Breaking the Chains: An urgent call to end the culture of silence surrounding intimate partner violence

By Esther Muhozi
On 28 November 2023 at 03:03

Anitha Kirabo (not real names), a young woman in her early 20s, courageously shares her harrowing experience as a victim of intimate partner violence (IPV). In her chilling narrative, she unveils the alarming reality that IPV, in various forms, is happening within our communities.

The person responsible for her torment was none other than the one meant to be her protector—her husband.

The nightmare began shortly after the birth of their first child when Kirabo noticed a drastic change in her husband’s behavior. What ensued was a two-year ordeal of unimaginable suffering, with her husband committing acts of violence, including rape, even in the presence of their kid.

Despite Kirabo’s attempts to seek help from family, she was met with skepticism and disbelief.

In a conversation with IGIHE, Kirabo disclosed, "When I left the house later after getting the courage, he had started beating me whenever I refused to sleep with him, saying that I am his wife and my body belongs to him."

Her courageous escape revealed the extent of the abuse, and months later, Kirabo discovered she was pregnant with her second child—a stark reminder of the trauma she endured.

Kirabo emphasizes the prevalence of such violence, especially among women who, influenced by cultural myths, suffer in silence. She passionately advocates for a campaign to empower women to break the chains of silence, challenging societal norms that perpetuate shame and stigma.

The global scale of violence against women is staggering, with an estimated one in three women experiencing physical or sexual abuse in their lifetime.

Despite its pervasive nature, gender-based violence remains concealed by a culture of silence. This unethical violation of human dignity manifests in various forms—physical, sexual, psychological, and economic—deeply rooted in gender inequality.

Kirabo’s story sheds light on the importance of community intervention in abusive relationships. Frequently, signs go unnoticed by neighbors, friends, and family until tragedy strikes. Intervening, far from meddling, is a moral duty to prevent further harm.

To combat gender-based violence, hotlines like 4433, established by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in partnership with Alight Rwanda, serve as crucial resources. The hotline responds to and prevents sexual and gender-based violence, emphasizing the urgency of a collective effort to address this pervasive issue.

The narrative underscores the significance of removing legal barriers to prosecuting gender-based violence crimes, emphasizing that silence only perpetuates abuse. Society must unite to break the cycle of domestic violence, providing a voice for victims and holding perpetrators accountable.

The call to action is clear: break the chains of silence, challenge cultural norms, and unite against intimate partner violence. Ending this pervasive issue is not only a moral obligation but a collective responsibility that demands urgent attention.

The global scale of violence against women is staggering, with an estimated one in three women experiencing physical or sexual abuse in their lifetime.