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My sister’s husband is violent and abusive. On several occasions, after a beating, we have tried to remove her from the house but she keeps going back. What do we do? The guy is dangerous and we fear he may cause irreparable damage or even kill her during one of his outbursts. Is it wise to leave her there? (Amanda, Jos)

I appreciate your deep concern for your sister’s welfare, but this is solely a decision she has to make. Domestic abuse is wrong and on no account should it be tolerated, but if your sister feels she can cope with it, there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it because like you pointed out, attempts to forcefully take her out had proved abortive.

The truth is; even your sister’s husband needs help. Men don’t just wake up to abuse their wives. Beneath the abuse lies an emotionally-fragile man who needs the help of both a therapist and a Psychologist. The abuse syndrome develops in response to a three-stage cycle found in domestic violence situations. First, tension builds in the relationship. Second, the abusive partner releases tension via violence while blaming the victim for having caused the violence. Third, the violent partner makes gestures of contrition. However, the partner does not find solutions to avoid another phase of tension building and release so the cycle repeats. The repetition of the violence despite the abuser’s attempts to act well results in the abused partner feeling at fault for not preventing a repeat cycle of violence. However, since the victim is not at fault and the violence is internally driven by the abuser’s need to control, this self-blame results in feelings of helplessness rather than empowerment. The feeling of being both responsible for and helpless to stop the violence leads in turn to depression and passivity. This learned depression and passivity makes it difficult for the abused partner to marshal the resources and support system needed to leave.

It’s important you help your sister by giving her a good support system by showering her with love and words of affirmation so that she’s able to have emotional stability. Kindly help her come out of every feeling of helplessness she has believed overtime. If she is able to attain a high level of emotional stability and wholeness, she’s not likely to fall into depression or keep feeling responsible for her husband’s abusive habits. Once she achieves this, she will be able make informed decisions and take decisive steps towards living a great and abuse-free life because then she will have a high sense of self-esteem and wouldn’t trade her worth for being devalued.