buse is when people maltreat each other against set ethical norms. Most abusers have reasons, from a religious belief system, a cultural norm, or simply from being nurtured by someone who believe abuse is okay based on religious or cultural standards. Abuse could be physical, this is when a body part battered/shoved with an object or bare hands. It could also be emotional, this is when words are used to hurt another, when abusive words are used over time and repeatedly (especially in early human development or to psychologically break a person), the results are often worse than physical abuse whose wound heal eventually. An abusive situation is called Domestic, when it occurs between a husband and a wife.
I have written on domestic abuse among Diaspora Africans many times, I remember one time about 6-8 years ago writing about the 10 women killed in a two calender year period, by their African husbands (9 Nigerians and 1 Liberian) – I saw those pictures circulating again recently (as if they are new). In December 2013, we had a house guest and our topic was mostly focused on Domestic abuse back home in Nigeria. Last week I received an email (from an American friend who have a habit of sending Nigerian relationship news to me) about a Nigeria doctor in Dallas TX who was killed by her husband, who is old enough to be her dad. As I inquired into the story, I realized that the degree of separation I have from this person is not much, because of the alumni association of one of the schools she attended.
Since the last time I wrote about domestic abuse, I have dealt with it in counseling, so it has not gone away totally, but we’ve not had any death (to my knowledge) in the Nigerian Diaspora community (in America), until Dr. Isioma Ebegbodi’s death in March 2014.
For those of us who’s nurturing was primarily in Nigeria, our view the family structure is a bit misplaced, especially when compared with biblical teachings which many of us professes. In the typical Nigeria religious home, the headship of the man is often interpreted as a superior and the submission of the woman is seen as inferior. The man raised in such home is told that to maintain his home, he must be "firm" with his wife – being firm include abuse (both physical and emotional – silent treatment), he must not communicate with her rather he is to tell her what to do (based on the assumption that women are stupid), he is to exact his influence using money as a means of control. Unfortunately, the woman raised in such environment are also taught how to manipulate to get what she wants.
With better understanding of scripture (particularly when paralleled with cultural norms) and education, hence financial freedom for women, the status-quo is now challenged in Nigeria (and Africa generally) and more so in America, because the woman in such country have a legal recourse when physically abused (the #6 cause of death in America among women – Domestic Abuse). In America, the abused spouse (mostly women) can dial 911 on their phone and in most states (mine included), if there is evidence (determined by the officer) the abusive spouse is taken into custody immediately, unfortunately, the larger Nigerian community often blame the woman for calling the cops or 911, but pay lip service or don’t do much when the abuse is occurring (mostly in plain sight).
I do not believe that the most restrictive laws would eliminate domestic abuse (just like racism), it is a matter of the heart and only a mindset change based on Godly truth can renew such ungodly mindsets. As I wrote earlier those of us in leadership particularly church and secular organizations, we must have forums for men and women only and forums for couples, our conversations cannot just be an emotional nonsense (which avoids the main issue) but dig deep into bible vs. cultural teachings, and how to help someone who desires help (not everyone want help) – some solutions might require therapy sessions while some might just be a simple “aha moment”.
Without going into an epistle with this article, it is abundantly clear to me that abuse of any kind (physical or emotional) is not of God, but an invention of human’s sinful nature. The bible equates our marriage relationship to Christ and the Church, and when we examine how Christ lead the church, what we find is leadership by example, which breeds trust and willful submission, not the strong-arm or phobic leadership often used by the devil. As the Church continues to commit adultery with other gods, Christ gently beckons us to repent, not grieve the Holy Spirit within us and to develop an intimate relationship.
Domestic abuse is not an African culture, it became a norm based on human sinful nature used to maintain a Patriarchal society (like anywhere else in the world), for it to work women had to be uneducated and dependent on the husband financially, so when daughters started getting educated and having financial freedom, chaos now reigns not only among Diaspora Africans but among those back home too, this in itself indicated that such a model cannot be (is not) from God.
The leadership of the man is not based on any culture (African or Western), rather because a god God, who knows all things, said the man shall be the head of the marriage and family institution, the same God clearly spell out that headship is not a superior/inferior relationship, but a leader among equal in essence and creation (as He distributes Fruit and Gifts equally – see Joel 2 and Acts 2). Other creations of God are either superior or inferior to humans, Angels are temporarily superior to humans (till we get our new body after physical death or taken up into heaven) while animals are inferior to humans in essence/creation.
To effectively change the cultural mindset on Domestic Abuse, there must be a concerted campaign (media and educational) in very many circles, where the differences in men and women are taught, where the truth of the bible is taught, where zero tolerance is in place for leaders who abuses his/her spouse, where the community frowns (temporal consequence) on the abusive spouse and not condemn a spouse who calls the police to save his/her life.
My condolence to the family of Dr. Isioma Ebegbodi and it is my prayer that those in leadership (pastors, men’s leader at church, cultural association presidents, alumni associations, etc.) would take sometime this summer or fall to educate or have a forum on the subject, from Europe to America to Australia to the Middle-East. It is extremely important for those of us who represent Christ, as we either bring shame or our actions bring Glory to our Father in heaven.