From the Media Capital, to the Global Ethiopian Community
Sunday May 28th 2017

Domestic Violence, a Crisis in the Ethiopian Community?

As many as 6 of every 10 Ethiopian women interviewed had been beaten or sexually assaulted by their husbands or partners.
-United Nations

It is a topic that often gets minimal attention and seen as taboo.  However, domestic violence is running rampant within the Ethiopian community.  Domestic abuse that includes physical violence is called domestic violence.  Also known as spousal abuse,it takes place when one person in an intimate relationship or marriage tries to dominate the other person.  Although it affects men as well, the majority of domestic abuse victims are women.  Women face attacks in secrecy, often confiding in no one.  Ethiopian women are often too ashamed, have no self-assurance, and are afraid of revenge if they speak out.  In addition, part of not speaking out has to do with the Ethiopian culture.  A July 2005 World Bank study concluded that 88 percent of rural women and 69 percent of urban women believed their husbands had the right to beat them.

Victims of Abuse Not Only in Ethiopia

Reports have indicated that half of the women in Ethiopia are victims of domestic violence.  In a country afflicted by poverty, women are often at the mercy of their husbands and walking away could mean death-at the hands of the same men who promised to love them in good times and bad.  The violence and brutality against women does not end there.  The murders of Ethiopian women have been making headlines more recently.  In Alexandria, Virginia Mesfin Hussien, 35, murdered his wife Hawlet Mohammed, 27.  Sirak Gebeyehu, 27, of Arlington, Virginia choked his wife Metsihet Belete, 24, to death and in Norway, Yafet Kassa Gebrewold, 27, murdered his wife Bezawit Solomon, 19.  What is even more alarming are some of the comments posted by both male and female readers on Ethiopian Review about the recent murders.

“Angry Man” writes:

“Well, it is better to say nothing.  I am sure these guys are upset with their wives.  I am one of the victims but for the sake of my child I will not harm her.  If I wasn’t a devoted Christian and if I didn’t have a child, I would have done the same thing.  My wife did to me the worst thing on earth that a female can do to her husband and to her baby’s father but I gave it to God.  I will not revenge and I am sure God will revenge her.  I mean I wouldn’t blame these guys for what they did.”

“Mimi” writes:

“What is driving these men to murder their wives? … A valid question!!!  Additional question, I may add is what are these women doing to their husbands that made them so angry to the point of killing them?”

The same views that “Angry Man” and “Mimi” have expressed in their comments are the root of this crisis.  Such comments exemplify how much danger the Ethiopian community is in with regards to this topic.  By speaking up and discussing domestic violence within our communities and in our homes, we can begin to dispel some of the negative cultural values associated with it.  Instead of outlawing domestic violence in courts (Ethiopia) and working to erase its cultural implication, it is viewed as acceptable and the husband’s right.  This view is not only incorrect but immoral.  It has nothing to do with being modernized, but no matter what the situation may be, no one should inflict any type of physical (mental/verbal) harm to anyone.  Point blank.

While Ethiopian women are more inclined to keep the abuse where they face it, between the walls, if you suspect your loved one is in a violent relationship, it is your right to assist that person.  Whether it is your close friend, sister, or mother, pick up the phone and call the toll-free New York City Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-621-HOPE (4673).  Do not see it as though you are interfering but see it as your duty.  Often we ignore situations for fear of what people may think of us for stepping in but it is a wiser decision to step in and help someone-while you still can-rather then waiting until it is too late. Precious time may be slipping away.

Young, foreign-born women in New York City have been found to be at greater risk of being killed by their partners than any other group of women.
- Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence

Where to Go For Help

While it may seem inconceivable to walk away from an abusive relationship, if you are the victim of domestic violence, there is help for you.  There are several New York City organizations that can assist you.  The Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence (OCDV) coordinates the provision of the domestic violence services provided by numerous New York City agencies and more than 200 community based organizations.

As written on The Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence website, young, foreign-born women in New York City have been found to be at greater risk of being killed by their partners than any other group of women.  Very often, no one knows about the abuse until it is too late.  The Violence Against Women Act allows some battered immigrants to obtain lawful permanent residence without their husband’s cooperation.  OCDV offers numerous initiatives which include the Family Justice Center and Emergency Shelter.

At the Family Justice Center, professionals from 37 community partners and nine government agencies provide an array of necessary services to domestic violence victims.  This innovative program enables victims to meet with a prosecutor, speak with a trained counselor, and apply for housing and financial assistance.  Family Justice Centers are also being planned for the Queens and the Bronx.  Emergency Shelters are in demand and the Human Resources Administration has thus increased the number of available domestic violence shelter beds by 35.7% since last year.

If you or someone you know is the victim of domestic violence, you are urged to call the all language, toll-free New York City Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-621-HOPE (4673) for support, referrals, and information about domestic violence.  Victims of abuse who have been sexually assaulted should also call the Rape/Sexual Assault/Incest Hotline to speak with a trained advocate at 212-227-3000.

For more information on The Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence visit: http://www.nyc.gov/html/ocdv/html/home/home.shtml

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