THE EXPERIENCES OF WOMEN VICTIMIZED BY DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
In a survey conducted in 2010 by a district education office in Kenya obtained information on the incidence of domestic violence in Kenya. The survey indicated that violence against women is widespread and occurs among all social economic groups. There is however lack of information on accurate estimates of domestic violence against women due to largely unreported cases. In America, a national survey conducted among 6000 families concluded that a significant number of men assaulted their spouses. (FIDA Kenya 2010) Domestic violence has been a long-standing problem in Kenya, particularly in rural areas. A study conducted in 2003 explored the factors associated with physical and sexual abuse, on a sample of 4,876 married women aged 15-49 years in the Kenya demographic survey. The results indicated that almost half of the married women interviewed reported at least one type of violence 36% was physical and 13 % were sexual. (FIDA Kenya 2009) Various factors contribute to high occurrence of domestic violence against women. This includes economic factors that render women sorely dependent on their husband. Economic dependency diminishes a woman’s ability to have a say in a relationship or take action in the occurrence of domestic abuse. Cultural factors also contribute to the marginalization of women making it more acceptable for domestic violence to exist in the society. Lack of effective government initiatives discourages women from seeking protection. Social acceptances of domestic violence against women and deeply engrained cultural beliefs on the inferiority of women as well as gender roles have encouraged the practice. (Cooper et al. 2005, 120.) Ujamii Society in Kenya is a Non-government organization organized by women for women. The purpose for the organization is to create a helpline for women who have been abused and suffered from advanced effect of domestic violence. The organization offers legal representatives to the buttered women as well as psychological and physical therapy. 5
2. THE UJAMII SOCIETY
This study was conducted through Ujamii society, a program that works directly with the domestic violent victimized women. Ujamii Society is a Non-government organization that was established with the purpose of creating a helpline for women who have been abused and suffered from advanced effect of domestic violence. The organization offers legal representatives to the buttered women as well as psychological and physical therapy. Ujamii society is financed by the central government through CDF (constituency development fund). Constituency development fund was introduced by the central government to fund local municipalities with the purpose of enabling the local government’s finance their individual needs. Due to high prevalence in domestic violence, Nairobi municipality felt the need to create a sanctuary for women who experienced domestic violence. Ujamii society co-operates with the police, district attorneys and family counseling centers and other organizations that advocate for women. (Ujamii society 2010) Ujamii society prevents violation against women by their male spouses by offering an alternative and empowering the women. The goal is to help the women from abuse through refuge, counseling, collecting information and experiences about the abuse and legal representation. The project also aims at developing services that teach selfeconomic dependency for the women. The purpose of the Ujamii society is to increase the security of all the family members and to direct them to places where they can get help through counseling. The goal is to stop the violence and to help the women to change their attitudes so that they can live in equal relationships. (Ujamii Society Kenya) The activities in Ujamii society work process include phone services where battered women voluntarily contact the organization for help. After the first phone contact, they arrange an individual meeting with the client where the process starts, depending on the client’s situation and the help needed, the client is referred to self-help groups within the organization where the women share and exchange experiences and how to stop the abuse. The services are confidential. 6 The women at Ujamii society share common experiences of spouse abuse. Various approaches are used by Ujamii society staff to equip the women with coping skills. Sharing experiences with individuals whom have shared a similar situation is considered to be a mile stone in the healing process. Various activities are organized by the institution as well as by the women themselves in order to facilitate self-expression. These activities include; sewing, baking as well as pottery. The activities also provide distraction and necessary skills that some of the women may need for self-employment. The women are grouped according to their progress into small help groups where they can share stories and experiences with others on the same path. The institution also offers one on one counseling services where by the victims are offered weekly sessions with professional counselors. Self-help groups offer the women an opportunity to share their deepest feelings and experiences without the fear of ridicule. This in return equips individual persons with coping skills and alternative ideals that help them acquire self-esteem, economic independence, among other life transforming skills. The groups are particularly important tools that help the women in the healing process. In one particular meeting, a respondent described how physical abuses from her spouse begin from jealousy. (Ujamii Society 2010) Involving battered women in self-help groups is a crucial step in helping them to heal and seek solutions to their domestic problems. The women are able to get motional release from their frustrations and other problems whenever they have an opportunity to tell someone about them. Counseling history consistently shows that as persons begin to explain their problems to a sympathetic listener, their tensions begin to subside. They become more relaxed and tend to become more coherent and rational. The release of tensions does not necessarily mean that the solution to the problem has been found, but it does help remove mental blocks in the way of a solution. (Mills 2008, 330.) 7 The other process involves one on one counseling sessions where every individual woman is assigned to a counselor. Counseling is defined as a developmental process, in which one individual (the counselor) provides to another individual or group (the client), guidance and encouragement, challenge and inspiration in creatively managing and resolving practical, personal and relationship issues, in achieving goals, and in self-realization (Eagan 2006, 308.) Through counseling process, the councilors are able to help the women confirm or make informed and voluntary decisions about their individual life. Informed choice is a voluntary, well-considered decision that an individual makes on the basis of options, information, and understanding. The decision making process should result in a free and informed decision by the individual woman about whether they desires to implement a desirable option. (Geldard 2002, 250-254.) The objective of counseling is to give the client support in dealing with problems so that they will regain the ability to rationalize effectively in the situation at hand. Counseling helps the women enter back into their marriage if they wish to, with as much information as is reasonably possible about themselves as individuals, their respective families and personal integrity. Counseling provides the women with reassurance, which can be a valuable, though sometimes temporary, cure for a client’s emotional upsets which will allow the women to function normally and pursue their goals.
3. DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
Domestic violence is defined as physical or psychological abuse directed toward a spouse or domestic partner; usually violence by men against women. It is a behavior used by one person in a relationship to control the other. Partners may be married or not married, living together, separated or dating. People in intimate relationships sometimes tend to disagree. Disagreements arise mostly on gender-based issues for instance division of duties and on the rights of individual partner. People from different cultures have different ways solving their domestic problems. (Itzin 2010, 224.) Domestic Violence against women in Kenya goes largely unnoticed. It consists of a pattern of coercive behaviors used by a competent partner to establish and maintain power and control over their spouses. These behaviors, which can occur alone or in combination, sporadically or continually, include physical violence, psychological abuse, and non-consensual sexual behavior. Each incident builds upon previous episodes, thus setting the stage for future violence. Psychological abuse includes threats of physical harm to the spouse or others, intimidation, coercion, degradation and humiliation, false accusations, and ridicule. Stalking may occur during a relationship, or after a relationship has ended. In many relationships, insults are the most tangible evidence of the detailed work of power that aims at controlling, managing and hurting a spouse. Insults are used as a normalizing and punishing technique, and as such, they are an essential part of the discipline that aims at subjugating and dominating the other. More than half of the women in violent relationships report that men have humiliated and put them down with offensive words. In some relationships, insults are used in the power struggle. (Nicolson et al.2010, 5.)
4. PHYSICAL ABUSE
Physical abuse refers to any behavior that involves the intentional use of force against the body of another person that risks physical injury, harm and or pain. Physical abuse or assault is the most obvious form of Domestic Violence, and it is the most visible. Assaults often start small, maybe a small shove during an argument, or forcefully grabbing of the wrist, but over time, physical abuse (or battering) usually becomes more severe, and more frequent, and can result in the death of the victim. (Mills 2008, 338.) Physical abuse includes, pushing, hitting, slapping, choking, using an object to hit, twisting of a body part, forcing the ingestion of unwanted substances, and use of a weapon. Physical abuse also includes traditional practices harmful to women such as female genital mutilation and wife inheritance.
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