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Interest on the effects of domestic violence has increased recently. However, only a few studies have attended to its effects on the witnesses, that is, Nigerian young people in family setting particularly the girl child. This article examines the perceptions, experiences, and the various ways in which the occurrence of domestic violence have shaped the lives of Nigerian young girls. It uses data emerging from a survey with the use of questionnaire administered to 150 in-school and out of school young girls in bwari area council Abuja FCT to examine the effects of domestic violence on them. Findings suggest that the experiences of respondents exert considerable influence on their perceptions of violence, family life and significantly shaped their decision as relates to choosing a life partner. The study concludes that domestic violence is indeed a social problem that affects Nigerian girl child in the family setting. It recommends the involvement of various stakeholders including counselors, religious and community groups, government as well as other institutions to focus on propagating anti-domestic violence enlightenment programmes that discourage violence in family setting.
BACKGROUND TO STUDY
Globally, domestic violence is a significant problem and one of the most pervasive human rights challenges especially for the most parts of African societies where issues relating to partners violence are largely treated as hidden phenomena (Izugbara et al., 2008).
While some intimate relationships can be pleasurable and fulfilling, others may be characterized by assaultive and coercive behaviours including physical, sexual, psychological attacks, and economic coercion which are hazardous to the individual’s physical and emotional wellbeing (Domestic Violence Facts, 2007; Adebayo and Kolawole, 2013).
In most cases, domestic violence consists of individuals who are married, cohabiting or as same sex couples (UNICEF, 2006). Despite the prevalence of under-reported cases of domestic violence affirmed in previous studies (Durose et al., 2005; Saidi et al., 2008; Olabode and Abayomi, 2013; Adebayo and Kolawole, 2013), a global report identified one in every five women to have been confronted with one form of violent attack (WHO, 2005). In Nigeria, over 65 per cent of educated women and 55 per cent of low income women are subjected to domestic violence (Abayomi, 2013). More importantly, studies have found that people who witness subsequent domestic violence often suffer from tension, guilt, anxiety, despair or from what sociologists describes as ‘‘cradle of violence’’ (Gelles and Straus, 1988) or a ‘‘haven in a heartless world’’ (Lasch,1977:216). As documented previously, over 275 million children worldwide were globally reported to have witnessed and consequently exposed to domestic violence (UNICEF, 2006). Similarly, in a US based study, about 15.5 million children were reported to be living in households experiencing domestic violence (Mc Donald et. al., 2006). Furthermore, it has been argued that families with continued marital conflicts are likely to produce children who are vulnerable to problems of personality adjustment or abnormalities (Carlson, 2000; Abayomi, 2013) and considered vulnerable to a range of short and long term physical, mental, and sexual consequences (Carlson, 2000; Borgat et. al., 2006; Aihie, 2009; Abayomi and Olabode, 2013).
In the Nigerian society there is shocking news of domestic violence everywhere. If the news is not about the growing trend of “baby making factories” dotting the nooks and crannies of Nigeria, it may be about a husband killing the wife or wife killing the husband. Sometimes, it may be about a father violating his daughter by sexually abusing her. Nigerian women are beaten, raped and even murdered by members of their own family for a supposed transgression, which can range from not having meals ready on time to visiting family members without their husband’s permission. Some women even experience acid attacks from their husbands or boyfriends which cause extreme pain ordisfigurement, sometimes leading to the death of the victims. Domestic violence affects all social groups in the society and can consist of physical, sexual, emotional, economic and psychological abuse (America Psychiatric Association 2005, p. 1 and Oifig an Tánaiste, 1997, p. 141). Although men can also be victims of domestic violence (Denis 2014), women and children suffer it most.
The prevalent culture of silence and stigmatization of victims of domestic violence hinders public acknowledgment of the problem. There is an urgent need to challenge the social prejudices and the institutional structures of the Nigerian society in order to protect women, not just from danger, but also from ridicule, fear and isolation. The Nigerian Government as well as Nigerian Christians should rise to the occasion and find ways to tackle the menace of domestic violence. Typically, the police have been reluctant to intervene in incidents involving domestic violence; they prefer to regard the family as a private realm. Erroneously, wife beating is considered a “private affair” of the home. Wife battering is “culturally” acceptable; it is considered as a “normal way of life” and even as a “sign of love” (Nwankwo, 2003, p. 5). In other African societies domestic violence is viewed as a private issue between spouses which does not call for legal intervention. Women continue to suffer in silence and even accept domestic violence in their marriages as part of their destiny (Curran and Bonthuys, 2004). This is rather unfortunate for such women to accept this cruelty as their destiny.
Domestic violence is the intentional and persistent abuse of anyone in the home in a way that causes pain, distress or injury. It is a common occurrence throughout Nigeria and “wears many faces”. It involves disrespect and powerlessness that runs through women’s lives. It is a violation of human rights (Nwankwo, 2003, p. 7). It refers to any abusive treatment of one’s family member by another, thus violating the law of basic human rights. It includes battering of intimate partners and others, sexual abuse of children, marital rape and traditional practices that are harmful to women (Ahiie, 2009, p. 1). The revelation from these definitions is that domestic violence is usually a deliberate action and not a mistake or an act of the devil
STATEMENT OF PROBLEM
This has been found to be particularly true for young people who witnessed domestic violence (Abraham and Jewkes; Gupta et al., 2008). In addition, studies have found that such children often develop some levels of emotional and behavioural problems which may include adolescence delinquency and feelings of insecurity as they grow up (Alexandra, 2005; Stanley, 2011). While previous literature on family and domestic violence have centered focus on the devastating effects of domestic violence on women and the manner in which violence is perpetrated among married and cohabiting couple, little is known about the effect of the violent acts on the witnesses especially the children of such families most especially the girl child.
In Nigeria, studies on domestic or intimate partners violence and its effects on girl child witnessing it has hardly been established. Therefore, the present study examines the effects of domestic violence on girl child growing up within the family setting.
The broad objective of the study is to determine the impact of domestic violence on the girl child. Specifically the research objective are:
- To determine what the sampled girl children understand about domestic violence.
- To know whether they have experienced or witnessed any form of domestic violence, and how such experiences shaped the various aspects of their lives.
The research questions raised for this study are:
- What is the perspective of girl children on domestic violence?
- How has domestic violence shaped the various aspects of the lives of girl children?
SIGNIFICANCE OF STUDY
This study on completion will provide relevant information effects of domestic violence on girl child growing up within the family setting to policy makers and organizations interested in the welfare of children.
SCOPE OF THE STUDY
The study looks at the impact of domestic violence on girl child bwari area council in Abuja as case study. The study covers in-school and out-of school girl children in this area.
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