On 22nd January 2021, local media houses in Kenya reported a case of a 34-year-old woman in Kasarani who had been tied to her bed and burnt to death by her estranged lover. This and many other cases have highlighted cases of spouses being doused with acid, having limbs chopped off, and beaten. Some of victims of abuse opt to stick it out anticipating things will get better, and end up dying in the name of ‘love’. Others choose to quit that journey and start afresh. The healing process is never easy but is worth every effort.
According to the Kenya Demographic Health Survey (KDHS) report of 2014, over 47% of women have either experienced physical or sexual violence. Men too are at risk of maltreatment. Abusive relationships are not only characterized by physical harm but also emotional and psychological manipulation. Physical assault, obsessive monitoring, criticizing, insults, belittling, isolation from friends and family, and constant control are all signs that one is being disrespected by their significant other.
While several victims may have the desire to leave, fear of the unknown prevails. Low self-esteem, children, hope that your spouse will change, lack of finances, societal judgment, societal pressure to serve “couple goals”, and the abuse cycle (make-up after the break-up) make it harder for to leave. Nonetheless, those strong-willed to quit require the courage to start over and to love-self.
- Recognize the situation and accept that the relationship is over
- Seek help from family, friends, and professional psychologists
- Practise self-love. Considering how such relationships degrade your confidence and self-love, starting over in believing that you are enough and worthy of love is necessary
- Limit any contact with your abusers or mutual friends
- Surround yourself with people that love you
- Rekindle your friendships in case your previous relationship made you withdrawn
- Remind yourself of your goals
- Recognize your achievements
- If there are children, shower them with love, celebrate their strengths, listen to them, reassure them that you are doing whatever you can to keep them safe, and help them develop relationships to relieve their stress and keep them happy
Those around dear ones suffering abuse, be patient with them. Instead of constantly giving couples pressure to show up and impress, create a platform for them to be raw and candid. Listen to them, bringing awareness and calling out the abusive partners, seeking professional help for them, keeping an eye on them to ensure they are safe (if they are suicidal), and avoiding the blame game can help such individuals recover.
The next time your neighbor calls out for help in the middle of the night, don’t be hesitant to help and call out the abuser. You may be the safe house that she needs for the night or, you can reach out for help on their behalf from the authorities or Usikimye foundation.
It may be challenging at first for anyone healing from any form of ill-treatment. Nevertheless, with time and with the right people around, it gets better. Don’t be afraid to speak out because only then can you get help. It’s all about taking a day at a time, unlearning, and knowing you deserve the best.
We are here cheering you on as you recover!