What do Ronke Shonde, Gillian Zvomuya and Karabo Mokoena have in common? These three women made news headlines on and offline when their bodies were found dead, killed by their partners. They and many others are victims of intimate partner violence ( IPV).

Besides both being African, Ronke from Nigeria, Gillian from Zimbabwe and Karabo from South Africa, the three were murdered by their romantic partners between 2016 and 2017.   They and many other women, at least one in every three, are victims of intimate partner violence ( IPV).

IPV is a like a monster that needs serious and urgent control, a problem that stems primarily from the patriarchal system that preaches male superiority over women. Our society and religion being the main advocates for the many ills that result from this system, domestic abuse included, as it preaches the importance of staying in marriage and coerces women into submission above their physical, emotional and economic while the man as the head of the house is treated like a king who can do no wrong.

At least one out of three women will experience abuse in her lifetime,  with 85% of intimate partner violence victims more likely to be women. lassAs incidents of IPV continue to increase in our society it is worth noting that IPV cuts across race, social status, education, age or economic class. All Women are predisposed to IPV.

Worldwide, almost one-third of women who have been in a relationship report that they have experienced some form of physical and/ or sexual violence by their intimate partner in their lifetime and according to the World Health Organisation as many as 38% of murders of women are committed by a male intimate partner. This is a staggering statistic which shows IPV is not just an African problem but a global one.

One of the many questions people ask when a woman is killed as a result of IPV is “Why did she never speak out or leave?” And it is important to note that often victims do not speak up or leave because of the weight of societal expectations and the stigma associated with a failed marriage or divorce. Many continue to put up appearances in public while being abused behind closed doors and more often, lose their lives as a result.

In most African communities it is generally believed that a failed marriage means you are cursed and staying with an abusive man is better than having no man at all, leading to many victims of abuse suffering in silence.

The recent case of a very popular actress in Nigeria which broke a few weeks ago further corroborates the fact that women want to be seen as having it all together and would, therefore, remain in an abusive relationship to save themselves from embarrassment.

Religious bodies also play a major role in cases of IPV in which victims are told to be prayerful and are advised to be more submissive as God hates divorce and adultery and as such should continue to manage or “patch things up” as there is no perfect relationship or marriage.

Victims mistake the abuse for love. You will hear a statement from victims like “He loves me that’s why he doesn’t like me to associate with people so they don’t corrupt me” or “I was at fault, he said he doesn’t like me being around men”. Extreme fits of jealousy and anger are taken to be the husband or boyfriend’s way of protection of his ‘territory’.

Another major contributor is the media and entertainment industry which portray women as weak, trophies and sex objects who should be coerced into submission and even abused. Over time, this contributes to the way women are perceived and treated because these media messages subtly preach what is abnormal as the norm.

On average, a woman will leave an abusive relationship seven times before she leaves for good and the major reason they stay or return to the abusive relationship is that the abuser controls their money supply leaving them with no financial resources to break free. This is very common in relationships in which the woman is not permitted to engage in any kind of work or trade to earn an income.

Religious bodies also play a major role in cases of IPV in which victims are told to be prayerful and are advised to be more submissive as God hates divorce and adultery and as such should continue to manage or “patch things up” as there is no perfect relationship or marriage.

Just as there are many reasons that contribute to abuse, there is not one type of abuser. However, statistics indicate that 75% of abusers experienced some form of abuse as children and often times the abusers are highly successful professionally and in other areas of their lives. With history, religion and society to support their beliefs, they often have no remorse or regret over battering.

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