Feb 15, 2021 | Mental Health | 3 comments

Hurt people hurt! Could gender-based violence on siblings be the root of most abusive relationships?

Fadzai Musikavanhu is a gender equality advocate with extensive expertise on the implementation of international human rights norms and standards, in particular CEDAW. Prior to being an independent gender specialist, she served as an English teacher for 9 years in South Africa. She specializes in the areas of law and policy reform, access to justice, gender-based violence, the economic and political empowerment of marginalized groups, and practical strategies for the elimination of all forms of gender discrimination. Fadzai Musikavanhu holds MA degree in Gender and Policy Studies.

Toxic families have been in existence for years. Our culture and religion have been preaching the gospel of respecting our elders regardless of their weaknesses. This has somehow led to escalating numbers of unreported cases of physical, emotional and sexual abuse that has breaded a number of broken people who later on inflict pain in others. Some abusive people as a result of a dysfunctional family that never got the chance to heal.
The prevalence of sibling abuse might be higher than spousal or child abuse shared with consequences well into adulthood similar to parent-child abuse. The culprit is normally often the eldest child (Deputy parent) I want to believe that whoever coined the term deputy parent has suffered more abuse in the hands of a sibling than any other person. Deputy parents are well known for manipulating the emotional dependency and feebleness of a younger sibling. Girls are the most victims as they are exploited into adulthood or until they get married.
Familial contentions and exploitation are different, they range from squabbles over a remote control, jealousy over academic performance, unwillingness to share toys or food. All these rivals are done to get parental attention using harm and control. This kind of behavior is ongoing and it even stretches into adulthood until forcing those who are perpetrators to abuse the spouses of their siblings.
Parents who have bad parental skills or unfitting parental correction or unproductive efforts to respond to contention or manipulation can perpetuate the unruly behavior by the lack of consequences or by aiming at one child calling the child names. In some cases, parents who are excessively firm or abusive increase the chances of the abuser to vent to the younger siblings.
In an environment of different dysfunctional conflicts such money, unorganized family structures lack of resources especially this lockdown. Parents struggle to manage their own frustrations and ways of communication end up putting their frustrations on kids. They become so overwhelmed with what is happening around them and won’t be able to cater for their children’s needs and feelings.
Cultural norms that condone abuse of power especially in African families where hierarchy play as pivotal role a spouse controls the other, and older siblings tend to impersonate that controlling behavior and attitude toward younger siblings from childhood into adulthood. First born children in most cases are the perpetrators because culturally parents put them in charge of the young ones since gender and birth order are valued in most African families.
In some dysfunctional families, fathers who have anger issues as a result of not healing from past traumas, economic crisis, depression are likely to affect older children as parents are role models. To add on to that scarcity of resources can also lead to the older child breeding bitterness to younger children. Parents in return tend to show favoritism toward one child or compare siblings which very detrimental to child development. It creates unnecessary hatred.
To curb the gender-based violence on siblings, parents should thrive to supervise children all the time and never coerce other children to be in control in their absence. Parents should take time to teach children about the dangers of abuse and should device ways to resolve conflicts amicably. Taking sides and blaming the oppressed one leads to greater recements in others. In the long run perpetrators of abuse at a tender age end up being aggressive all the time while the victim develops low self-esteem the entire life. Let’s change the narrative of gender-based violence by changing the way we live as families because hurt people hurt.

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  1. Liz Mshangwe

    Well said,we carry the shadows of our past into our lives or other peoples lives.Gender based violence must stop.As parents let us change the narrative by changing the type of behaviors we accomodate and present to pur kids.Spreading love and uniformity amongst siblings.

    • Fadzai Musikavanhu

      As long as we are still adamant to follow culture and other religious norms that are harmful to both men and women we still have a long way to achieve this goal of a gender based violence free world.

  2. Tonderai Murwira.

    We need healing as a people. Comprehensive approach to fighting GBV must include counselling and educative programs. Surely hurt people hurt. Thank you for the great article.


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