By Amos Sanasi.
When a person talks about how another person abused them, you probably think it has to do with kicking, punching and battering, right? The mainstream has portrayed abuse as something that always involves physical violence and therefore, over time, most people think that abuse leaves scars, wounds, or causes physical pain, which is typically not always the case.
What is abuse really? There isn’t one only definition, because it takes different forms, but some of the most common definitions of abuse are:
The most common attributes in every definition include the purposeful act and a pattern of behaviour against another person that usually involves power dynamics.
Abuse against women comes in different forms, ranging from the most common ones which are domestic abuse, sexual violence, economic violence and political violence, and the abusers can be the state, an intimate partner or a stranger.
I spoke to five amazing women who were comfortable sharing their stories about abuse.
Mila. Mila is a 21-year-old lady from Egypt. We met at a sexual health conference about female genital mutilation. Mila was circumcised at the tender age of 8. She narrated her story to me: a windy morning, when they had just had breakfast, she remembers her mum asked her and her younger sister to take a bath and prepare themselves to assist an event. Mila did as she was instructed and went for a bath. She still remembers how they afterwards drove to a remote part and she saw her mum coming down from the car to have a conversation with an older woman who appeared to be in her mid-50s. Mila’s mum then told her that, in order to remain chastened and intact for marriage, she needed to undergo this procedure that would help. Mila remembers how she was overwhelmed by fear when she was led into a room and had to wait while the aged woman sharpened her tools. She still has nightmares from being pressed down by her mum while the aged lady used an instrument that looked like a scalpel to dig out her clitoris. She feels rage every time she remembers the experience and has undergone a reversal surgery since she relocated in Europe, but still feels like she’s not enough, as the constant pain during sex makes her feel very different from others who can actually enjoy it.
Julia. When we hear the words “child marriage”, we probably picture a local ceremony in which an uneducated aged man hands his young child over to a rich “gentleman” somewhere in Africa, Julia’s case shows that child marriage is a worldwide problem that we should be on the lookout to end. In fact, child marriage remains legal in 44 states of the United States. Julia told me she’s dedicating the rest of her life to solve the issue of child marriage. Right before she passed away from terminal cancer, Julia’s mum handed her over to a Bishop. Julia was just 12 when she had to go and stay with her new guardian, who ended up impregnating her at the age of 14. Julia now says she is grateful to the midwife who helped her and took her away from her abuser.
Onome. Although there is no comprehensive data on human trafficking in Nigeria, we do know that it’s a lot, as mainstream has interviewed a lot of women and we hear their stories every day. I met with Onome, a 30-year-old lady who was exploited by a friend in hopes that she was getting a job in Libya. Onome was glad to take a shot at a better life; her aunt told her there was an opportunity for the role of domestic staff in Libya and Onome knew she needed to support her family. Up until the last moment, when her aunt handed her over to a man in Libya, Onome was still hoping she was up to a high paying job. But in the evening she was transferred to another building, where she was branded with a hot iron placed on her thighs. She remembers the smell of her flesh burning and her screaming as loud as she could, until she had no voice left. Onome told me she was then given a target of men that she had to have sex with, in order to be considered for freedom. She remembers how, even during their periods, she and the other girls there were not spared. Freedom came when government officials broke into the building and she was deported back to Nigeria. She has chosen not to return home because of the shame and, instead, started a hair business in Lagos with the grant she got from a foundation.
Anna-Will. Abuse happens regardless of financial and economic status. Anna-Will launched her sex boutique business with six-figure in revenue. She left a three-year abusive marriage. In her words: “I doubted for long, There were days I told myself maybe I was paranoid, maybe I was overreacting”. She said she also had no one to talk to about this situation, and maybe that was why it got worse. “He wasn’t comfortable about the company I kept, so he asked me to lose all contact with them. Then money became an issue”. She said having conversations became an issue as he always complained that she never listened because she had more money. He also sold off her car without her permission and, when she asked, he stated he had to get money for an urgent need. This continued as he went ahead to sell other properties. Anna-Will says she finally got to understand she wasn’t paranoid when she saw a therapist and her therapist stated she was being abused, and that abuse doesn’t have to be physical.
I appreciate these women for sharing their stories. If you are in a similar situation and need help, please ask for it here. Abuse not being physical doesn’t mean it causes less damage, 1 in 3 women have experienced abuse, so always be on the look for any sign of abuse and report it to the right authorities.
Do you have something to share? Leave your comments below, contact us on our social media platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and TikTok, send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on contraception, visit findmymethod.org
About the author: Amos Sanasi is an award-winning sex educator who specializes in sexual enlightenment. Her book “BDSM CHEAT SHEET” is a beginner’s guide for those who want to be kink-positive. She is also the founder of West Africa’s first sex-Ed tech startup RevaginateNG. She tweets at @thesanasi.
Please consult this International Domestic Violence Resource Guide (2022), which includes a global list of international help centers and organizations for women all over the world.