Women’s perception of endogenous factors influencing them to stay in abusive spousal relationships: A case of women rights awareness program in Nairobi County, Kenya
Limukii-Kaaria, Zipporah Kailu
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The decision whether to stay or end abuse in an intimate relationship is a complex one for victims. Most past studies have focused on socioeconomic factors influencing women to stay in abusive spousal relationships and the interventions addressing the factors. However, statistics indicate that a great number of women continue to stay in their abusive relations jeopardizing their wellbeing and that of their families. Few studies have been done to explore the internal psychological (endogenous) factors and how women could be helped to free themselves from such abusive marriages.Using the Cycle of Violence and Psychological Entrapment theories, this study explored the women’s perception of endogenous factors that influence their stay decisions. The study used a Phenomenological research design. The target population was women who were in abusive spousal relationships and those that had resolved their abusive situations (survivors). The sample size was thirty (30) women; twenty were selected purposively from Women Rights Awareness Program (WRAP); a shelter for abused women in Nairobi County, and ten survivors of spousal abuse were selected through snowball sampling from Embakasi Subcounty. Data were collected by use of an in depth semi-structured interview schedule, focused group discussions, participant observation and field notes and triangulated to provide a thick description of the findings. Qualitative data were analyzed thematically by use of interpretative phenomenological analysis and presented in verbatim. Quantitative data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and presented by use of proportions, frequency tables and percentages. The findings revealed that women together with their children experienced multiple, severe and chronic physical, psychological, economic and sexual violations which had led to adverse psychological effects that rendered women helpless and contributed to their entrapment in abusive marriages. The study revealed that beliefs such as; need for identity, marriage is permanent, need for father figure,abuse is normal and feelings such as hope that the abuser would change and love for the abuser coupled with coping mechanisms characterized by denial, rationalization of abuse,avoidance and keeping oneself busy influenced women’s stay decisions. Based on the findings from the survivors, the study revealed that women could be helped to reappraise the endogenous factors leading to new beliefs, thoughts and feelings appropriate for resolving spousal abuse. This could be achieved through conceptualizing resolutions to abusive relations from the Transtheoretical Model of behaviour change and addressed through Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy. The process of resolution of abuse needs to incorporate men for the stability of the family unit and the children for holistic healing and functioning of the society. The findings may provide empirical evidence useful in prioritizing interventions for helping abused women deal with their perception of endogenous factors that maintain abusive spousal relationships.