Mwaka Mwandwe :
“My neighbour and her husband always fight physically. They have been married for several years with children. The problem is they fight in front of their children. We also cannot interfere because we are scared that if they reconcile we will be blamed for interfering in their marriage. ”
Intimate partner violence is very common across the world, in most cases it is often seen to have an aggressor and a victim. In the situation above, this appears to be mutual violence against each other which is a tricky situation but not completely unmanageable by a concerned neighbour.
Firstly, as a neighbour you must not establish learned helplessness because you fear being blamed for interfering because the outcomes of doing nothing are far more serious than receiving blame. At one point or another intimate partner violence may escalate into fatality for either of the partners and imprisonment.
The children are being accustomed to viewing violence as a component of a home structure and may likely adopt that behavioural pattern in their homes, they may grow up as anti-social beings who can’t seem to fit into society or productively contribute to it, the list is endless for how horribly wrong this situation could end for both the parents and children if as a neighbor you play by the bystander effect of hoping someone else will make a difference.
The cost of seeing change or bringing positivity to a situation is often met with rejection but we do not give up because we know and understand the end goal is towards the well being of others.
What can be done: a couple of things really. The first is to ask yourself what kind of friendship you have with your neighbours, which one are you closer to? Have you tried to speak to them about getting some form of help, yes not everyone can afford a family counsellor but church leaders or family elders come with zero cost and can step in to find the root of their misunderstandings and how they can solve them without being physical?
In all this do not forget the real victims, the Children, talk to them and help build their resilience in case the couple stays together but remains violent. Encourage and reinforce their good behaviour and promote goal setting and being responsible in society, this can be done in partnership with their school teachers who may need to offer extra attention to children from such homes to help build their confidence and good character. Get the children involved in some form of service or youth group.
You also want to involve the police, even as an anonymous report, about the situation your neighbours, are going through. At that point, let the LAW step in with the way forward for the two.
It is encouraged to get the whole family together and have everyone, especially the children freely talk about how the violence in the home makes them feel.
Otherwise, sitting and doing nothing only perpetuates more violence and more anti-social children who may end up being violent themselves, not only to their partners but other members of the society. It is basically, everyone’s problem.
Mwaka C. Mwandwe holds a BA in Psychology and History from the University of Zambia. She has been passionate about public health since she was 18 years old with key interest toward Adolescents and inclined to behavioral change and social justice. Her work experience, mainly in the NGO sector, have been bordered on Sexual Reproductive Health, life skills, human rights and promotion of Gender Equality. She loves to read varieties of books, watch movies and subtitled series. Her favorite pet is a cat and if she had the chance, she would declare a world junk food day so she can proudly store chocolate for it. She has been Volunteer Manager for SAFIGI since 2016
SAFIGI Outreach Foundation Ltd is a not for profit organization based in Zambia with a vision to raise a generation where girls are empowered, equipped and fulfilled in every aspect of their life, for the development of the entire world. To know more about SAFIGI’s goals and activities, visit http://www.safetyfirstforgirls.org