Domestic violence: When women turn the heat on their men

Alice Uwineza thought she had found true love. But it turned out to be as brief as her 7-day honey moon.

Alice Uwineza thought she had found true love. But it turned out to be as brief as her 7-day honey moon. Three months into her marriage, Uwineza came face to face with a stranger in the man she had seen as her soul mate. 

She was physically and emotionally abused. Her once blossoming relationship turned to bitter resentment and culminated in extreme violence.

“He was so kind to me, we would spend lovely times together and he was caring. I seemed important to him; But things changed suddenly. One day I came back home late from work….my husband was furious with me, he slammed me down on the couch, and I hit my head on the floor.

“The abuse got worse as he subjected me to serious beatings almost every day, even though I was pregnant, he did not care. The swollen face, cracked lips and bruised body were all I knew; I hated my life.”

Uwineza one day packed her bags and fled for her life. But for other women it is not the case.

They stay in abusive relationships to fit within the cultural and society norms. Psychiatrists warn that this trend has kept domestic violence under the wraps until it explodes out in form of violence perpetuated by women.

Because of high poverty levels among women, even when they are battered, they still run back to the perpetrator. Men are often the bread winners. Studies have shown that most of the women who commit violent acts do it out of self defence.

Also because the women know that they can’t challenge the men physically, they wait for them to sleep and harm them, leaving them with lifelong injuries.

Psychiatrists say for a woman to harm or in extreme cases kill the husband, usually they have gone through tremendous abuse, have been battered, trampled on and denied their rightful position in a home.

It starts small - the partner one day strikes the wife or even shoves her hard enough to make her fall brutally to the ground, he then apologises and says the hurtful behaviour won’t happen again — but there is fear in the wife that it will. She may even wonder if she’s imagining the abuse, because her husband buys her gifts after he gets physical as a way to say “sorry”, but the emotional or physical pain is real.


Research shows that women across the world quietly endure violence and as a result some commit unintended crimes. When a husband abuses his wife physically or even verbally, the spirit is battered along with her body, for this reason, cases like a wife murdering the husband is the last resort.

Recently, an Israeli court sentenced a woman, Lilian Mendoza, to ten years in prison. The woman pleaded guilty to killing her husband, who had been torturing her for twenty years. The 41-year-old woman shot her husband dead. The man would beat her every day; numerous witnesses confirmed during the trial, that it drove her to extreme measures.

Such stories of desperate wives killing their husbands as a result of being unable to withstand their husbands’ humiliations and torture are common. In Rwanda between 2012/2013, Twenty-five men were killed by their spouses and 67 women were killed by their husbands in the same period over domestic issues.

Rwanda has in the recent past stepped up the fight against Gender Based Violence (GBV) and child abuse but unfortunately cases of such situations are still happening. According to figures from the Rwanda National Police, anti-GBV and child protection directorate, a total of 3,127 cases of defilement were registered between 2012 and 2013. At least 325 cases of rape were recorded in the same period.

Way forward

The Minister for Gender and Family Promotion says that there is some progress in the fight against gender violence.

“We are making good progress because of many initiatives which have been put in place against gender based violence. A zero tolerance has been declared on gender based violence, we are also working with different partners to put up various policies towards the law and legal framework,” minister Oda Gasinzigwa, explains.

The minister notes that various campaigns have contributed towards the awareness and fight against GBV and warns that there is no room for complacency in the fight.

“We can’t afford the gender based violence in our country but of course we still have a long way to go and we are taking more measures to make sure that as we go forward, we eradicate all forms of gender based violence,” the Minister adds.


According to the Minister, they have been carrying out sensitisation among the civil society, the government, police and other institutions “but now we want to have more people on board, so we are working together to make sure that we fight GBV,” Gasinzigwa says.

About women who suffer domestic violence silently, Gasinzigwa says it’s not about those women but rather about the community. Gender based violence is supposed to be the responsibility of the community through the awareness to help raise such issues.

According to her, more women are speaking out about the problem.

Efforts have been put in to empower women because when women are economically empowered, it helps in addressing domestic violence.

Shamsi Kazimbaya, the National Coordinator at Rwanda Men’s Resource Centre (RWAMREC) says that situations where women kill their husbands are a result of domestic violence stretching over a period of time leading to depression. “There are so many factors that cause domestic violence, first is mostly how problems in the family are managed, the other is culture.Most men think that they are the ones to provide solely for the family and make decisions. This same culture expects the women to be submissive, so when one has a husband who expects that and doesn’t get it in return, domestic violence can arise. Also financial problems can cause the man to vent the stress on his family because of not being able to provide for his family,” Kazimbaya says.

She puts emphasis on culture as a reason why women suffer violence silently.

“I know some women who are very well educated with prestigious jobs but because of the norms instilled in them that a woman can not reveal secrets of her household, she ends up staying in an abusive marriage. We need to change such beliefs and essentially women need to know their worth.

“Some reach a point when they want to leave but because they aren’t financially stable and have children, they end up being stuck with the abusive husband. Therefore women should be empowered in terms of education and most importantly, empowered economically,” Kazimbaya adds.


I say: What is the cause of domestic violence?

Mathew Kagabo

Men still think it is okay to hit their wives while many young women do not realise such relationships are unhealthy. A woman should walk away from such a marriage because she can even pay with her life and leave her children motherless. Men should also find a way to solve marital problems instead of using the hard means.

Peninah Umutesi

I think that the major contributing factor to domestic violence has to do with a lack of understanding between the couple. Some men also don’t think in a civilised manner hence they end up doing harsh things to their wives. Times have changed and beating a wife ended ages ago. Men should man up and solve issues in a more civilised way.

Rodgers Munyaneza

Those men who beat their wives are cowards, sometimes they are stressed about other things and then come home to relieve their pain by inflicting pain on others. But what I can tell those women is that they shouldn’t keep quiet, they should go and report such irresponsible men to the authorities. This is a new era and women are past such situations.

Shadia Nansasi

I think poverty is the major contributing factor to domestic violence. In most cases women are the largest victims of domestic violence though sometimes men are also abused but this is to a small percentage. Men have to realise that society has changed and give women a chance to achieve. I think that the time has come for men to be educated on the issue and see women not as a threat, but as a social partner for development.


Telltale signs

The following is a list of behaviours that may indicate a potential batterer. It is not the purpose of the listing to imply that every person with some of these attributes is a batterer or potential batterer.


At the start of the relationship, an abuser will equate jealously with love. The abuser will question the victim about who the victim talks to, accuse the victim of flirting, or become jealous of time spent with others. The abuser may call the victim frequently during the day, drop by unexpectedly, refuse to let the victim work, check the car mileage, or ask friends to watch the victim.

Controlling behaviour

In the beginning an abuser will attribute controlling behaviour to concern for the victim (for example, the victim’s safety or decision-making skills). As this behaviour progresses the situation will worsen, and the abuser may assume all control of finances or prevent the victim from coming and going freely.

Quick involvement

A victim often has known or dated the abuser for a brief period of time before getting engaged or living together. The abuser will pressure the victim to commit to the relationship. A victim may be made to feel guilty for wanting to slow the pace or end the relationship.

Unrealistic expectations

An abuser expects the victim to meet all of the abuser’s needs, to take care of everything emotionally and domestically.


An abuser will attempt to isolate the victim by severing the victim’s ties to outside support and resources. The batterer will accuse the victim’s friends and family of being “trouble makers.” The abuser may block the victim’s access to use of a vehicle, work, or telephone service in the home.

Blames others for problems

An abuser will blame others for all problems or for the abuser’s own shortcomings. Someone is always out to get the abuser or is an obstacle to the abuser’s achievements. The victim or potential victim will be blamed for almost anything.