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GENDER based violence (GBV) cases are undoubtedly on the rise in Zambia. Many only think of this vice when they hear one is physically battered by their partner. However, it is vital to note that GBV takes on different forms of abuse in a relationship.

These may include economic abuse, sexual abuse, verbal abuse, emotional abuse and psychological abuse.

Many people in relationships do not see these types of abuse as abuse because they are mentally related and their effects are rarely recognised.

Relationship abuse can therefore be defined as a pattern of abuse and coercive behaviours used to maintain power and control over a former or current intimate partner through threats, isolation and intimidation of the victim.

In today’s society, people think relationship abuse is caused by factors like provocation, stress, drugs or alcohol, genetic factors, poverty and communication problems.

Psychologists however, believe these are not the factors that contribute to relationship abuse but instead perpetrators use them to justify their behaviour. They have also established that relationship abuse is a choice and it is a learned behaviour.

Sense of entitlement; a belief that they should have power and control over their partner, that they can get away with it and learned experience that being abusive gets them what they want and having a belief that their lives should take priority.

Psychologists have also said that social factors such as gender play a pivotal role in shaping abusers values and attitudes as well as creating an environment where abusiveness is rewarded and unpunished.

Others are the media that portray women as objects, glorification of violence as well as limited male and female roles, peer pressure-social pressure to conform to a limited definition of masculinity which centres on devaluing women.

Family also plays a role because in most societies there is a message that men should have power over women and make decisions in a house hold or in an intimate relationship; it is said ‘a man’s home is his castle’, but should that give someone the right to abuse a person they claim to love?

Individuals of all ages especially women between the ages of 20 and 24 are the most common victims of relationship abuse.

An annual survey by the Victim Support Unit of the Zambian Police Service revealed that in 2016, the country recorded 18, 540 cases as compared to 18, 088 cases recorded in the previous year, showing an increase of 452 cases of GBV. These statistics imply that barely a day passes without Zambian communities witnessing about fifty cases of GBV.

Relationship abuse is not only common in what might be termed as more mature relationships but teenagers also go through relationship abuse yet rarely recognise it.

For instance more teenagers will take extreme passiveness and jealousy by their partners as intense feelings of love. It may actually seem flattering in the beginning.

However, research has shown that there are a lot of effects of an abusive relationship. These include physical and psychological effects. If one is abused as a young person the effects can be long term people tend to have thoughts of having a potential abusive partner.

Psychological effects include depression, suicide attempts, post-traumatic stress disorder, behavioural and emotional difficulties can occur as a result of being accused as revealed by a GBV victim Anna Zulu.

“I got depressed and drastically lost weight when my husband of 27 years in marriage abused me both physically and verbally. The man I lived with for a very long time turned out to be a monster, he one day poured hot tea on my face in front of our seven year old daughter,” explained Anna.

Ms. Zulu added that she usually has flash backs of all the times she got abused by her former husband.

John Mulenga, a life coach and currently working with the University of Zambia clinic said any one can experience relationship abuse and no one is an exception.

“It is not that people do not know that physical abuse is not the  only type of abuse, it is just that when people are in love, they only see what they want to see and in this case that any other form of abuse which is not physical is not abuse at all,” Mr. Mulenga explained.

He stated that the dangers of any form of abuse are a global challenge with a lot of negative impacts hence people have to be sensitised on all forms of abuse.

It is the dream of many to see an abuse free world but that can only happen if people decided to break the silence because change begins with ME and YOU.

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