Stella Damasus was once a popular Nollywood actress, the US based star is a great feminist who educates the world through her blog post and social media. Recently writing via her website, she says that domestic violence doesn’t have to be physical. In her case, it was mental and psychological and sometimes can be worse.
In an article she published on her website called “STRIPPING MYSELF NAKED” she talks about her experience and ask victims to lend their voices and support the organizations who fight for the cause.
“I wrote a blog a while ago called DATING MY ABUSER, and was shocked at the number of women who sent emails talking about the abuse they had faced. My heart was so heavy as I realized how bad things have gotten and how silent we have been over the years. One woman’s email really touched my heart and that is why I decided to share another experience.
Stripping myself naked in front of the world is not an easy thing to do, but when my experience encourages, heals and informs others, then it is the right thing to do.
I remember one day in 2009, I had just signed a contract with a new management company and they sent their marketing manager to take pictures of me so that they could build a press kit and other materials for work.
The man I was dating at the time was in my house for a visit, and we were both in the living room when the marketing manager came in. As he entered we exchanged pleasantries and I introduced him to my boyfriend who gave him the most arrogant and disgusting look ever. The marketing manager brought out his hand to shake him but my boyfriend walked away and didn’t even acknowledge his presence.
I apologized to the guy who was really shocked as he was sure they had never met. He was so confused and had to ask me if he did something wrong. I was highly embarrassed but had to quickly change the subject as usual.
I say as usual because it was becoming a trend with my boyfriend.
I knew how arrogant my boyfriend could be but I didn’t think it would be that bad.
Anyway, I went upstairs to meet the glam squad in my dressing room so they could do their magic. When I was done, I got dressed and foolishly went to my boyfriend in the other room so he could see how beautiful I looked and maybe get a compliment. Instead, he looked at me and started calling me all sorts of names. I cannot even begin to mention the names I was called.
Now, you may read this and wonder why he would call me names without provocation. That is how the mind of an abuser works. They don’t need provocation to abuse you. They just want to show and boost their power over you.
To those who have never experienced emotional and mental abuse, this is absurd.
At this point, I was used to hearing those names but for some reason, I still could not end the relationship. On different occasions, I had tried to end it but I was not psychologically strong enough.
This sounds strange coming from someone like me who is bold and fearless right? It may shock you to know that when men like that come into your life, they study your strengths and weaknesses. Then they begin to attack your weaknesses and make you even more vulnerable. The next thing they do is to systematically isolate you from those who are supposed to be your support system. At that time you will not even notice what he is doing because you will begin to think he cares for you more than anyone else.
He had already messed with my mind. I felt helpless and small.
I had the courage to ask him what I had done wrong and you would not believe the answer I got.
He said “you guys think I am stupid, why would you ask them to send a guy who looks like that to you. Don’t they have women who work for them?”.
I told him I had no control over who they send or who they employ.
He responded by saying, “it’s your house so if you have any respect for me you would have made sure it was not a guy who speaks with a nice accent, dresses well and is cute; coming to your house. What if I was not here? You were already smiling like a fool even though I was right there.
What would have happened if I was not here?”
At that point, I knew that there was nothing more to say.
As I made to leave he grabbed my arm and forced me to sit down. The insults came rushing through my ears as I sat and cried.
I messed up everything the glam squad had done.
To avoid embarrassment and gossip I went to the guest room and asked the children’s nanny to let the glam squad go. They were paid and they left.
I went back and tried to fix what was left of my make up, went downstairs to do the photoshoot and as soon as I was done, I made the marketing manager and his team leave.
When I went back upstairs, my boyfriend was waiting to continue the insults. At this point, I knew I had to be strong. So, I told him that if he felt he was too good for me, he should get the HELL OUT OF MY HOUSE.
He didn’t believe how serious I was until I started yelling.
He threatened to hit me and I told him he would spend the rest of his life in Jail and I would spend all my money making sure he was tortured every day.
He looked me in the eye and saw how serious I was. That was when he knelt down and started begging.
He apologized and said he didn’t know what came over him and that he needed help. I looked away but he continued and told me how everyone else had given up on trying to help him.
Blah blah blah blah he continued.
You would think that after all this I would end it once and for all but unfortunately, I took him back.
Before you start passing judgment, remember that when your weakness is attacked and your support system is not there anymore, you feel alone and helpless. It’s not a choice you willingly make, it is as a result of the psychological abuse. There are very very few women who go through this and come out sane.
Imagine being with someone who constantly makes you feel less than you are. Who puts all the negative stuff in your face and starts to make you look at yourself differently. After a while, you begin to believe his lies and doubt your truth.
That was when I realized that domestic abuse is not just physical. It is also mental and psychological which are worse sometimes. With the physical you know where the bruises are and can treat them. Unfortunately, with the mental, you become a slave to your own mind which is controlled by the abuser. He makes it seem like it’s your fault and at the same time makes you feel he needs you.
No one knows what you are going through because they don’t see the scars. Even when you tell them, they trivialize it because you can’t show proof. So you suffer in silence and pain. When you discuss it with people who you believe can help, the first question they ask you is “why don’t you just leave him?”.
Friends and family who are not qualified psychologists and therapists are not equipped to handle mental and psychological abuse.
It took me a while to discover a few psychologists in Nigeria, but they don’t get many clients because mental therapy is not an AFRICAN thing.
We need it now more than ever before.
A lot of women go through this every day and even when they come out of the relationship, they don’t see the need to go to counseling or therapy that can help them heal. So, they end up dating the same kind of man because that is what their mental state recognizes.
They fall for men who would control them again not because they are stupid but because that is what their minds are familiar with.
16 Days in a year is not enough to advocate for domestic violence.
We need to do this all year round and record the progress we are making.
We need to let women especially the African woman know what her rights are and that she has a right to report cases like this.
She needs to know that she has a support system who will help her through the pain and hurt she is left with.
We need to make sure that the law is enforced on the abusers.
We need to educate women and let them know that a man has NO right to hit them just because he is their husband.
We need to help the women educate their daughters as well.
We need to reach out to the community leaders and make them see why they should help put an end to this.
SAY NO TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE. Lend your voices and support the organizations who fight for the cause”.