The Covid_19 pandemic came with a lot of lifestyle and business positives and some negatives. Many people were stuck at home, forced to face their demons (thoughts) while others were stuck with their abusers, exacerbating an already growing epidemic of gender-based violence. Violent spouses and partners found the nearest release through human punching bags.
Domestic violence is the violent or aggressive act within the home, involving the violent abuse of a partner or a spouse and may extend to the children or inhabitants of that household. Gender-based violence is often a lonely fight, fought in silence and shame. Kibwezi, Makueni County in Kenya, is one of the areas where the number of domestic violence cases increased. The government of Kenya has since changed the laws, ruling that any form of abuse; physical, emotional, verbal, and sexual abuse, is considered a crime.
However, survivors of this gruesome act often do not get the justice they deserve, as perpetrators are set free or given a slight slap on the wrist. While some cases have been brought to light, there are still more silent screams in homes all over the world. show that 1 in 3 women have experienced abuse. It is important to note that, the perpetrators are not only limited to men, women too have been reported to be abusive, and gender-based violence occurs in same-sex relationships as well.
Elsie Mwangi Mutisya, a counseling psychologist who deals with mental health, grief, loss, marriage, and family therapy explained that dealing with a case of gender-based violence, focuses on empowering the survivor to know they are not alone and that they are more than the situation. Treatment sometimes includes dealing with the physical pain and trauma before it gets to the mental state, psychological first aid, and then structured solutions.
A major challenge comes in trying to convince the survivor to leave the situation, especially if they are financially dependent on the abuser. The survivors are encouraged to deconstruct domestic violence and understand that they are not alone, it was not their fault, and can overcome the trauma. It takes a lot of self-understanding on the survivor’s part to leave the situation and to acknowledge that, they may have subconsciously been in that predicament as a part of them needs working on too. To avoid a case of relapse the survivor is encouraged to understand what informs their need to choose to stay in a painful environment or going back to the perpetrator after being rescued. They need to be individually empowered to understand that they are capable of surviving with or without a partner.
Some coping mechanisms that are encouraged after going through gender-based violence mostly focus on the acceptance of the situation, good decision making, and guidance, self-monitoring, accepting the emotions that come with leaving the situation, and the need by the survivor to rebuild themselves.
There are different organizations and instruments used to mitigate gender-based violence in Kenya, regionally, and in the world. Wawera Nyaga, a lawyer, is the National Coordinator of the East Africa Civil Society Organization Forum (EACSOF) Chapter in Kenya, and a major part of it is the Collaborative Center for Gender Development, which deals with advocating, implementing, and reviewing policies and laws around gender equality. This includes the promotion of human rights in different countries in the region; Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, and South Sudan, where the membership is growing. They have various thematic areas around this including peace and security. “The pandemic brought a sharp increase in the number of gender-based violence cases within the first week, depending on the area where data was collected and where cases were reported, there was a 30% or 45% increase, hence the need for organizations to harmonize the data,” Wawera admits concerning the accurate data behind the relation between gender based violence and Covid 19.
Gender-responsive solutions largely depend on working with donors and partners to mitigate gender-based violence. Mastercard Foundation and Open Society Foundation, among others, offer support to empower young girls, provide basic needs for them to discourage dependence on perpetrators. EACSOF also supports the national gender-based violence hotline, 1195, where free counseling sessions are offered to survivors, rapid response is ensured when cases are reported and rescue, psychological, and justice services are offered. They have shelters in counties where gender-based violence cases are prone and are in partnerships with shelters in areas where they have little or no reach.
While many people and organizations are fighting gender-based violence, there are still many people suffering in silence, and people who need to be educated about it, its consequences, and even legal actions that may be taken against perpetrators. Most importantly, it is our duty to remind survivors that they are not alone and can slowly overcome the trauma, one brave step after another.