Spousal harassment, unmentioned societal issue
Beatrice Nyinawumuntu, not real names, reported a case at the the directorate of Anti-GBV and Child abuse office in Rwanda National Police, about psychological harassment she's facing at the hands of her husband.
According to Nyinawumuntu, she is suffering from psychological torture from her husband, who accuses her of "all sorts of bad things including infidelity."
“When we got married, we loved each other; but ever since I got a job and started working, my husband started showing signs of insecurity and accused me of many wrong things. He began abusing me physically and ordered me to always get back home before 6pm,” the mother of three narrated.
“I thought this would end but what surprised me is that one weekend, we attended a wedding together. However, he left me there without informing me and went back home. I thought he was still at the wedding with me, but when it got late, I tried to call him but he was not picking. I decided to go back home, but when I got there; I found the house locked. He was inside but he refused to open for me," she added.
It was until Police intervened, in the middle of the night after she reported the matter, that Nyinawumuntu gained access inside her house, although officers also faced resistance that required them to get in forcefully.
According to this victim, at the time, she feared that the husband could as well hurt their children, who were at the time screaming from inside apparently for their mother who was crying from outside begging her husband to let her in.
“We were forced to break the door and enter. We found that the husband had locked himself in a room with three children, one of whom was only six months old and in desperate need of the mother’s care,” Superintendent Beline Mukamana, Director for Anti Gender-Based Violence and Child Abuse directorate at Rwanda National Police, said.
This is one of the many cases that at times go unmentioned or reported, sometimes resulting into other forms of bloody domestic violence.
Spousal abuse is a problem that is entrenched in many societies all over the world and Rwanda is no exception.
Superintendent Mukamana believes that although societal awareness and condemnation of the problem has increased, spousal abuse remains a hidden problem in society.
Statistics indicate that the Directorate of Anti Gender-Based Violence and Child Abuse handles at least 15 similar cases every month, although it is believed that many victims don't break silence on such violences they face.
Superintendent Mukamana, however, notes that these statistics are higher compared to the past, which is attributed to increased education and public awareness of the devastating impacts of spousal abuse.
“It is hidden and most times repetitive because of the power and control held by the abuser and the fear, intimidation and humiliation suffered by the victim,” she says.
“Spousal abuse often occurs in married relationships, whereby one partner seeks to dominate and exert power over the other. In doing so, the relationship often deteriorates and may become violent.”
Such violence is usually emotional, verbal, psychological, financial, physical and sexual in common abuses experienced in married relationships.
She explained that some victims are held back by traditional beliefs, to break the silence.
“Police stations across the country have a mandate to follow up and combat all criminal cases including those related to gender based violence and spousal abuse in particular. We also have specialized officers who deal with such cases of domestic violence and also reach out to sensitize communities and help victims,” she says.
“When such cases are not solved, they end up in regrettable circumstances, including extreme violence, rape, and child abandonment and in the worst scenario, murder.”
She strongly urged victims of spousal abuse not to feel as though they are to blame, but to come out and report in order to foster Police intervention.
“Once one partner starts to experience such abuse, they need to report immediately; otherwise, this abuse is likely to escalate into more frequent and serious attack,” she notes.
"Everyone should come out to strongly condemns spousal abuse like other crimes."