In 2003, the world welcomed one of the most iconic books ever written, Purple Hibiscus, written by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Abuse is one of the recurring themes in the literature, exemplified by Eugene Achike’s maltreatment of his family: beating, kicking and almost killing Kambili for having a painting of her grandfather —a heathen, beating his wife and smashing a table on her stomach in one instance, causing her to have a miscarriage, disfiguring Jaja’s finger for missing two questions on his catechism test etc We also see this theme in the maltreatment doled out by the Nigerian military after the coup.
It is pertinent to point out that abuse extends beyond the physical manifestations, it can also be emotional or verbal.
That said, abuse is any act or attempt to hurt or control another human against their will. There is most times, an element of control in abuse, as shown by Eugene and the Nigerian military in Purple Hibiscus. This control or power play is seen in individuals who use one, some, or all forms of abuse, to influence another’s behavior. Although it cuts across all genders, women are usually and most likely the major victims.
Questionnaire And Outcome
I posted a questionnaire on the subject and its accompanying consequences, when I set out to write this. Had my friend Mike, a Ghanaian, do same. We got several replies, all from ladies, and I’m grateful to everyone who bravely shared their stories and insight. It made me realize how deep the waters of abuse run, and how badly it affects or has affected us. (It is disturbing that no guy responded to the questionnaire, and when I mentioned this, Mike said, “aren’t we oriented to face our pain as men?” A statement I totally agree with, and one I will find ways to correct in the future. If we get men to open up more about cases of abuse and hurt, and have them reorient themselves, maybe the statistics Pisniq shared, on the increasing rate of suicide among men, will feature a decline.)
Some of the ladies reported being sexually harassed, others emotionally and verbally, only a few reported being abused physically. A few of the ladies stated how being subjected to sexual harassment marred or influenced their sexual preference.
Some of the negative consequences of abuse are: self harm/mutilation, suicide, addiction to sex and/or alcohol, timidity and low self esteem, craving attention/love from all the wrong places and people, PTSD, a general distrust for people, depression etc
More On Abuse
Abuse might come in physical, emotional, verbal, sexual, financial, digital or other varying and toxic forms. Nigeria is rife with individuals and institutions practicing and/or promoting this daily:
In families: There are abundant cases of domestic violence, rape/incest, and an overwhelming occurrence of emotional, verbal and financial abuse. Technically, the average Nigerian family is probably the most toxic and abusive social unit in Nigeria.
Institutions and others: Growing up in Nigeria is not just an extreme sport, but also one of the most herculean things any individual can do. All our institutions are set to abuse you in one way or the other: there are myriad cases of rape, false arrest, physical abuse and extrajudicial killings by law enforcement agents; corporal punishment, verbal abuse and sexual harassment in the religious institutions; sexual harassment, corporal punishment, verbal and emotional harassment in workplaces and potential workplaces; physical, verbal, emotional and sexual abuse in schools, and a mix of all the abuses, meted out on the streets, in relationships, motor parks and other public places.
A certain percentage of us are Kambili, abused and maltreated by the ones who claim to love us, the ones we adore and revere, beaten into silence and seeing life only in terms of abuse; while some of us are Jaja, striving to attain the sort of perfection that only us and God’s son are considered capable of, yet our abusers, unsatisfied, clip pieces of us until we become rivulets of faint memories; a certain number still, like Mama, hold on to the idea of forever and faith in social institutions, royalties grateful for crumbs, bleeding hopes, living numbed, like all the dreams people and society smashed out of our hearts; a certain portion still, are market women, wearily wearing hearts on wares, they who came to save us only doubled the pain, and increased the nails on our hands and feet.
There is no perfect ending for an imperfect piece like this, but I sincerely hope healing finds all victims and survivors of abuse; It is my sincere desire too that we get more proactive in providing speedy and adequate medical attention to the survivors, and also increase the campaign to curtail GBV and other forms of abuse, while strengthening institutions to serve justice to all concerned.
Written by Christopher Nwankwo