Women and Jungle justice: Psychological effect, a lifetime ordeal — Dr. Agbonile

Imafidon Agbonile is a Consultant Psychiatrist and Head of Clinical Services at the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Benin City, Edo State. In this chat with Florence Amagiya, he talks about the physical and psychological consequences of jungle justice inflicted on women who are wrongfully accused of theft, abused and traumatised, among other issues.

There is this trend going on these days of women accused of theft being stripped naked and all kinds of objects inserted in their private parts. Some of these women die while going through the ordeal, while others get rescued. What are the adverse effects on these women after such ordeal? From the scenario you have described now; there are two aspects here. First and foremost, there is the physical abuse and in the same vain; there is the psychological abuse. And of course, as the very physical abuse is going on, the primary which is the psychological aspect, ie, fear and all that, would follow suit. The torture is only in the short-term but the psychological part of the ordeal would affect her for a very long time if she is not duly treated and the treatment is not just for the bruises she sustained but also the psychological scars sustained.

The first question l would asked is if the woman is indeed guilty of the allegation; because if she is not guilty but framed, then the trauma would be double which means double impact on her. What if she is really guilty of the crime? I want to assume that she was proven guilty, that is, she stole the items she was accused to have stolen. Not just alleged to have stolen. For example, if someone was alleged to have stolen whereas he or she didn’t steal. The impact would be double for the person in such a situation; the psychological trauma would be more if the person is only a victim of the accusation and not the actual thief.

Why did you say that the victim of circumstance would have more traumatic experience than the actual thief? The lady who became a victim of circumstance is that one who didn’t steal yet she is going through traumatic experience over what she didn’t do. The psychological impact can even be more in that category. Then the other category is an actual thief, but like l said, putting things into their private parts and all that can turn into an infection.

There maybe issues like bruises here, there and infections. Inserting pepper into the private parts, depending on the kind of pepper, can cause erosion of the vaginal walls or other problems. And of course, pulling and beating the person can also be traumatic, but that isn’t so bad, because if they are treated; they would be okay at the end, but that is not the case of the psychological trauma. You have been talking about both short and long-term; what do you mean by the long-term consequence? A lot of issues can be generated after a traumatic experience such as this; what happened to the lady physically cannot be compared to what awaits her in the future if she is not duly treated psychologically.

She can get back to living a normal life if she is treated but if she is left without treatment then, there would be issues later in life. But the physical injuries should be taken care of as well as the psychological illness. Judging from the scenario you painted; it can be deducted that she would be left with lots of injuries both internally and externally. If the victim is innocent; then she is going to go into shock of being accused wrongly and fear sets in.   These are the immediate reactions; but the ones that causes more damage is the fact that these episodes are done publicly, in the full glare. So you are going to now have psychological consequences, and also social consequences; a long time social abuse.

For example, like the video that went viral and everybody saw the nakedness of that woman. Of course, there is going to be big problem for her in the future. Anytime she is out there, she is going to be wondering whether the people around recognise her. And so there would be social isolation, and social isolation affects her relationships. This would affect her whether she stole or not. And this brings us to the traumatic stress, she is going to go through what we call post-traumatic stress. There are three cardinal lines to the problem of post-traumatic stress, the person keeps going through the trauma over and over again in her head. She may not be able to sleep well because she would be having a nightmare.

Then, there is the avoidance, they avoid anything that reminds them of the trauma and that is why I mentioned social isolation;  especially for that girl who was dealt with in public; she would want to be indoors, anything that has to do with the public scares her and all that.

That’s a major issue because it can affect her economically. If she is a worker, how is she going to work? If she is a student, how is she going to face her studies? These are problems and it can also lead to  flash backs, thoughts that come to her head, hence, she may resort to using hard drugs to calm her anxiety. Now, the third aspect is called hyper- arousal, this is simply a state of extreme alert, extreme alert for no reason. For instance, armed robbers visited a neighbourhood of a person who had suffered armed robbery attack in the past.

There is the certainty that he would worry more because he has been robbed before or you hear that there are robbers in the compound; imagine the state you would be in! Of course, you cannot sleep! That would be happening to the person continuously; that is what we call    a shot of adrenaline, the heart is beating very fast! When you hear anything close to the sound in her mind, she jumps! It is a very, very debilitating state because it burns all her strength; so most times the girl is tired, she can’t do much because of anxiety and fear of the unknown. Hence, it is tiring and it can be chronic and this thing can go on and on if not treated.

These are some of the psychological experiences you can have. This lady can go into major depression; when l say depression, l mean a serious lack of activity. Depression is a major psychological illness. This is a state of sadness, lack of interest in anything, including work, relationship and even food. They cannot sleep, they are just not interested; a state of lifelessness. Depression is a major psychological and psychiatric illness; in this case, the person’s state of mind is very, very low; to the extent that she becomes incapacitated, she would be feeling so tired when she has not done anything. And a lot of people  in this state engage in drugs to lift their moods.

Read more at: https://www.vanguardngr.com/2019/02/women-and-jungle-justice-psychological-effect-a-lifetime-ordeal-dr-agbonile/

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