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Facts on Violence Against Women in Ghana (Part 2 of 2)

Gender Studies & Human Rights Documentation Centre

Facts on Violence Against Women in Ghana 

Table of Contents

Part One:

Introduction
Profile of Physical Violence in Ghana
Profile of Psychological Violence in Ghana
Sexual Violence
Traditional Practices as Violence
Economic Forms of Violence

Part Two:

Reporting
Reasons Why Women Were Physically or Psychologically Abused
Why do women stay in abusive relationships?
Perpetrator Profiling
What are your options?
Risk Assessments
The Do’s and Don’ts of helping victims of abuse

Reporting:

Reporting of violence is generally low. When women choose to talk about their experiences of violence, the study indicates that they prefer to report informally, to family, friends or members of the community.

 

 

When touched against their will

6 in 10 did not report
4 in 10 reported
* 46% to parents
* 29% to friends
* 18% to extended family
* 6% to school authorities
* 2% to minister/clergy/pastor
* 0.4% to chiefs and elders
* 0.4% to social welfare
 

 

When forced to touch a man’s private parts

7 in 10 did not report
3 in 10 did report
* 56 % to her own family
* 21% to friends
* 7% to social welfare
*7% to family of boyfriend
*4% to police
* 2% to church/shrine
* 2% to other (including husband)
 
When forced to have sex
7 in 10 did not report
3 in 10 did report
* 51% to parents
*30% to friends
* 18% to extended family
* 0.8% to chiefs/elders
* 0.8% to school authorities
* 3% to others
 

Sexual harassment by a teacher/principal

4 in 10 did not report
6 in 10 reported
* 51% to friends
*29% to parents
* 25% to school authorities

 

1 in 3 women lived with physical violence for years before making the first report

Shame *12% of women injured by the physical assault of a male partner did not seek treatment because they were embarrassed or shamed

*Almost 1 in 3 (31%) women did not report sexual violence out of shame

Shy/timid *1 in 4 women did not report their experiences of sexual violence because they were shy
Trivializing experiences of violence *1 in 4 women did not report their experiences of sexual violence because they felt there was not no need to 
Lack of confidence in reporting agencies *1 in 10 women felt that reporting would not help the situation 
Culture and social attitudes

The advice given to women when they reported physical violence was:

*34% were advised to talk to husbands or partners
*28 % were advised to be patient , tolerant, to forgive or to stay
*11% were advised to talk to family members
*11 % were advise to withdraw the case
*5% were advised to seek medical advice
*2% were advised to press charges
*9% were given other advice
4 in 10 women accepted the advice given out of respect for those offering the advice
Previous action taken against perpetrator *2 out of 3 perpetrators (65%) were given a verbal warning
*1 in 10 perpetrators had members of family talked to
*1 in 10 had no action taken against the perpetrator
*3% of perpetrators were arrested 
Financial cost *18% of women injured during a physical assault did not seek treatment because they had no money of their own
Fear *3 in 10 women did not accept the advice given to them when they reported out of feat of the consequence
*Over 2 in 10 women accepted the advice given to them when they reported for fear of divorce
*11% of women, who left their partners, did so out of fear for their lives 
 Family Pressure  *Almost 2 in 10 women (19%) did not leave their male partners who had been violent, due to pressure from family and friends
*Almost half of the women interviewed did not leave abusive partners because of children 

Reasons Why Women Were Physically or Psychologically Abused:

Study findings indicate that anything and everything can be and is used as an excuse to justify the use of violence against women

  • 33% of women  experienced violence because they were disobedient including refusing male partners sex, not washing his clothes, going out without permission, refusing to take instruction
  • 19% of women experienced physical violence because of infidelity and flirting including dancing with a husband’s friend and gifts for his girlfriend
  • Issues related to money and maintenance including refusing male partner money, asking for money and food shortages triggered violence for 12% of respondents
  • 14% of women were abused when they raised issues about male partner’s behaviour including confronting him about lateness, drunkenness, complaining about his behaviour
  • Rivalry including when a man goes in for a 2nd wife, was the reason behind physical violence for 7% of women
  • For 4% of women disagreements over children and the extended family triggered physical violence – including disagreements over the discipline of children
  • For 1% of women reproductive issues triggered violence including her practicing family planning
  • A breakdown in the relationship-including threats of divorce lead to abuse for 1% of women
  • 10% represented other reasons including misplacing his things, refusing to allow them to perform customary rites

 

Why Do Women Stay in Abusive Relationships:

Denial
Often, a woman truly may believe that she is not being abused. Women have been used to being treated as secondary citizens and they undergo so much abuse that they may end up thinking abusive behaviour is normal. She may have found ways to explain away the violence or feel that she can “handle” him and avoid serious incidents. At times she may actually feel that she contributes to the abuse.

Financial
Women often earn less money than men, or may not work outside of the home. For such a woman, the prospect of leaving home is a bleak one, a future with no roof over her head or without food. She knows that if she leaves the relationship she will have difficulties managing. Her partner may have reinforced these fears by telling her that he will not support her if she leavers. The issue becomes greater when there are children involved and a woman faces taking care of her children and paying school fees without any financial assistance. He may also threaten to make trouble for her at her work. At times the woman’s self esteem has been eroded so much that she believes that she is not good for anything and is not capable of doing things to support herself. For many women, the legal system is lengthy and may be too expensive for them to consider.

Fear
Abusive men commonly use threats as a means to keep someone in a relationship. A woman may have been told over and over that if she leaves the relationship, terrible things will happen to her. He may have told her that no matter where she goes, he will find her and never leave her alone. She may fear living alone or the prospect of trying to support herself and her children. He may threaten to kill her, the children or himself.

Love
A woman will usually want her relationship to work. She is often willing to stay in hopes that things will improve. She may believe the promises and explanations offered to her by her partner.

Children
Many women will stay in a relationship for the sake of their children. They may want their children to have a good relationship with their father, she will feel guilty about “breaking up” the family, he will threaten to keep the children away from her, or she will think that the only way to support her children is by staying in with her partner. Sometimes a woman thinks that the change of environment or standard of living may not be the best for her children.

Religion
Most religions strongly discourage divorce and the breaking up of a family. These ideals are admirable, but when there is abuse involved, there is little Biblical support remaining. A woman with strong religious convictions can feel an enormous amount of guilt if she leaves her marriage.

Family
Many women turn to their families when they are living in abusive relationships. Unfortunately, the advice encourages her to stay with her husband. Families may accept the violence as normal. In smaller communities, leaving the husband may mean that a woman cannot go out on her own, but has to go to her father’s home. This is not always the best option. Her father may discourage a divorce. Also, because of bride price, the family may consider the woman to be the property of the husband and that they would owe money or cattle to the man if she were to leave.

No place to go
By the time she decides to leave, her abuser may have succeeded in isolating her from her family and friends. She may feel that she has nowhere to go. She may be embarrassed to ask strangers for help and is reluctant to go to a shelter. Few modern shelters exist in Ghana. Many women may not know that a shelter exists or know where to go for help.

 

Perpetrator Profiling:

Danger Signs for Men

If you are presently involved in an intimate relationship and you show any of the following signs, you may be at risk of becoming an abusive man. If you…

  • Are excessively jealous of your partner
  • Criticise what she does and she wears
  • Like to scare her by doing reckless things
  • Become very angry about trivial things
  • Tend to be depressed or withdrawn, but won’t talk about your feelings
  • Come from an abusive home
  • Become angry or violent when using drugs or alcohol
  • Have traditional ideas about what a woman should be like and should do
  • Make threats about hitting her, her friends or pets, or killing yourself
  • Have hit her, no matter how sorry you are afterwards

Warning Signals for Women

If you are involved in an intimate relationship, you could become a victim of abuse if you…

  • Feel you can’t live without him
  • Stop seeing other friends or family
  • Give up activities you enjoy because he doesn’t like them
  • Feel you have to “walk on eggshells” to keep the peace
  • Are afraid to tell him your worries and feelings about the relationship
  • Stop expressing opinions if he does not agree
  • Feel that you are the only one who can help him and that you should try to “reform” him
  • Believe that his jealousy is a sign of love
  • Believe that there is something wrong with you if you don’t enjoy the sexual things he makes you do.
  • Believes that the man makes the decisions and the woman pleases the man

 

What are your options?

As an abused woman, there are three real choices that you have in dealing with your situation.

  • Stay in the relationship and accept it as it is. This is the most dangerous route. If you accept a violent relationship there is a great possibility that someone will die as a result. Some women are murdered. Other women get pushed to limit and commit murder. Still others commit suicide. If you stay, you must realise that the chances are great that your children will suffer emotional abuse. In addition, children may be suffering abuse either physically or sexually, where or not you are ware. They may die or they may become violent people.
  • Stay in the relationship and make changes. You cannot make the changes by yourself. Your partner must admit that he needs help. He needs to understand that it is wrong for him to hurt you or want to control you and that he must seek professional help to change. If he is willing to be held accountable for his use of violence, then it is possible for him to make a change. In order to make the change, he must find an environment that is non-violence, non-judgemental and respectful of women and children. Finally, he must be willing to work through a long process in which he must be painfully honest with himself.

You need someone to talk to either a professional or other women. You need to regain a sense of self-confidence. Do not be ashamed to talk about your problems. You may surprised to know that there are many other women experiencing similar situations. You need to know that you have nothing to be ashamed of, that the abuse was not your fault.

Finally, if you have children, you should talk to your children and teach them that battering is wrong. Children who live with violence often grow up to abuse their own partners and children. If possible, the children should also get counselling.

 

  • Get out of the relationship and get on with making a better life. Deciding to leave someone you love is a painful decision, but leaving does not make you a bad person. It is not immoral to leave an abusive situation. Many people lead happy and fulfilling lives on their own and also raise children.

 

You need to know that nobody should have to endure the pain, anguish and uncertainty of an abusive relationship.

 

Risk Assessments:

Just as we can evaluate our physical environment, we can assess our emotional environment. Personal relationships form part of that emotional environment. You can evaluate the situation you are living with and determine what your needs are. The following statements may be useful to you in your assessment of your personal relationship.

Do any of the following statements apply to him?

  • He is very jealous and doesn’t want you to talk to other men.
  • He criticizes your women friends and wants you to stop seeing them.
  • He wants to know where you are and who you are with all the time.
  • He tries to control your contact with family members. He often criticizes what you wear.
  • He usually criticizes what you do and say

If these statements apply to your partner, the he is trying to control your activities. If he succeeds, you will be much more dependent on him.

  • He tells people about things you did or said that are embarrassing and makes you feel stupid.
  • He blames you for the things that go wrong for him
  • He makes jokes that put you and other women down
  • He calls you stupid, lazy, fat, ugly, a slut, or other things that make you feel bad

If any of these statement apply to him, then he is putting you down and making you feel less confident and in control.

  • He like to drive fast or do dangerous things to scare you
  • He gets carried away when you are playing and hurts you, or holds you down to make you feel helpless and humiliated
  • He becomes angry or violent when he drinks or uses drugs
  • He makes threats about hitting you, hurting your friends, your pets, or members of your family if you don’t do what he wants
  • He threatens to stop paying the children’s school fees
  • He will not give you chop-money or food
  • He threatens to leave you or kill himself if don’t obey him
  • He forces you to do sexual things that you don’t want to do by threatening or by using physical force
  • He becomes very angry about small, unimportant things
  • He won’t express his feelings when asked and then blows up
  • He hits you- he may be sorry afterwards, but he hits you

If he does any of these things, he is threatening you. In some cases, using physical violence that can put your life or the lives of your children at risk.

 

The Do’s and Don’ts of helping victims of abuse:

DO

Believe her:

Accept what the woman is telling you. Do not dismiss her remarks as those of a “hysterical woman”. Tell her you believe her. Affirmation of the woman is of primary importance. Identify the ways she has developed coping strategies, solved problems and exhibited courage and determination. It is important to affirm her strengths and the efforts she has taken or will take to end the abuse. Give her credit for being in the best position to evaluate the risks of separation or continuing to stay with the abuser. Let her know that she is not responsible for the abuser’s behaviour.

Listen and let her talk about her feelings:

Sensitive listening is very important. This may be the first time the abused woman has told her story. Often, it is the experience of an abused woman that no one will listen to or take them seriously. Do not tell an abused woman what she should or should not be thinking. This is all part of being non-judgemental.

Giver her clear messages:

  • Violence is never okay of justifiable
  • The safety of the woman and her children is almost the most important issue
  • Wife assault is a crime
  • She did not cause the abuse
  • She is not to blame for her partner’s behaviour
  • She cannot change her partner’s behaviour. Only her partner can make those changes.
  • Apologies and promises will not end the violence
  • She is not alone
  • She is not crazy
  • Abuse is not loss of control; it is a way of controlling another person

*Talk with her about what she can do to plan for her and her children’s safety. Allow her to make her own decisions.
*Help her find the good things about herself and her children
*Get her a copy of community resource list
*Respect her confidentiality

An abused woman needs our support and encouragement in order to make choices that are right for her. However, there are some forms of advice that are not useful and even dangerous for her to hear.

DON’T

  • Tell her what to do , when to leave or when not to leave
  • Tell her to go back to the situation and try a little harder
  • Rescue her by trying to find quick solutions
  • Suggest you try to talk to husband and straighten things out
  • Tell her she should stay for the sake of the children
  • Give false hope – only offer what you can – do not make promises that you cannot keep
  • Pass judgement
  • Jump to conclusions

Let the victim’s emotions react too directly on your own

 

See Facts on Violence Against Women in Ghana (Part 1 of 2)  

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