Justifying Violence Against Women Using the Word of God: Matthew 11:12
By Berlyne Ngwentah
This is a plea to the victim-blaming Cameroonian population. I write this because victim-blaming is rampant which makes the situation of helping the women who are victims of abuse seem hopeless. It is vital to know that when you blame a woman rather than assure her that you will be there when whenever she needs help, she won’t come to you when she is ready to leave the abusive relationship.
Just always assure her that you will be there for her; tell her that whenever she leaves, you will provide her with a place to stay for awhile. Tell her you will ensure that she is safe – and mean it when you say these things. When she is ready to leave she would know she is not stranded.
She needs to know she is safe and has someone to lean on.
When you blame her, what goes on in her mind is that you are no better than the abuser, so she will choose the familiar abusive side.
Victim-blaming is Rampant
If there is anything that should be criticized, they are the ideas like “She caused him to beat her up”, “She deserves it”, “Why did she marry such a violent man?”, She is stupid for staying in an abusive relationship or marriage”, and “We should not interfere in other people's marital affairs”.
This implies if you marry someone who beats you up it is because you are stupid; husbands have the right to beat up their wives if they do not obey them; you must have somehow wanted it – that is why you married a violent man so you deserve what you get.
As if just by looking at a man you can immediately tell whether they are violent and abusive.
If at all there have been instances where they showed some violent behaviors and had begged – promising to change, the victim will need help, support to understand, and leave the relationship because that is when the mental uncertainty and confusion begins.
Start Showing Love, Support & Understanding
An outsider or anyone who has never been faced with such a situation would think it is just so easy to leave; so if she stays it means she is stupid and likes being abused but the outsider will fail to see that mentally – it is not easy for that person to grasp all what is going on not forgetting the fact that we, women, are social beings who have been nurtured from childhood to know that men are naturally aggressive and will change if we fight hard to change them.
This is the right moment to start showing them love and support – and assuring them you are there if they need any help to leave or someone to talk to. When people do not want to interfere and assure the victim they can always count on them for help, it means they support violence and it is usually the same group of people who accuse the victims of being stupid for staying in an abusive relationship or marriage. There is much to violence against women than stupidity and blame.
Because the causes of abuse and the way to seek help are similar in most patriarchal societies I shall use guides and refer you to articles written by people from other patriarchal societies. I have not been able to find written documents on the analysis of abuse and how to help victims from experienced relationship counselors and battered women’s specialist in my country.
Knowing and understanding the reason why Cameroonian women stay in abusive relationships and why men abuse women will help in resolving the problem of abuse and domestic violence against women. For better understanding, I will refer you to sites where experts have written on the subject as well.
I shall use a few real life stories in my local community to analyze violent behaviors and illustrate that violence against women stems from the false idea that men are superior, naturally aggressive, and the continuous emphasis which most women have tend to unconsciously inhabit that women should be soft, submissive and be flawless in everything because they are the ones responsible for growth and peace in the family.
Paying for Eve's Sin
Women continuously feel ashamed and guilty and have concluded they should know and accept their place because they are paying for Eve’s sin. Some women get abused because the men feel insulted when a woman talks back.
There is this common belief that the masculine ego is innate, so it is better and more acceptable for a man to insult a woman and control her even in public, or a husband to disrespect his wife than it is for a wife to disrespect her husband. Cameroonian girls/ women have to be empowered not insulted and taught that it takes both the husband and the wife to ensure growth and peace in the family not just the woman sacrificing her entire life and happiness just to be unappreciated, mocked at, humiliated and laughed at.
I often try to make people to understand that men are not born proud in my local discussions with women who come depressed because their men have no love or respect for them. Men’s huge masculine egos are socially constructed, so they can be tamed.
In my experience, there is a lot more victim blaming than helping the victims, even from women’s rights activists. Abusive relationships are very complex. Refer to The Cycle Theory of Battering by Dr Lenore Walker .
Who's the Boss?
Men turn to abuse women because they want to be in control and let the woman know who the boss is.
Many men think women deserve to be punished by them if they go against their orders. Many men also think it is manly to be aggressive and abusive towards a woman, which is generally a way for them to exert their masculinity.
I have once been told by a man that (many people share this belief) a woman deserves to be punished by her husband if she does not obey him because women are like children with small brains and need to be instructed – which is backed by a common Cameroon saying that I am amused by “Women usually jump before they look”. Also, growing up in a home where violence is the norm could only lead to the male child becoming an abuser and a female thinking it is normal since it is a familiar situation.
Violence is Never Justified
I came across a situation where a girl was beaten and locked out of her room by her boyfriend; when I asked what had happened, I was told the couple always fight and the girl is the cause of her boyfriend’s act of violence towards her.
I did not ask further because it would have been the same story: she caused it.
I never leave such scenarios without educating people that the act of violence against any woman or any person is never justified; you too should never leave such a scenario without saying that violence is never justified. If I discover I need to educate them more I shall do it.
A Reflection of What Patriarchal Cameroonians Think
Not understanding the cycle of abuse, some people have come to believe that some women love to be beaten by their partners. We always hear this especially from men. This is dangerous because it sends across a wrong message. An example is taken from a conversation we had on Facebook.
This conversation is a reflection of what many patriarchal Cameroonians think. It is a good thing that I was present to counter the wrong message that is being passed across – you, too, should never pass such a post without commenting to say that no one loves violence.
The first comment (by N.N.) is from is an educated man who mostly comments to derail attention on the fight to achieve women’s emancipation, as I had observed on several occasions.
N.N. some women enjoy it that way.
C.L. male uses violence because they have alack of education ; they don't know how to express themselves, they see women like things to be captured, they haven't been involved in child education, they don't know what life's respect means, they don't respect themselves.·
Ngwentah Berlyne Ngwalem: N.N. what a stupid post. say something reasonable. No one enjoys violence except their mind has been distorted in some form.·
N.N. opinions count and are accompanied with experience and I'm sure experience is not stupid but what we witness.
Ngwentah Berlyne Ngwalem: experience? very laughable. an experienced man comes online and posts an ignorant post. There is psychology behind abuse; there is a cycle and sometimes unconscious expected repetitive behaviors by the victim. some women have been made to interpret violence as love, care, etc which has made them to believe a loving man is one who abuses them or is violent towards them. some people live the experience for so long that it becomes normal to them, but that does not make the act right neither does it mean the abused likes being abused. i expected you to have pointed that out, instead of posting a misleading silly post. N.N. you are not the first person i have come across talking something so dumb as this "No woman, No human being likes being abused" Let this stick in your head.
Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker, a licensed marriage and family counselor who specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education, also explains some of these expected unconscious repetitive behavior and reasons why women stay in controlling and abusive relationships .
Justifying Violence Through the Bible
There is this other story that breaks my heart. The woman involved had made it clear she can not go back to living with her poor mother in a dilapidated house. She cannot provide for her son and her mother so it is better to stay in an abusive relationship because there will be no one to support her if she lives.
She is with this man though they are not legally married, and they have two boys. The first one is about 3 years old while the second is about 9 months. When she gave birth to the second child, it was just about two weeks passed when her partner – out of ego, wickedness, hatred, and anger, got her severely beaten, accusing her of leaving the chicks hungry.
She probably would have been killed had his relatives not intervened. She was so brutally beaten that her earring sunk into her ear and a plumber was called to have it removed.
After this violent incident she then explained it is not the first time this happened; she got beaten severely a few weeks after she gave birth to her first son. What was more pathetic and disgusting was how he beat her up in front of her son and her step children. When the man was pulled away by intense force from the woman, he then began advising his children that violence is not wrong.
He argued that violence is in the Bible and it is acceptable.
He justified his violent actions using his twisted understanding of the Bible when Jesus said, he quoted, “The kingdom of God suffered violence and the violent shall take it by force” (Mathew 11:12)
What was more sickening about this whole incident was that the children had actually copied what their father did and his whole advice of violence as a justified act. This manifested itself in the 3 year-old boy when his mother punished him with a spank for doing something she had told him over and over not to do. He told his mother that if she ever touches him again he will tell his dad to beat her up like he had beaten her the other time.
This man’s history of abusing women is a long one. His first legally married wife had escaped because he had threatened to harm her and chased her with a knife. She escaped leaving behind her children.
The woman who left is viewed as a bad woman for leaving and is equally being blamed.
This same man keeps “insulting” his brother who respects women, calls him a weak man and finds the fact that his brother cooks, does laundry, and loves his fiancée as degrading and unmanly.
Looking at the man’s violent behavior, people blame the women who date him asking whether those women do not have a mind of their own to think a man whose wife escapes after being abused, chased with a knife, is not a man to either date or marry?
I have often tried to make those who accuse women who date or marry abusers of being stupid to understand that anyone can be faced with such a problem or be in such a situation, and also because many victims can be further abused or even killed after leaving abusive relationships by their partners as Susan G.S McGee explains in her article 20 Reasons Why She Stays: A Guide for Those Who Want to Help Battered women.
While Mothers Mourn in Pain
What should be done is helping the victims by having a strong support system which does not even exist in Cameroon, there is none I know of. This woman – like most women, has often wondered where to live after that and cannot stand the fact that her children will be handed to the man since children are considered to be the man’s children by law as from seven years if the couple are not married; as they say, “Paternity is by blood and not by marriage”.
Public justification drawn from the story of Abraham and his blessing with many descendants in the Bible is also used as another reason to hand children to the fathers while they mothers mourn in pain. Even if the children were to be handed to her, she will have no means of providing for them.
By the way, how many support groups, trained therapists are there working with abused women? How many abused or helpless women’s shelters do we have in Cameroon? How secure do abused Cameroonian women feel?
Who is there to assure them that they love them, support them, and tell them that it is not their fault to a have been married to an abusive man or that it is not their fault that they get abused and should not feel lost and ashamed?
Why Women Stay: Patriarchal Traditional Norms
Most women, because of patriarchal norms and ideas, see no need of building a house of their own. The men themselves find it degrading to live in a house built by a woman.
To teach that it is not bad for a woman to build a house, I always talk using myself as an example, aspiring to be an independent woman living in a home built by me only to be told in a declaring tone that I shall live in my husband’s house. I let people know it is not living in a particular person’s house that matters, it is about living where we are comfortable and happy as a family.
Most women fear not being able to have a partner if they are independent, have a house and property of their own, so they shrink their ambitions and visions only to be the ones suffering at the end for sacrificing their success due to fear of not having a man who will marry them.
Unmarried women in Cameroon are always viewed negatively and suspiciously, and often have to fight as hard as they can to get the respect they deserve from others – their efforts to get respect involves marriage.
Every Woman Deserves to be Respected
It always needs to be emphasized that every woman, whether married or not, deserves to be respected.
Women should be made to understand that being single and happy is better than hurrying to marry a man who will end up being your worst nightmare: a man who will continually use you as his punching bag.
To support women to become independent, such discriminatory acts of making male children sole heirs and giving the male children lands where they can build houses, telling the female ones that they shall live in houses built by their husbands – should be stopped.
Most people believe that a woman should not be as successful as a man or even more successful. This ideology often does not help women because they often get toasted and are forced to stay in abusive relationships because they depend on the man more than they know, and only realize things are rough on their paths when things really get bad for them or sometimes totally get out of control.
Both girls and boys should be encouraged and taught to be independent and own property – and aspire that they are working to be the head of the family.
The Cameroon government should look into this issue of violence domestic against women and address it. More should be done to help women grow through national and community-led women empowerment programs. The perpetrators of violence against women should be given maximum punishment because when this is done, abusers will be afraid to act at any given opportunity because they will know serious punishment awaits them.
Women should be taught to know that they have worth and not feel like second-class citizens.
What I hate the most is when people just blame when they can’t even offer the slightest help or support.