DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: ANOTHER FACE OF COVID-19 PANDEMIC LOCK-DOWN

By  Musimenta Chrispine Rwaboona

 

The day President of the Republic of Uganda, His Excellence Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, made his first address to the nation during the COVID-19 period over a fortnight ago he stated, “We are in the abnormality situation “. This I think was preparing Ugandans for tougher times ahead.

Among the challenges or vices that are looming is domestic violence due to family members staying at home day in and day out, which used not to be the case.

During the President’s second national address, the majority of Ugandans expected the lockdown to end. To their disappointment, it was further extended for 21 more days, and this meant more tough times ahead. However, in my opinion, given the prevailing circumstances, this was the best option though unpleasant. Whereas in Uganda new infections had reduced drastically to either none or one per day, our neighboring countries such as Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania had continued to register more new cases which could bring new COVID-19 cases to the country.

The horrible video clip of a young man aged 30, who was captured clobbering his 82 year old grandmother with a heavy stick, was just a sign of the worst to come as far as domestic violence is concerned. This happened in Amoro district in Northern Uganda.

In his book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”,Stephen R.Covey  asserts that “there are 2 lasting bequests we can give our children; One is roots, the other is wings “. How terrible for one to beat up a helpless, vulnerable parent , knowing that we all exist because of them!

Needless to say, we need roots to be firm and wings to fly, fly higher beyond the sky.

As quoted by Alson Brammer in Social Work Law, domestic violence is defined by the Association of Chief Officers of Probation as “Any form of physical, sexual or emotional abuse, which takes place within the context of a close relationship”.

 

According to the family.findlaw.com website, there are different forms of domestic violence as stated;

– Physical harm: This involves but not limited to punching, slapping, choking, using physical force.

-Emotional harm: Includes humiliation, criticism, demeaning, and despising.

-Sexual harassment: This is in the form of rape, forced abortion, coercion into using family planning or not using it etc.

-Financial: Such as husbands preventing wives from obtaining education or employment, controlling a spouses’ bank account, giving little or no money to support the family, withholding money for food, clothing to mention but a few.

-Psychological: This includes intimidation, threatening, and fear-causing behavior, preventing the victim from talking to people, confinement and emotional blackmail.

All these forms are imminent in the wake of this pandemic and can be detrimental to relationships leading to lack of family cohesion.

 

 

Domestic violence in this lock-down is mainly due to various factors;

During this time most parents and children are staying at home, but with not much work to do, as it is said, “an idle mind is the devils’ workshop “. Instead of using the prevailing situation positively by discovering and appreciating each other’s potential, as well as uplifting one another, unfortunately some people have focused more on fault-finding. This can result into arguments and criticisms, consequently leading to domestic violence.

In my previous article,” Coping in the Wake of COVID-19 Pandemic”, various suggestions are proposed on how this “time resource” can be profitably utilized. Give thanks for the technological advancements that can even enable one to pursue online courses, of which some are free. Let’s hit the internet and grab these golden opportunities.

It goes without saying that sources of income have grossly been affected.

Traditionally, especially in African society, men are supposed to provide for their families. Some of them who are daily income earners now have no or reduced income due to structural unemployment. Those that are still operational, the income is too low due to a low demand for goods and services. In this situation they can hardly provide for their families with necessities. This inadequacy can lead to low self- esteem.As stated by Ethan Mussolini in his book “Confidence And Self- Esteem.” opines that low esteem is characterized by complaining, blaming and whining.

Usually such people are looking for ways of hitting someone, digging for faults to pile on you so that you feel small. This is a period where high levels of understanding, tolerance, self-control and above all, active and effective communication should be employed. Ladies need to be more friendly than ever before,  very jolly, welcoming and fill the house with warmth and fun in order to make husbands feel loved, free and at home, otherwise violence, divorce, depression and suicide cases will be on the increase.

Families need to develop a deeper relationship with God or any spiritual figure they subscribe to. All gatherings have been banned, including churches, but prayers are led on radios and televisions. Let’s turn our homes into churches as we wait for the situation to come back to normality. This is the time to develop a Spirit of gratitude and focus on the positive side of life. Count your blessings and give less attention to your misfortunes. On the other hand, there’s need to make adjustments to suit the prevailing circumstances. All things are difficult before they are easy.

Whereas directives have been passed against social gatherings, some people still violate them and are still drinking secretly in groups, where social distance is not observed. Alcoholism has been one of the main causes of domestic violence due to its effects on one’s behavior and one’s sense of responsibility. In times of strife, some people seek solace in alcohol; forget their problems for a while only to make the bad situation worse with  addiction.

 

Proverbs 20:1 in the Holy Bible warns about alcoholism, it states that “Drinking too much makes you loud and foolish; it’s stupid to get drunk”. Drunkenness affects normal reasoning and any slightest provocation can lead to a fight. It’s better to avoid drunkenness and any form of substance abuse in these times where emotional stability is at stake.

Siblings at home are not safe from domestic violence either. There are many factors that can accelerate it, most of them trivial yet unavoidable because of their age. These can range from fighting for the TV remote control to watch their favorite channels, play toys, to the avoidance of doing house chores. Parents need to get involved in some disputes and check for dominance, where need be, make a duty roster for house chores.

Sometimes parents can be a source of siblings’ violence without knowing it.

This happens when they tend to favor the well behaved children, which in most cases is natural; after all who doesn’t love a well behaved, pleasant, obedient and hardworking, self- driven child. Honestly no one. This is as old as mankind. Good children are always loved and blessed by their parents and God. In the Bible, Genesis 37:3-4 says, “When his brothers saw that their father loved Joseph more than he loved them, they hated their brother so much that they would not speak to him in a friendly manner”. It’s a long story, that of Joseph with his brothers, who threw him in a Lions’ den to  be devoured, but who God loved, and protected to the extent that not a single lion touched him. Later they sold him to the foreign land as a slave but instead he became a great man; a governor.

As much as it’s natural to favor and love well behaved children, parents need to try to love all equally despite their short comings and make an attempt to guide them. Children should also try as much as possible to win their parents favor however difficult they might be.

Sirach 3:16, asserts that” those who abandon their parents or give them cause for anger may as well be cursing the Lord. They are already under God’s curse”.

I grew up knowing that a parent is God of his children while on earth. A parent or a person who takes care of you as you grow, loves you and wishes you the best more than any other person in the world, therefore annoy them at your risk.

In this lockdown situation there are services which are called essential and must be provided despite the prevailing circumstances. These include; financial institutions, health facilities, security, media centers, food stores, agriculture among others, meaning those who work there, are allowed to work. It becomes tricky when the wife is working and the husband is” locked” at home. Not many African men find it easy to engage in house chores of cleaning, cooking, washing dishes and clothes.

If there’s a domestic assistant or old children who can work, life is normal, but if not this becomes a source of conflict and the financial domestic violence can set in, stopping her from going to work.
Men in such a situation need to understand that this is a temporary problem and consider the pros and cons of the decisions they take to avoid regrets after the pandemic which will find the wife’s job gone and yet the husband’s job may not sustain the family. With effective communication and understanding, this is an issue that the couple can discuss and together can come out with the best solution. It can range from the lady discussing with the employer to reduce on her working time, while the husband also becomes flexible and do what he can at home, after all, it keeps him busy.
Stability of families during this time is mostly at the mercy of the personalities of members of the family. People react differently to situations such as provocation. One of my best writers about relationships is John Gray the author of “Men Are From Mars,Women are from Venus “. In this book, he calls men Martians and women Venusians. The book is mainly about the differences between men and women. In one of the topics he talks of the differences between men and women’s reaction when hurt and he calls them
4Fs.
FIGHT: This is for Martians and it is characterized by expressing a lot of anger.
FLIGHT: This is for Martians too. They refuse to talk and nothing is resolved.
FOLD: This is characteristic of Venusians. Rather than argue with this person, they give in, take the blame, and assume response for whatever is upsetting their partner.
FAKE: This is for Venusians too, they put a smile and pretend that there’s no problem and believe that everything is okay, whereas it is not.
Couples need to learn each other and watch signs of these responses, interpret them and deal with them appropriately so as to avoid hurting or being hurt.
I was amused and sad at the same time by this true story of a couple which divorced over toothpaste. The lady was a perfectionist while the husband was the opposite. Over the years, she complained of the way the husband squeezed out toothpaste when brushing. whereas the wife neatly folded the bottom part upwards to squeeze it out. Squeezing it from the middle caused a dent in the toothpaste tube. The efforts of the wife to change the husband’s habit were fruitless and they quarreled, fought and divorced.
Some habits are better ignored for the sake of peace . The bitter fact is that every individual has a bad habit. We often tend to concentrate on others and forget our own, just like the biblical parable of the log and speck in the eye.

If we took time to find out the cause of domestic fights, it would be found that many are trivial, and others are as a result of rumors, misinterpretation, stray messages etc. Dale Carnegie states that “it’s not so much what you say as to how you say it, but the emotions attached, looks on the face and pitch of the voice”. There’s something beside the mere words in a talk which counts, it’s the flavor with which it is delivered.

In this lockdown, we need to exercise high level of patience, perseverance, effective communication and determination to promote peace and harmony in our families. Where there’s a will there’s a way; a way to a violent-free environment. The COVID-19 pandemic will end when all families are more united and stronger than ever before, with peace prevailing. Then we will have cause to celebrate and congratulate ourselves as a country, in the awaited
triumph.
The writer is a Social Worker and Woman MP Aspirant 2021 for Kabale District, South Western
Uganda

Author: Admin

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