My humanitarian work once took me to one of Nigeria's security offices. As I waited for my turn to be attended to, I listened to one of the cases being reported. A lady had come to seek help from a very senior officer. Her ex-husband of two years who is also an officer in this organisation, had been negligent in his financial responsibility again. All she wanted was a little financial support for their two children, who have been in her custody.
After many deliberations, this officer asked why she left the marriage. She cited abuse: physical (brutal), emotional (depressing) and psychological (suicidal). She had almost lost an eye to her last physical attack from her ex husband. As if this revelation was not heartbreaking enough, the officer’s response threw me off guard. Surprised at his condescending, insensitive and shocking response, I was forced to intervene politely with his permission even though in my mind, all I wanted to do was rip him apart. His unsolicited advice which clearly betrayed his androcentrism, was carelessly worded to make the woman feel the guilt and the need to return to her abuser, regardless of the state of affairs.
“What did you do to provoke him? You must stop it and get back to your husband unless some men out there have been deceiving you…”
In his summary but not final assertion,
‘Women should be more tolerant and submissive like our ancient mothers who wouldn’t leave their marriage no matter what’.
I should stop rehashing his boring blabbing, for the sake of my sanity.
This officer’s boast of his own ‘model’ lifestyle couldn’t but bring the ‘no wonder’ phrase out of my consciousness. I got to know a lot in his messed up psychological profile. His uninteresting 25 mins oral ‘autobiography’, presenting himself as a better version of his patriarchal father was torture to my patience. Nothing felt more awkward, than listening to him wiggle his old (protruding beer belly, rough skin, rust brown dentition and local dialect) 52 going on 75 year old body frame as he spoke.
It is just as unwelcoming as it is irksome, that certain men (and women) have trouble processing what abuse is. It is almost as sad as playing on someone else’s vulnerability, because you are insulated by your own privilege. Making a victim of abuse feel less and less alone with their pain, especially at the unkind biased position taken by some of these mediators, is ruinous. There are many damaged people in their ignorant status, holding this position to pass judgment.
It is destructive to mirror a selfish patriarchal stand and sentiment, as yardstick to judge unfortunate situations, rather than measuring instead with a scale of rationality and objectivity.
It is a shame.
More than ever, our society needs men and women who would fight against injustice, setting their own emotions plus their outdated and antiquated patriarchal beliefs aside to put on an armour of fair dealing. Well, maybe this is where the proverbial ‘you don’t give what you don’t have’ setting gets to play out.
Words by Lara Tubosun