Mrs. O usually sits and mutters to herself regularly. Her words are usually disjointed and incoherent at times, however her children and grand-children love her to bits. Her children will tell you their mum was not always this way. She became like this because of the years of sustained beatings she suffered in the hands of their father before they eventually separated.
Painfully this reality is not far from what other women are faced with in their marriages or with their partners. According to the Nigeria Demographic Health Survey 2013 overall, 25 percent of ever-married women age 15-49 report ever having experienced emotional, physical, or sexual violence from their spouse, and 19 percent report having experienced one or more of these forms of violence in the past 12 months (NDHS 2013).
I dare say this number is almost inimical because most intimate partner violence women encounter in their relationships are rarely ever reported. There are social structures in place that do not encourage or support women to report incidence when it occurs. Women rather choose to remain in such harmful relationships and leave themselves open to vulnerability of being traumatized over and again.
As a counselor I have encountered several cases of women who have developed mental health challenges as a result of sustained years of intimate partner violence. These women have from mild depression moved over to raging emotionally states of becoming suicidal. This is of grave concern to me. I personally always say there is a growing generation of highly traumatized women on the increase in our society. The emotional and psychological effect of intimate partner violence is a concern that seems to be down played.
The reason being that while there are high calls to check the physical bruises and wounds inflicted where there is incidence much attention is not being given to the mental and psychological challenge that women have to deal with. This is more dangerous and requires urgent intervention.
In my engagement with women at the counseling table over and again I continue to experience the close link between mental health and GBV. Both are largely inseparable especially where a woman has lived for long in such relationship. Like the opening case I mentioned many women are losing their mental coherence to GBV and this area requires much intervention.
Another challenge I have also identified is that a lot of these women do not readily have the resources to visit professional counselors where they can be helped to check their mental health and where it is getting out of hand be managed till they are stabilized. What is common is that many of them rather choose to visit religious leaders who leave them more traumatized by giving unprofessional counsel that may eventually lead to full blown mental health challenge after having to live with abusive partners over a long duration. This is common especially among women with very low economic capacity who struggle to live within the 1dollar a day status.
I personally believe the time has come for more interventions to support initiatives that would cater for the needs of this category of women. While we are doing the much we can it is time the world begin to look into supporting this form of initiative so that victims can readily access professional help and as such the rising tide of women experiencing mental health challenges or trauma as a result of GBV can be helped.