, from physical to emotional to psychological to mental to financial. This is the story of how I left, it was not and has not been easy, but I’m glad I’m free.
Ours was a funny history. We met in ‘98 when an 18 year old me (music director/trainee pastor) accompanied my BFF (of blessed memory) to UNEC for her fellowship’s camp meeting. I was to help arrange her music as well as perform in a play and a special Acapella as the alto. As was our usual practice, we didn’t eat all day prior to the performance so as soon as we had sung, my friends and I rushed to the nearest “burger ” joint we could find. As we waited for our eggs to be fried, four young men frolicked rather loudly in our line of vision.
All four were trying to talk to me and I was famished, so I was not in the mood. Eventually, our meal was ready and No four, who was the biggest and loudest, tried to get my room number. I told him and he said he would visit. Unknown to him, we were to leave first thing in the morning so I knew I would never see him again. Good riddance “I thought” as I personally believed it was disrespectful of any man to toast a girl while he was with his friends.
A year later, while I was home on holidays, my family phone rang and it was some guy asking for me. Normally, I would have discharged him to avoid getting caught by my dad but he was out and I was bored so I didn’t hang up. Apparently, he had tricked my friend into giving him my number. Next thing, I knew, we were spending hours on the phone. Before long, I was sneaking out to meet him in front of my gate and we would drive in his mom’s Toyota Cressida to his friend’s place where we would make-out for hours. Soon, though he went for Youth service so we lost touch.
We started dating properly when a year after his service he came back to Enugu. Coincidentally, I was around. So he looked me up and we hooked up the same day (I had lost my faith after a series of tragedies including losing my youngest sister to malaria, failing out of Medical school and losing my best friend in a fire). He left the next day promising to call even though I had told him not to bother. So started our long distance relationship which he broke off by phone exactly a year later because “the Lagos girls were a distraction”.
Years later, we somehow reconnected and became friends even though we had separate relationships. Soon, we were “friends-with-benefits”. Anyway, he had issues that led to his suspension for months and in that time there was a shift in our relationship. Suddenly, the *commitment-phobe* started becoming more controlling, calling to know where I was or flying into rages if I sent him some credit bought with my meager modeling earnings. I figured it was the pressure of the job and soon after, he was recalled to work and became sweet and adorable again.
“Moooommmmmy! I’m coooooooold” wailed Ada, my little 2 year-old daughter as she stood shivering in the bitingly cold, windy and foggy UK early morning.
“Let’s go back in and sleep a little, please Mommy!” begged Obi, my 8 year old son, his voice muffled by my head-tie-turned-scarf.
“I’m really sorry, babies! We can’t go back in. We have to be out of the church at 5:30 am or they won’t let us back another time. Remember what I said about adventures? There are some really-hard parts and some super-exciting parts. This is one of the hard ones,ok? But I promise, it’ll get better, please sweeties?” I tried to comfort them.
“Ok, mommy!” they chorused and instantly start to argue about something inconsequential like they almost always did.
I shook my head, fondly and thanked God for the millionth time at how resilient and easy to please kids were. Or maybe, God just blessed me with extra-special kids! As we sit huddled up at the bus-stop, all of our luggage (2 big boxes and 2 over-stuffed backpacks) strewn around us, I struggled to hold back tears of bitterness and regret at all the years I wasted with Emeka, my husband and father of my kids.
One of the most recent incidents, a few days before I left Nigeria, kind of shook me up a little bit. I had just left the cinema where I had gone to see “The Interns”. I was bored and worried about the time (it was about a little past 7pm) so I left half-way through the movie. On my way out, I saw a former business prospect (I run a small fitness consultancy for women) and we made small talk for a few minutes before we hugged goodbye and I hurried to try to catch a cab.
As I waited impatiently outside the Leisure Mall , I decided to start walking home and catch any empty one. Plus I needed the air, I wasn’t in a good place emotionally. Eventually, I walked all the way home. I was almost at our gate when suddenly, all hell broke loose. I thought I was about to be kidnapped or robbed and my reflexes are less than zero so I stood petrified, chanting “Blood of Jesus!”
Turned out to be only Emeka, my painfully-handsome but spitting-mad husband. He had been in the mall too (coincidence or not? hmm) and had seen me talking to the lady as we had hugged at the end. I didn’t even know he was in he building complex but apparently, he had driven behind me as I walked home and as soon as I got to the gate, he speeds up and screeches to a screaming halt, startling me.
Before I could react, he grabs me the throat, calling me a “perverted lesbian slut”, that how come when he tried to get me to sleep with a girl on his birthday, I cried rape but I was picking them up on my own. I tried to tell him I was just “counseling” someone referred to me by one of my “virtual” boot-campers. He was already past that point. He says,” I am going to end this tonight.”
He drags me kicking and screaming to the kitchen and asks me to pick out a knife, I begged him to forgive me but he takes the big, pointy one and drags me back to his bedroom. He then flung me on the floor, and put a foot on my throat to keep me still. I break loose and he grabs me and twists both my arms by the thumb and forefingers till the pain forced me to my knees. With his other hand , he loops the TV cord around my thigh so tightly I felt the rope cut into my skin. [picture left]
He starts on the other thigh but the door slams as my youngest sister and the kids return from fellowship. He quickly unties the cord and hides the knife.
“This isn’t finished.” He hisses, seconds before the kids burst in excitedly…
I used to think he was the ultimate Alpha-male. So did everyone else. He’s loud, charming, aggressive and full of energy. He’s the life of ANY party and women throw themselves at him. But as the years passed, I realised he was just a bully. He always sought out people he was bigger than or that he could dominate so women were an easy prey for him. He had NO respect for women and generally referred to them (including myself) as sluts,bitches, and believed they were not fit to be anything other than housegirls or prostitutes. He treated me like a stupid child and would talk down at me like I was retarded.
His favorite phrase was “Let me repeat myself…” And then proceed to repeat loudly and slowly with as minimal facts as possible so I almost always never performed the task the way he liked it. He had this weird entitlement thing where he says things like “Don’t I have the right as your husband to tell you to do something and you obey me unquestionly?”. He had a selfish streak and believed that me and the kids existed solely for his pleasure. He was amazingly self-centred and never once put me or the kids first or even second.
I remember one day , his uncle from the UK wanted a car to use while he was in Enugu and my husband promised him one. Now ,we had only two cars so I wondered but said nothing. As I got ready for school runs and work, he asked me to leave the keys to my car but I snuck out. Later that day, he calls me and asks me to bring the car back so his uncle’s driver could pick up the car and I asked him real quietly,which car he wanted me to use. He was livid that I dared question him and said he was coming to kill me at work. He actually drove all the way from VI to Surulere where I worked and ran menacingly up the stairs.
I saw him from the window and ran down to meet him because I was trying to avoid a scene. I tried to remind him that I needed the car for school runs but he demanded for the keys. When I didn’t comply, he grabbed me roughly by the throat and twisted my arm with the other.When he got the keys, he shoved me hard and I fell into the gutter behind me. He didn’t even look back as okada/keke drivers helped me out. For the whole month, had to do school and hospital runs (my son had frequent asthma episodes) by cab. And he never even dropped us or paid for the fares..
He had a deep unnecessary need to “control” (one of his favorite words) and dominate me which he achieved through derision, criticism, and cruelty. And the more empowered/independent I became the more his need to keep me under his control deepened. For example, when I resolved to build my company from nothing but sheer innovation and faith, he told me that his father and himself had decided that the kids and I should move to the village.
Another way he maintained control was by constantly making contradictory statements so that I was in a permanent state of confusion thereby reinforcing his declaration that I was stupid and retarded. For example, he would berate me constantly that I was lazy and good-for-nothing. Then, I’d come up with myriads of business ideas but none seemed to meet his approval which I needed as he was the one to give me capital. He would tell me that I was useless as a daughter, parent and wife because I couldn’t be of any financial help to anyone, that all I knew was fitness and fashion.
One day, as I wept into the night, I had a moment of clarity and the next day, I registered my business. I’m not even going to bother mentioning his harem of women and how he would tell me that he wouldn’t need them if I was a good obedient woman. I had learnt to block that aspect out of my head.
I’d previously moved out twice over the years, both times following hospitalizations as a result of severe beatings. The first time in December, 2007, I moved to another Local Government Area in Lagos. This was at my uncle’s home as my father had refused to let me stay with him because the family name would be ruined and he’d rather attend my funeral, than have divorced daughter. Moreover, according to him, the bible is against divorce.
I had to take my son out of his preschool to another closer to me. I was there for a few months, picking up extra shifts as a Customer Service Rep to be able to afford basic stuff for my son like diapers and food. But even there, I wasn’t safe. He would sit outside in his car for hours either at work or at my uncle’s home. I had to get my cousin to drive me once or twice so he backed off. He had seized my car and only released it when my huge cousin who lived abroad and was visiting Nigeria asked him to give it back.
And little did we know that he had cut the brakes of my Toyota Camry. He sent his mechanic to come park it at Festac and I didn’t drive it for a few days because I was a new driver and didn’t know my way around from Festac so I would take buses/cabs/okadas. And unfortunately for me, the first day I drove it was the day, I had my son and was on my way to work. As I drove down the winding bridge trying to connect to Orile, the car sped down uncontrollably.
I pumped and pumped my brakes as I prayed and prayed and cried and cried. It was really early, like 4:30 am because I tend to get lost a lot and generally just like to leave about 2 hours earlier than the required 6 am. So, because of the time, there were few cars on the highway . And the fact that I can barely see at night heightened my fear. Miraculously, I got all the way to my office at Orile-Iganmu without running into anyone or anything and the car having lost a little momentum on flat ground, was brought to a halt only at my office gate. I rolled the car into the compound and sat, shaking like a leaf till early light when people started coming.
I tried to call and email him about the car, hoping it was a mistake but he called me all sorts of shocking names, saying , he will still get me some other way. I told this to the case-worker, Dr Sanya at the Surulere LGA Welfare who was supposed to be mediating our case. It was only when I caught them one morning ,exchanging hugs with Dr Sanya saying, Thank You for the other day” with my husband replying, “There’s more where that came from” that I knew he had once again bought him off. I was well and truly sunk. So, when my uncle and my father summoned me to tell me that my “holiday” was over and I needed to “stop all this nonsense and go back and be a good wife and save the family name.”
The second time, in Dec 2011, I decided to move all the way to Abuja. I’d hoped he’d be too busy to come there. This time, I didn’t tell my parents right away that I’d left. I gave them the impression that I was just visiting for Christmas. Eventually, my inlaws had told my parents that I ran away . So, my mom who was at the Abuja home at the time, had told me that I was welcome to stay out the Christmas but that I had to go back and try to make it work.
When I tried to explain to her that my life was in danger, her heartbreaking response was that “ There has never been a divorce in our clan. So, your father and I would rather keep it that way even if it meansattending your funeral . Moreover, as long as he pays the kids school fees, then he is pretty much a model husband. Close your eyes to everything else and try not to do things that would earn you a beating.”
When I refused to go, my mother got upset and violent , slapping me and shoving me out and feverishly throwing all our bags out in the streets, screaming “This is exactly why your husband beats you.” “You are stubborn and disobedient and frankly, I think you deserve everything because of the shame you bring to us. Please, go to your husband’s house. There is no room for you here.” ”You are not the first woman and you will not be the last that her husband beats. If I lived through it so will you.”
I was sobbing and wailing “What of my children? Are you also going to throw them out?”
Her response, “ They ,like you , are their father’s property . Take them back to him.”
And she slams the door.
My kids and I sit huddled out in the drizzling rain and my son, wide-eyed, asked me , “Mommy, is it because Im naughty that Maa-Maa is upset?” I weakly reassure him that it was not the case.
“Mommy, why does no one love us anymore?”
“I love you, baby!” I whisper fiercely and hugging them to my tear-soaked chest. “And God loves you. That is all that matters!”
I try to call my brother in Canada to let me stay at his Abuja apartment and after a few moments of silence, he says he’d get back to me. And that was the last, I heard from him on that.
When I saw that the kids were cold and hungry , I knocked and begged my mom to please let us stay a few more months till the school term runs out. She would hear nothing of it and after numerous calls to my uncle and siblings and father, I told her I would have to call her fellow politicians to see if they’d house us for a while. Then she grudgingly agreed.
In the meantime, I had to deal with violent phone-calls from my husband and he even showed up at the family home a few times. He would whisper to me “See? I will kill you and your family will do nothing about it.”
He would also threaten to have me bombed and people would think it was Boko Haram, which had just started attacks that same period. And my daughter’s school was in one of the churches (Dunamis International ,Garki) rumored to be on the list to be bombed next so I was terrified daily. And I knew it was true. He had the means and connections to commit murder and get away with it. And as no one had at the time figured out their target, I was naturally afraid.
So, between him and my parents making life painful for me and the kids and the terrorist situation in Abuja, I fearfully moved back to Lagos around Easter, 2012. But, of course, I had to go back to the village to be judged by the clan and was humiliated again for days and the kids taken from me before I was grudgingly allowed back to my marital home.
Myne’s note – October is Domestic Violence awareness month and Oma thinks this was a great time to share her story and reach out to other women for support and also to encourage others to speak out or take action.
Over the next few days, you’ll read more of Oma’s story. Names, Dates and Places have been changed to protect Oma and her children. Oma is currently in need of help, financial and otherwise and if you’re able to, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re trying to work as quickly as possible for the safety of Oma and her ability to keep her children.
Harrison “Harry Baba” Nwozo’s note-
Folks, this is a True story. Please Help. Let’s Save our Women. Let’s Save this young woman. Please email Myne above and see how you can be of assistance.
Join me in saying NO!! to Domestic Violence in Nigeria and Around the World!!!
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I always include these graphic photos because it gives the stories more life..you know the say seeing is believing, but this particular photo is horrible. I’d advice you not to look at it, but first the story.
A 33 year old man is on the run after murdering his wife with acid. On Friday October 11th, a man named Sunday Eze from Obiofia Nnewichi Nnewi in Anambra State, went to his father-in-law’s house at Edoji Uruagu to see his estranged wife, 23 year old Ebere Eze (Nee Agwuncha) who had moved back to her father’s house after falling out with her husband. The victim’s in-law said Sunday came to the house that Friday and claimed he had recently bought new plots of land he wanted his wife to see. He managed to convince Ebere to go with him to go see the land. As they approached Oraifite/Ichi axis in Ekwusigo Local Government, Sunday Eze turned on his wife and attacked her. He beat her with iron and poured acid on her. He then forced some of the acid down her throat.
The lady’s screams attracted some policemen who were passing by the area but by then, her attacker was long gone. The policemen rushed her to Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital Nnewi where she later died.
According to the victim’s in-law Sunday called his wife’s family yesterday Sunday 13th demanding for forgiveness for what he did, but not really saying why he attacked his wife so viciously. Sunday Eze is wanted by the Nigerian police.
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