Just yesterday, I had to suffer through tweets saying women stay in abusive relationships because they enjoy sex with their abusive partners.
Of course I scoffed at this flawed reasoning. Funny enough, the whole conversation did not trigger anything until a few hours ago when I was reminiscing over events in Ghana with my sister.
My sister is one person I admire wholly. She is smart, beautiful, and brave. I will go out of my way to say she is my favourite feminist.
I learnt from her not to take crap from anyone (male or female but especially male) because I’m a girl. No sir, she will speak up and fight right back for justice.
Anyway, so I had decided to not get involved in this issue but during our conversation, she made mention of the night she dared my uncle to hit me again so she reported him to the police for abuse.
For a split moment, I did not know what she was talking about. Then I remembered.
It was on a weekday evening, I believe, and my cousin and I were studying on the balcony with my uncle watching Good Evening Ghana in the hall. I do not recall what my cousin and I were talking about but this man insisted we were making fun of him and called us in to beat us. But for my sister who stopped him and threatened to call the police, I am sure my cousin and I would have been badly injured that night. I was about 11 years then.
How is this related to claiming victims of abuse stay in relationships because of sex?
I was surprised I had blocked that out of my memory until my sister mentioned it. Coping mechanism, if you will. That was my uncle’s behaviour. I will say fortunately for me, I only got hit by him once but my other cousins were not as lucky. He would lock them up in the toilet sometimes for hours so they starve in there, let them out later and beat them up. We were all scared of him. Absolutely terrified.
Although he lived in the same building with us, in my mind, he did not exist. So I could have some sense of normalcy.
An aunt who cared for us children, used to make fun of us and say we deserved to be beaten up and would often times taunt us saying she was going to call him to beat us up.
Victims of abuse stay because they have no one to run to. Like my aunt, perhaps family and friends make them believe they deserve it instead of getting them help or encouraging them to leave.
Victims of abuse often stay because although it is not an ideal situation, they can have a safe space in their head. A world where they do not have to be reduced to nothing. A world where their abusers do not exist. A world where they are happy.
I know those reasons are why neither of my cousins thought of reporting the abuse we suffered at the hands of our uncle. But there certainly are much more complex reasons why victims stay.
And sometimes, until someone speaks up for them like my sister did for us, they will only stay and endure what is now the norm for them.
If you are truly concerned about victims of abuse, do speak up for them and not make utterly ridiculous conclusions nor mock them like my aunt did.