“We don’t necessarily know how to hear stories about any kind of violence, because it is hard to accept that violence is as simple as it is complicated, that you can love someone who hurts you, that you can stay with someone who hurts you, that you can be hurt by someone who loves you, that you can be hurt by a complete stranger, that you can be hurt in so many terrible, intimate ways.”
― Roxane Gay, Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body
Beaten in black and blue, my colleague entered into my office cabin. It was not the first time I had seen her wounds. There had been multiple times when she would be hiding her injuries and scars. Before her marriage, she used to be the most beautiful and dynamic person I had ever met. But, post marriage her pink face turned blue, her glistening eyes turned pale and her smiling lips turned mum. Sometimes she would burst into laughter for no apparent reason and sometimes cry inconsolably. When asked about her injuries…she would make different excuses and take her leave. However….things turned. That day, her silence broke and she cried her heart out in front of me.
Within a stipulated period of her marriage, she suffered domestic violence, wife beating and emotional abuse. She was despised in front of significant others at her in-laws place, she was denigrated in front of her husband’s friends and the perpetrators were none other than her husband and his family. When my colleague’s family tried to help and intervene, they were made to keep their mouths shut by saying that, “Aapki ladki ki Galati hai ke wo ek ladki hai. Ghar ka kaam karna, pati aur sabko khush rakhna uski zimmedari hai. Aur agar koi kuch kare aur kahe to usko chup chap sunke apne ghar grihasti pe dhyan dena chahiye. Agar wo zyada muh kholegi ya zyada sawaal jawaab karegi to uske saath yehi hoga aur yehi hone chahiye. Isi liye wo pitti rehti hai.” (It is your daughter's mistake that she is a female that she is a female. Doing the household chore, taking care of her husband and keeping everyone happy is her duty. If someone tells her something, then she should keep quiet and concentrate on doing her work. If she opens her mouth or says/asks anything then she will be beaten anyways. She deserves that). My colleague has also been a victim of marital rape. She was forced into having sex with her husband even without her consent; if she carried she was forced to abort it. She was slashed at her private parts, applied with chilli powder there and she was made to go through situations that no one would ever want to be treated in their worst nightmares.
As she was sharing her experiences, streaks of questions were hitting my mind: Is it really a mistake to be a woman? Don’t we have the right to say anything or even question when we smell something wrong? Why aren’t women given appropriate respect or integrity by their partners or in-laws? If a husband hits or has extra marital affairs, it is a sign of his masculinity. What if a wife does the same? In today’s world when we are fighting for women rights and gender equality, I guess we have not been yard forward when it comes to gender equity.
When I asked my colleague as to why she continued in that abusive relationship, her replies were: “What does it mean by abuse? May be I deserved it! May be I should have been able to manage both household responsibilities, family commitments and work responsibilities everything without fail, or even when I am sick or tired. What will the society say if I get separated from my husband? How will I emotionally survive? May be its ok when men to hit women.”
I was wondering whether my colleague was an innocent victim, or simply was living with a body full of wounds and charred emotions. As a psychologist, I consider it my social responsibility to psycho-educate everyone about the deadly aftermath of wife beatings, abuse and domestic violence. Because it is not just a question of the couple in concern, it is about millions of women facing domestic violence and abuse around the world and a big question mark on humanity itself. This reflection is not about generalizing facts, exceptional cases or being judgemental. It’s all about helping abused women transform themselves from victims to strong survivors. It’s all about helping humans internalize humaneness and humanity.
What is Abuse and Domestic Violence?
Any behaviour that poses a threat and harms the other person is abuse. It can range from physical abuse to emotional abuse, name-calling, despising, bullying to marital rape and sexual abuse. Marriage doesn’t give any man or the in-laws family the sole right to harm the woman in any form; whether it is verbal, physical or psychological.
The United Nations defines violence against women as "any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life."
Intimate partner violence refers to behaviour by an intimate partner or ex-partner that causes physical, sexual or psychological harm, including physical aggression, sexual coercion, and psychological abuse and controlling behaviours.
Sexual violence is "any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, or other act directed against a person’s sexuality using coercion, by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting. It includes rape, defined as the physically forced or otherwise coerced penetration of the vulva or anus with a penis, other body part or object."
(http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs239/en/ Violence against women. Accessed on 25/07/17)
According to the global estimates by the World Health Organization, every 1 in 3 (35%) of women globally are experiencing abuse and domestic violence. More so, 38% of murders of women have been done by intimate male partners. Given to this, it is high time to understand the signs of abuse and domestic violence, its repercussions and prevention.
Signs of Abuse, Wife Beatings and Domestic Violence
- Unexplained marks or injuries in different parts of the body on a regular basis or from time to time
- Gradual change in the person’s behaviour
- Decline in the person’s physical or psychological health
- Inconsolable crying and other emotional episodes
- Depression, stress, anxiousness, feeling panicky, and / or sleep problems
- Anger issues, getting frustrated easily
- Feelings of harming oneself, harming others and feeling suicidal/suicidal attempts
- Any other negative or unusual behaviour that is not a part of the person’s regular behaviour patterns or thought processes
There is no single cause behind domestic violence and abuse. Its reasons are manifold. Some of them are: upbringing, family patterns, reinforcing of such behaviours, cultural stereotypes, anger issues, ego clashes, depression, faulty coping mechanisms for stress and frustration, extra marital affairs, gender stereotypes and so on.
“In order to escape accountability for his crimes, the perpetrator does everything in his power to promote forgetting. If secrecy fails, the perpetrator attacks the credibility of his victim. If he cannot silence her absolutely, he tries to make sure no one listens.”
― Judith Lewis Herman, Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence - From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror
Domestic violence and abuse is not acceptable at all. No matter what, no one has the right to hit or harm one’s partner in any way. This is against a person’s dignity, integrity and human rights as a whole. Therefore, ample measures should be taken to avoid and prevent domestic violence and abuse. Some effective steps are:
- Getting harmed or being abused is not your mistake at all: No matter who you are, where you are or what you/other think about you; you need to understand that getting abused or being harmed was not your fault or mistake at all! You are not responsible for any act of violence on you. There could have been opinion or situational differences. But, hitting or harming is not acceptable in any case. So, never ever think negative about yourself or try to harm yourself. IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT.
- Respect your Right to Life which includes right to live with Dignity: Even before respecting or loving your so-called abusive partner and other family members, always remember to respect your right to life. It is not something out of the blue. It is your own constitutional mandate. Psychologically, it means to love, respect and accept yourself just the way you are.
- Enable and Empower Yourself: Psycho-educate yourself on the legal procedures, acts and enactment, laws and provisions for safeguarding yourself from abuse and domestic violence. Empower yourself, believe in your potentials and believe that you deserve to be treated well and fairly in life. You deserve nothing but the best for yourself.
- Resolve Any Past Unresolved Issues: Pent up emotions and unresolved past issues can keep haunting in the present and destroy your future. If you or your partner are tied up in any past emotional issue, financial problems, past relationship issues and the like, then take every proper step to resolve these pending issues and add a vent to the pent up emotions.
- Communicate: If this abuse or domestic violence is arising due to differences in opinions, personality, thought patterns and behaviour; it is always a wise step to communicate with each other. Take out quality time for yourselves, talk among yourselves and draw clear boundaries of behaviour towards each other, expectations and how both of you can stay together without harming or getting harmed.
- Create a Support System: Feelings of guilt, remorse, anger and multitude of emotions and questions regarding the past, present, future, response of significant others and the societal reaction may bombard your mind really hard. During such times try to keep those thoughts aside for a while, try to think about the people who can really understand you in a non-judgemental manner and help you to get out of the hellish situation. If you can find no one then there are ample of NGOs and Support Groups who are empowered and strong enough to stand by your side and create an enabling environment for you.
- Be Your Own Support System: Remember that you are no less. You have every potentiality within you and given a chance you have every possibility of soaring high in the sky. Believe in yourself and work towards building a safe and secure life that you truly deserve and are capable of living.
- Take Professional Help: Not just women, but men are also sufferers of abuse and violence. In both the cases, it is important to work towards the well-being of each one of you. Therefore, it is always wise to take professional help to understand the situations from unbiased and non-judgemental perspectives, transform yourself from a victim to a strong survivor.
A marriage for some people definitely is a big life-changing event. It can be for good or turn out completely against you. In every case, it is imperative to understand that abuse, wife beatings or domestic violence is NOT OKAY AT ALL. These are unethical on humanitarian grounds and are also punishable offences against the law. So, take the charge of your life before it’s too late. If you feel that you or someone you know is going through such problems, please feel free to contact us. If no one cares or helps…we are there, just a click away. Our experienced and licensed experts are all set to help you live a life of meaningfulness and dignity; to work towards leading a life full of smiles and luminance that you truly deserve.
Do not stay mum. Break the silence and break the shackles…….
“Toxic relationships are dangerous to your health; they will literally kill you. Stress shortens your lifespan. Even a broken heart can kill you. There is an undeniable mind-body connection. Your arguments and hateful talk can land you in the emergency room or in the morgue. You were not meant to live in a fever of anxiety; screaming yourself hoarse in a frenzy of dreadful, panicked fight-or-flight that leaves you exhausted and numb with grief. You were not meant to live like animals tearing one another to shreds. Don't turn your hair gray. Don't carve a roadmap of pain into the sweet wrinkles on your face. Don't lay in the quiet with your heart pounding like a trapped, frightened creature. For your own precious and beautiful life, and for those around you — seek help or get out before it is too late. This is your wake-up call!”
― Bryant McGill
To my CEO, eWellness Expert, Mr. Shiva Raman Pandey who could understand and empathize the pain of abuse and violence survivors, who gave me a platform to keep my words forth. To the strong survivors who did not let go, gave their life a second chance and gave a form to their aspirations and dreams. To my clients who have been my best teachers and to the contributors of goodreads.com for stepping ahead, taking the charge to stop violence and infuse a new life force…..