The sad story of how Mrs. Ronke Shonde was allegedly beaten to death by her husband, Mr. Lekan Shonde after a domestic argument has been in the eye of the news for a while with many people alarmed about the rate of lives being lost to domestic violence. A lot of the victims are in denial while some believe that enduring domestic violence is a hallmark of strength. Many victims are cowered in a tight spot afraid for their lives and of more violence being perpetuated against them. Regrettably, there are victims of domestic violence who believe that acts of domestic violence are a normal part of human relations.

Domestic violence can be described as the exhibition of controlling, aggressive and abusive behaviour between family or household members within the home. It typically involves violent abuse of a spouse or partner. This behaviour inflicts or threatens to inflict harm on a household member’s safety, health or well being.

To be categorized as domestic violence, a domestic relationship must exist between the abuser and the victim. A domestic relationship is created in the following instances:

1. Where the victim is the spouse or domestic partner of the abuser;
2. Even though not married, where the victim resides with the abuser in a manner similar to marriage;
3. Where the victim is the child of the abuser or a child residing with the abuser;
4. Where the victim is a domestic staff or servant of the abuser;
5. Where the victim is a guest or relative residing with the abuser.
People commonly believe that domestic violence just involves spousal battery/beating. But this is only one form of domestic violence. A lot of victims of domestic violence are unaware that they are actually suffering some form of domestic violence.
Domestic violence has many forms. In 2007, the Lagos State Government passed a law known as The Domestic Violence Law to provide protection for victims against domestic violence. Section 18(g) of the law lists acts that constitute forms of domestic violence. Some of these forms are:
1. Physical Abuse – This is harmful, undesired bodily contact intended to cause pain, inflict injury or cause other physical harm to a victim. Spousal and child battery/beating are examples of this.
2. Sexual Abuse – This includes but is not limited to rape, sexual assault and incest.

3. Stalking – This can be exhibited in different ways ranging from following the victim to directly or indirectly communicating with the victim in a way that is intended to threaten or frighten him/her.
4. Damage of personal property belonging to the victim;
5. Economic Abuse And Exploitation– This is a situation where there is a fiduciary relationship between the abuser and the victim and the abuser withholds or restricts finances accruing to the victim. This form of domestic violence is used by abusers to exert control or power over the victim who becomes totally dependent on the abuser for sustenance and financial aid. In extreme cases, this kind of domestic violence results in poverty and homelessness.
6. Hazardous Attack – This includes attacking the victim with offensive or poisonous substances such as an acid bath.
7. Denial Of Basic Education– The deliberate failure of a parent or guardian with whom a child resides to provide for the basic educational needs of that child also constitutes domestic violence under the Lagos State law. It is a form of child neglect.
8. Emotional And Verbal Abuse – This is basically subjecting a victim to words or actions which may result in psychological trauma.
9. Entry into the victim’s residence without the victim’s consent where the victim and the abuser do not share the same residence.
10. Other forms of domestic violence under the law include Starvation, Deprivation, Intimidation and Harassment.

Domestic violence is an attempt to destroy the dignity of the victim and instil a sense of fear in them for the abuser. As such, the fear prevents many victims from seeking out much needed help. It is important for victims of domestic violence to know that they need not suffer and remain silent. They can seek out help and protection from their abusers. In Lagos State, for example, the government has gone a long way in ensuring the prosecution of perpetuators of domestic violence and providing adequate security and even shelter for victims far away from their abusers.
If you are a victim of any form of domestic violence or know such a victim that resides in Lagos, you can get access to various law enforcement agencies and help bodies by contacting the following help lines-

♣ Office of the Public Defender– Tel: 01-8975571, 01-7926928, 01-7926930, 01-7210890

♣ Project Alert on Violence Against Women
17/21 Akinsanya Street off Isheri Road,
Tel: 08180091072

♣ Lagos State Ministry of Women Affairs
Lagos State Secretariat, Alausa-Ikeja
Child Abuse Help Lines: 08085753932, 08102678442

♣ Women Empowerment and Legal Aid
25, Adekunle Fajuyi Way,
GRA Ikeja, Lagos.
08021063232, 08120799122, 08058143602

♣ Lagos State Government Dedicated Helplines
Child abuse– 08085753932, 08102678442; Domestic violence- 08057542266, 08102678443
If for some reason, you are unable to reach these bodies or do not reside in Lagos, you can reach NaijaLegalTalk via our contacts and we will link you up to bodies and organisations that can help protect you.