ESTHER IJEWERE KALEJAIYE is the Executive Director/ founder of the RUBIES INK INITIATIVE FOR WOMEN AND CHILDREN. She is also a FELLOW (Vital Voices Global Leadership USA) in addition to the titles she earned herself through selfless hard work using the best medium to be heard with impact; she authors the bestselling book on rape- “Breaking the Silence. Esther is a columnist with one of the renowned leading newspapers in Nigeria, GUARDIAN NEWSPAPER. She is also the Editor in Chief, Women of Rubies as well as creative director, Rubies Ink Media. Having authored a book on rape, another angle of violence; EM’s Damilola .A .Shote in an interview with her, shares how WOMEN OF RUBIES centre help victims get help
Domestic violence is an issue that’s being taken likely. Why do you think this happens?
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Domestic violence can happen to anyone, yet the problem is often overlooked, excused or like you said, “being taken lightly”. It starts from threats and verbal abuse and then, escalates to violent acts. It occurs within all age ranges, ethnic backgrounds and economic levels. While women are more commonly victimized, men are also abused – especially verbally and emotionally. Some say, “It happens because a woman must have done something to deserve it!” But to suggest that is really wrong – no one deserves to be abused: the way one person acts never gives permission for their partner to abuse them.
Asides the issues with celebrities who have been victims lately which has been an eye opener for a lot of people, what signs do one look out for in identifying domestic violence?

Noticing and acknowledging the signs of an abusive relationship are the primary steps to ending it – but what signs do one look out for? There are many signs of an abusive relationship. The most telling sign is fear of your partner. If you feel like you have to walk on eggshells around your partner – constantly watching what you say and do in order to avoid a blow-up—chances are your relationship is unhealthy and abusive. Other signs that you may be in an abusive relationship include a partner who belittles you or tries to control you, and feelings of self-loathing, helplessness, and desperation.

How can one avoid it?
When it comes to the prevention, learning to recognize the distinct patterns and behaviours associated with intimate partner violence can be lifesaving. Most abusive partners test and prime their victims before they ever lay a hand on them. Learn their tactics, watch for red flags, and always follow your instinct – it serves to protect and guide you in potentially dangerous situations. Believing yourself to be valuable, capable, and deserving of happiness may help give you the strength to leave a relationship that turns out to be dangerous. When we recognize ourselves as worthy of a healthy, respectful love we can better identify the partnerships that do not reflect that right.

At what stage should a victim be advised to leave once violated?
Advising the victim isn’t the problem, but applying the advice is! Most victims would listen to your advice but still go back home in continuity of their anguish. Though there are many reasons that make it difficult for them to leave their homes, which include: religious beliefs, financial difficulties, children wanting to remain with dad, pressure from family and friends to stay, hope that the abuse will stop, fear of being lonely, stigmatisation of being a sole parent, unsure about the resources and support available, low self- esteem, lack of confidence and still being in love with her partner.
It takes more than courage for a woman to leave her marital home – abused or not!
Once you acknowledge the reality of the abusive situation, you can get the help you need. Your first step to breaking free is recognizing that your situation is abusive. Nobody should live in fear of the person they love. If you recognize yourself or someone you know in the warning signs, reach out for help.

Do men suffer domestic violence too and can they be helped?
Like I said earlier, “…while women are more commonly victimized, men are also abused.” Of course, men suffer it too. Maybe due to our culture, domestic violence in men is often hidden or they are unlikely to report the abuse, but we want abused men to know they are not alone. They can be helped as much as the womenfolk. We can only help them when they break their shell of silence and break their silence. Let them talk while we do the walk!

Domestic violence is a significant other of rape, what preventative measures can one take to avoid being a victim of rape?

I don’t want to sound like a female chauvinist but the truth is that the only people who can prevent rape are MEN, because no matter how often women are told to stay sober, to stay away from strange men, to dress conservatively, women are still raped!
However, for the womenfolk, I’d say this, “Common sense, situational awareness and trusting your instincts will reduce the risk of sexual assault.”

Some say it’s impossible for a wife to be raped by her husband as he has rights over her since they are married. What’s your take?

Why? It is possible and happens often, of course! In most developed countries, marital rape is considered as a ‘criminal offence’ but in countries like Nigeria, it is unknown to the law, and so, under the constitutional principle of the legality theory, no one can be prosecuted for a crime, which is unknown to the law. I sincerely hope our Legislators will see it as a dire need for a quick review of existing legislation on sexual offences to include spousal rape as a crime. This will not only put Nigeria on the road map to best practices, but will also assure and protect the weaklings in marital relationships who are not disposed to sexual intercourse all the time.
Can rape in a marriage be reported?
Of course, it can be reported since domestic violence or marital rape is a violation of human rights and should be treated as such. Spousal or marital rape is a serious form of violence that can have life-shattering effects for its victims. Everyone has the right to live free from violence and rape. It is detrimental to women, children and the broader community. Preventing and stopping domestic violence and rape is everybody’s business.
The government has the necessary organizations and structure to help abused individuals, how can violated persons access them?

Among the States, the Lagos State Government is the trailblazer in ensuring harmony in the home. It enacted a law, which came into force on 18th May 2007, to “provide protection against domestic violence and for connected purposes.”
Recently, the Lagos State Commissioner for Women Affairs & Poverty Alleviation, Honorable. Lola Akande, reminded all residents in the State that, “Domestic violence remains a crime in Lagos since the Law providing protection against domestic violence and connected purposes is still in force, as such all violators would be prosecuted accordingly.”
Violated persons (related to marriage or not) can contact the Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation to address their issues.

How does your centre help with people who are being or have been violated?

We have been partnering with the Lagos State Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation and other relevant agencies to help such people. Since 2009, the Lagos State Government through its Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Youth and Social Development down to the Local Government level, have contributed to the success of our programs. The Ministry of Women Affairs, for example, has been partnering with us since the inception of our Walk Against Rape Campaign in 2010 and also, take up most of the cases reported to us while we follow it up to a justifiable end. I really must appreciate the Lagos State Government for continually opening their doors and collaborating with us every time.

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