It has been seven years since 28-year-old Lucy Haile escaped her abusive relationship. She has survived instances of verbal abuse and physical assaults that escalated into an attempt on her life. Lucy gets emotional recounting the six-year ordeal that begun while she was still a minor. There was even a time when she experienced severe beatings for which her partner had the audacity to blame her for. Manipulative as he was, he apologizes only for her to take him back.
“Looking back, I really think I was wise to have finally realized that I needed to get out of that relationship. After forgiving him time and time again, I finally snapped when I lost one of my friends in a crime of passion that was committed as an act of love, said Lucy.
“I don’t know if you remember this but she was shot several times while in the bathroom of a restaurant by a member of the federal police that claimed to have loved her. It finally clicked to me that my then boyfriend was capable of doing the same and I finally had the clarity of thought that I needed to leave, change my phone number and avoid him completely,” added Lucy, going over the countless times she showed up at her family home bruised black and blue, for which she made up ridiculous stories to cover for him.
Lucy’s case is not an exception.
Violence against women in Ethiopia is widespread and acknowledged to be of great concern from human rights, economic and health perspectives. Some are lucky to get out before a serious harm is caused to their physical or mental states, while others fall victim to crimes of passion that ultimately cost their lives.
Neither is the situation unique to Ethiopia. Violence against women is a major public health problem that affects the physical, sexual, mental and social wellbeing of more than one-thirds of all women globally.
There isn’t a comprehensive data on Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) because most victims are unwilling to come forward.
According to a 2019 study by Berhanu Borru, more than a third of victims of domestic violence are reluctant to come forward. Factors contributing to this range from women accepting violence as normal or as being not serious to ashamed, embarrassed and fearing the consequences.
“Speaking from my experience, I used to hide his actions when people asked why I had heavily-bruised eyes, a broken nose and so many other scars. Looking back, I was making up ludicrous stories. I wanted everyone to think favorably of him so I would paint him as a good guy, while they clearly knew what he was capable of doing. I hated what he was doing to me but wanted everyone to like him regardless. It is a weird feeling, honestly,” added Lucy.
Even though Ethiopia has put in place legal mechanisms to promote the rights of women, violence against women continues to be a major challenge. There is also a scarcity of countrywide statistics about the magnitude of domestic violence against women in Ethiopia. Women experienced 53.7 percent of Intimate partner violence either physically, sexually or both, within a year and 70.9 percent over their lifetime.
Recent reports surrounding the suicide/murder of a young woman who tragically lost her life has sparked debate on how women face danger from men who are strangers, co-workers, and even intimate partners. The unsafe environment created by the society’s need to overlook violence against women has escalated into a new level.
“People tell you to forgive after being beat black and blue; they would want to justify his actions and how love entails pain at times. As a person who knows the pain and shame, it is dehumanizing to hear those words. I think we could instead teach women not to tolerate disrespect or acts of violence and teach our sons to treat everyone with decency. Jealousy and possessiveness have cost so many lives yet those things are still not considered as morally wrong,” Lucy said.
Research conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) on domestic violence revealed that intimate partner violence is the most common form of violence in women’s lives. It showed that women were at higher risk of violence at home than on the streets and this has serious influences on women’s health.