According to learned helplessness, if you cage a rat and subject it to repeated trauma until it is so tired of fighting, it will lie in the corner and take the pain. It won’t leave subsequently even when the door is opened.
This basic principle of behavioral psychology has been the actuality for most people who experience domestic violence in Kenya. At least everyone knows someone who is in an abusive relationship but will not quit. Blame it on learned helplessness.
From Wikipedia, domestic violence in Kenya constitutes any harmful behavior against a family member or partner, including rape, assault, physical abuse, and forced prostitution. The main victims are women.
With more people staying home to stem the spread of COVID-19, the cases of domestic violence are bound to surge. To victims of domestic violence, staying at home with an abusive partner is as worse as it can be. They are in a quagmire.
While social distancing puts them in perpetual proximity to their abuser, leaving the house can expose them to the deadly virus. How can they keep safe?
The UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres, in a video message posted on Twitter, emphasized the need for governments worldwide to make the prevention and redress of violence against women a key part of their national response plans for COVID-19.
This is a noble idea, indeed. But apart from victims seeking solace from the government, they will have to protect themselves from harm. An abuser may try to control them by downplaying the seriousness of what they are doing; thus, they underestimate the danger they are in.
Victims should get support from someone they trust. It can either be a friend, counselor, or family member. If injured or sexually assaulted, they should contact emergency services or visit their nearest hospital emergency department. If they feel unsafe, they should report to the police.
To emancipate from domestic violence, victims must also appreciate their worth. If someone is hurting you or threatening to hurt you, it can be hard to maintain your self-confidence or feelings of self-worth. But remember that it’s never okay for someone to hurt you or frighten to hurt you. Reconnect with friends or family just to remind you of who you are and how much other people love and care for you.
Homes should be the haven in a heartless world, especially now that it’s the best place to be during this pandemic. As neighbors, we should also not condone domestic violence. Most of us believe in the old adage; let everyone paddle their own canoe. When it comes to domestic violence, this should not be our mantra. Let us report all these vices to the authorities.
As stated earlier, due to learned helplessness, the victims may not report these cases. Nyumba Kumi initiative should not be restricted to robberies, theft, and terrorism alone. We can widen the scope and help defeat the evil of domestic violence.