Scarred for Life: The untold stories of GBV survivors


Gender-Based violence is a severely traumatic experience that disproportionately affects women and girls during the last COVID-19 lockdown. The unfortunate aspect of it is that survivors continue to live with the pains inflicted on them during the lockdown. FASILAT OLUWUYI reports.

In March 2020, around 8 pm, Adeoye Mariam (not her real name) was beaten into a coma when her husband, a butcher, became furious and hit her with a stick placed at the entrance of their apartment.

Assuming her neighbours were not available to rush her to the nearest hospital and the nurses on duty at the Ifo General Hospital failed to administer treatment to her immediately, the injury inflicted on her was capable of leading to her death.

The mother of four wept as she recounted her experience with her husband during the lockdown and lamented the loss of her three weeks pregnancy to the maltreatment and failure to get justice after reporting to family members.

Her husband, Shittu (not his real name), turned his wife into a punching bag during the lockdown because she had no strength to prepare a meal for her household before her husband woke up from a five-hour sleep.

Shittu, a well-known butcher within the street of the Arigbajo area in the Ifo Local Government of Ogun State, did not face the law for assaulting his wife.

Like Mariam, many women who spoke with this reporter have bitter tales of their experience with gender violence without justice, forcing them to continue living with the scars.

“If not for my neighbours rushing me to the hospital after I went into a coma, I might have been dead by now. I fainted already. All parts of my body had marks of scars due to the regular beating I received from my husband, but there was nothing I could do except report him to his family members. The problem persisted until the lockdown was suspended”.

Statistics from a UN report affirmed that one in every four women experienced Gender-Based Violence during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to a lockdown in some parts of the country.

‘One in four women unsafe at home during lockdown’

A United Nations Women report revealed that forty-eight per cent of Nigerian women had experienced at least one form of violence since the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report showed that about one in four women feel less safe at home while conflict increased within the households during the pandemic period.

When asked why they felt unsafe at home, many women mentioned physical abuse as one of the reasons. The assault could be from their husbands, partners, other family members or directed at other women in the household.

I cried to bed every night, says the mother of two

A mother of two, Adewunmi Abidemi (not her real name), narrated how she used to betray her emotions every night before going to bed during the lockdown.

Abidemi claimed that her husband usually hurled abusive words at her whenever she requested money from him during the pandemic.

The mother of two noted that she reported her husband to family members, but her efforts to stop him from maltreating her failed.

She explained that reporting her husband to family members made him subject her to three days of hunger.

“During the lockdown, I almost ran from the house when my husband started maltreating me. Every night, I used to cry in bed. Money is the main reason my husband usually gets mad at us in the house, and he used to abuse me whenever I requested money from him.

“The way he maltreated me made me report him to his family members, but it was just as if I poured petrol inside a fire. He made me go through hunger for many days”.

‘He slapped me during an argument.

A student of Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Abeokuta, who identified herself as Adejoke, told this reporter that her boyfriend, who is also a polytechnic student, would, during the lockdown, slap her around whenever they got into an argument.

Adejoke, who spent all days and nights of the lockdown in her boyfriend’s house in Abeokuta, claimed that she was there to share memories of the lockdown with him since she could not travel to her parents’ house in Badary, Lagos.

“Initially, I was staying there so that I could share those memories of the lockdown with him. I thought it was a joke when he started slapping me, and he slapped me the second day I got to his house when we were in the middle of an argument”.

Empowerment only solution to gender-based Violence – Human Right Activist

The Executive Director, International Center for Human Rights Non-violence and Safety Awareness, Ene Sarah Unobe, said the only solution to gender-based violence issues is to address poverty among women.

The Director called on the government to provide soft loans for women to establish businesses to be independent and not solely dependent on their husbands for their every need.

Unobe stated that providing basic amenities for women and funding non-governmental organizations to embark on massive awareness campaigns to educate the public would also help eradicate GBV.

“One is empowerment for victims of the crime of Domestic Violence so that they can understand their rights, and the other is to provide them with the skills and training to be self-reliant. If the woman has a job to maintain the family, some of these issues which trigger violence in the home will reduce.

“If the issue of economic problems caused by bad governance, the issue of poverty is not addressed, domestic violence will continue to increase. When you look at 80 per cent of these cases, it boils down to poverty. How many children are affected? The rate is low compared to instances housing is a problem. We should provide basic amenities as this will help reduce the rate of domestic violence.”

This article was produced with the support of the Africa Women’s Journalism Project (AWJP) in partnership with the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) and through the support of the Ford Foundation. This article was first published by