Behind Closed Doors; Domestic Violence Rears Its Ugly Head

Tuesday June 9, 2020                By: Dr. Mona Abuhamda 

Photo: istock

Domestic violence is defined as a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain power and control over the other. Domestic violence can be actions or threats of actions that causes a partner to be scared.  

There are many forms of abuse that create risk and danger in love relationships. Physical violence, verbal abuse, psychological tactics-including intimidation and degrading someone, sexual assault and controlling and withholding money are the most obvious ways one person in a relationship establishes power over their partner. The abuse is intended to maintain control and limits the ability of the victim to make personal choices, have access to family resources or assets, or be independent.

Abuse is not the same in every relationship. Some abusers are frequently violent, while others may resort to physical violence from time to time to assert their power. The fear a victim lives with makes it difficult for her (victims are most often female, but not always) to confide in friends or family, because the retaliation may result in more danger.

People do not use violence or become abusive because they are under stress, or experiencing financial problems, using drugs or drinking too much. Of course, these factors may make the situation worse, but they are not the cause of abuse. It is connected to a personality disorder and the abuser’s failure to tolerate frustration or take responsibility for their mistakes.  Abusers are always insecure and have often been victims of abuse themselves.

Domestic violence is a crime. Abusers come from all walks of life. They can be very successful, charming and socially respected outside of the home. 

In our culture, we have values and social norms that expect or permit men to be in control (particularly of their family); this control creates an imbalance of power in the relationship. The messages we give to our children (and learn ourselves) about masculinity and femininity make us believe that men have a right to be dominant over their partner, and can do whatever is necessary to get their partner to do what they want them to do, or behave the way they believe they should behave.

Unfortunately, many also believe that Islam allows men to beat their wives and often site certain versus out of context to justify their behavior. Most families denounce divorce and force or convince the woman to stay in the marriage and “not destroy her family”.

This causes many families and even the police and the courts to minimize the seriousness of this crime and in most cases, domestic abuse is not acknowledged and the perpetrators face no consequences for their actions.

Domestic Violence law in Egypt:

While some forms of domestic violence are criminal acts in Egypt, country Reports 2004 mentioned that there is no law against spousal abuse. There are only general laws relating to assault. The Egyptian Criminal Code “does not effectively punish domestic violence”. 

The law does not apply to any action committed in good faith, pursuant to a right determined by virtue of the Shari’a ‘ . Good faith includes circumstances in which “the beating is not severe,” “the beating is not directed at the face,” and “the beating is not aimed at the vulnerable ‘fatal blow areas'” 

Finally, there is no law in Egypt that prohibits marital rape. 

Possible Indicators of Physical Abuse

1- Multiple bruising.

2- Fractures.

3- Burns.

4- Bed sores.

5- Fear.

6- Depression.

7- Unexplained weight loss.

Emotional abuse:

1- The victim exhibits very low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness

2- They feel helpless and are unable to protect themselves and their children

3- Victims can also feel they are responsible and deserving of the behavior

4- They live in denial and convince themselves that the person will change

Sexual abuse:

Forcing sex:

Many people argue that a woman cannot be raped by her husband.  That a man has the right to have sex with his wife whenever he wants. The truth is, sex is an intimate act that requires the consent of both parties.  Anytime a woman is forced to have sex without her consent is considered rape regardless of who the perpetrator is.

Withholding sex:

Many abusers punish the abused partner by withholding sex from them and by making them feel rejected and unwanted (look at you, you are not even a woman like other women.  Who would want you?)

Financial abuse:

1- The victim has no control over finances

2- Often not permitted to work or have her own income or control over her assets

3- Victim has no bank account or ability to get money or purchase any of her needs.  This ensures that she remains a prisoner in her situation.

Domestic Abuse and Corona: Domestic Abuse Rises Worldwide

Domestic violence goes up whenever families spend more time together, such as the Christmas and summer vacations. Movement restrictions aimed to stop the spread of the coronavirus made violence in homes more frequent, more severe and more dangerous. Due to that, the United Nations called for urgent action to combat the worldwide surge in domestic violence. “I urge all governments to put women’s safety first as they respond to the pandemic,” Secretary General António Guterres wrote on Twitter.

Governments largely failed to prepare for the way the new public health measures would create opportunities for abusers to terrorize their victims. Now, many are scrambling to offer services to those at risk. And as with the response to the virus itself, the delays meant irreparable harm may already have occurred.

What can a victim do?

1- Know what the signs of being a victim of abuse are.

2- Get medical treatment if you are hurt and tell your doctor how you got hurt.

3- Once you recognize the abuse, know that you are not responsible for it.  You are NOT to blame.

4- Think about the effect on your kids.

5- Tell someone you trust about what is happening to you.

6- Establish a protection plan 

7- Be aware of the triggers of the explosion 

8- Decide on a safe place that you can run to

9- Make a plan as to how you can get to the safe place.

10- Decide how you are going to escape from your house

11- Tell a neighbor that you can trust to call your family or police, or to intervene if they are comfortable doing that.

12- If your children are old enough, tell them what to do in the event you are in danger.  Tell them who to go to and how to ask for help. 

13- Memorize important phone numbers in case your phone is taken away from you. 

14- Build your knowledge and skills so you can become independent.

15- Get professional help with a psychologist.

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Dr. Mona Ezzat-AbuHamda began her graduate studies at Regent’s College in London in 1993 and received her doctoral degree from the George Washington University in Washington, DC in 2003

She serves as clinical faculty at the George Washington University, school of professional psychology and held an adjunct faculty position at The Johns Hopkins University, school of business and education.  In addition to her private practice in Mclean, VA. Dr. AbuHamda is an independent consultant providing clinical services at Washington Behavioral Health, a day-treatment outpatient hospital for adolescents and adults who struggle with addiction disorders

She is a native of Egypt and lives in the Washington DC Metro area with her family.

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The U.S. Department of Justice

Human Rights Watch

The New York Times

National Network to End Domestic Violence 

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