Jun 30, 2010
Sheila joined her husband Arun in the Middle East 2 years after their marriage. Arun worked for a bank and earned a handsome salary and they mutually decided that she would be a homemaker. Within six months, Sheila was able to learn her way around the suburban locality in which they lived. Just like any other newly wedded couple everything was hunky dory between them. As days rolled by things began to change. Arun could not digest the fact that Sheila did pretty much everything on her own and did not rely on him. She made friends quickly and soon became popular in the Indian community. Arun could not tolerate her popularity and could not stand it when someone appreciated her. He began suspecting her and questioning her intentions. He ordered her not go out shopping or visit anyone unaccompanied. He started doing all the shopping for the home. She refused to stay home and told him he was just being unreasonable.
From then on, he locked her in the bedroom and left for work and she was confined to the four walls of their bedroom until he returned in the evening. He unlocked the room in the evening and asked her cook and then he slapped her and kicked her and found fault with everything she did and everything she said. Every word she uttered made him more violent and became an excuse to bash her. He even threatened to kill her if she uttered a word to her family in India or any friends in the gulf.
This torture and house arrest continued for almost a year and a half and, one fine day, a friend of Sheila’s paid them a surprise visit. Sheila had a black eye and multiple bruises on her arms but she could not say anything as Arun was right there. Her teary eyes seemed to say “please get me out of here” Her friend called the Indian embassy and due to the timely action of the officials and a few friends, Sheila was rescued and sent home. Thank goodness for her supportive parents, Sheila is safe recovering from her physical and emotional bruises. Sheila and her family know very well that the scars will take a lot longer if at all there is healing.
Sheila was very fortunate to be rescued on time from the clutches of her violent spouse but there are thousands of women who do not get help to come out of abusive relationships. Domestic violence as it is commonly called is violence in the home between partners which is prevalent all over the world among all cultures. Office on Violence against women (O.V.M) defines domestic violence as “a pattern of abusive behavior in a relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another person.”
Domestic Violence Facts
Domestic violence, in essence, is an outright violation of the basic right to safety and wellbeing of a woman. Incidents of violence against women are comparatively more in countries where women’s rights are ill-defined. While education or social standing do not really provide immunity against violence, women who are economically dependent on their spouses are far more likely to be targeted than women who have an alternative means of livelihood.
Even after repeated incidents of violence women often march right back to their abusive spouses assuming the spouse has changed. Many women feel helpless as economic dependence makes it difficult to exit from an abusive marriage. Some choose to stay in the marriage for fear of being ostracized by family and society. It is truly unfortunate that instead of supporting and encouraging a woman who has mustered courage to leave her abusive and violent spouse, society shuns her further. Generally, women take a long time to say enough is enough and continue to stay with the abuser jeopardizing their own safety and the safety of their children. This is what happened to Laxmi recently. When she returned to her parent’s home and reported what goes on in the home, her mother sent her away saying “You have been married and you do not belong here. Make it work and don’t come crying anymore.” In less than two months she was stabbed to death by her husband who later killed himself and her three year old by drowning.
Reactions to violence differ from woman to woman. Many blame themselves. “I should know better, he has a temper problem, I have to be patient and understanding; I have to make sure that he never loses his temper.” There are some who blame the victim and say “it is all her fault, she nags him and instigates him; can’t she keep quiet when he comes home after a hard-day’s work?” Abusers too tend to justify their bouts of violence with lame excuses: “I hit her because she went out without informing me”, “she is argumentative”, “she is refusing sex, or “she deliberately puts extra salt in the food.”
Social conditioning is to be blamed for under reporting of cases of violence. Women prefer to suffer in silence instead of being humiliated in public. Sumi quoted a police sub-inspector who sent her away when she wanted to lodge a complaint after a violent domestic dispute: “Just go to the clinic and get some dressing done on the wounds, after all he is your husband, he has a right to beat you, I cannot register your complaint, please go home and learn to be nice to your husband.” When the so called custodians of law and order have attitudes like this, the plight of women becomes really deplorable.
Many women are indoctrinated in families from childhood that it is perfectly okay to be violated. They consider it to be their fate and believe they have to endure it. Zubeda says “so what if he breaks my bones once in a while and bangs my head against the wall or scorches me with a lit cigarette, he is my husband. He still loves me. How can I go to a police station and lodge a complaint against my own husband?” A great number of women suffer in silence and their families, friends, and colleagues too are kept in the dark about what transpires within the four walls of a home. Ultimately, when the woman is killed by her spouse, it becomes a wake-up call that comes a bit too late.
Men Don’t Tell
Domestic violence is not exclusively a woman’s issue. There are many men who are violated and victimized by their wives although the number is not as humongous as it is among women. The woman just learns that she can control her husband and intimidate him through various means.
Eight year old Joe challenged his dad one day “What kind of a man are you? You get beaten by a woman?” Mr. D’Souza was a company executive who always wore full-sleeved shirts to cover the bruises which went unnoticed for eight years until his son shook him up and forced him to seek help.
For obvious reasons, it is more humiliating for a man to admit and report abuse than it is for a woman and so, the incidents of victimization of men are termed as exceptions to the general rule. Highly educated, professional women are reportedly more likely to ‘man-handle’ their spouses than their counterparts. All other dynamics of exercising power and control, belittling, denying and intimidation are the same for both genders.
How can you help tackle violence?
Domestic violence is a multifaceted issue that necessitates people from all walks of life joining hands in order to find a solution. Recognize injuries, black eyes and other telltale signs of violence and encourage the woman to seek help.
Feel free to interfere when a domestic squabble turns violent, don’t be a silent spectator. “Ring the bell” campaign has helped save many lives nationwide. Bang on the door of your neighbor or ring the doorbell until the fight stops. Tell them you’re going to call the police. There are hotline numbers available in almost every city.
Teach children and adolescents that violence is not the right way to express emotions. Lessons of non-violence begin at home and when children see their adult role models settling differences in a civilized manner, they are bound to emulate the same. Everyone needs to remember that violence is an exception, not a rule.
The abuser too needs help!
Men who beat and violate women need professional assistance as well. While it is difficult to identify men who have a violent streak in them, based on data gathered on violators over the years, a profile of an abuser has been put together by experts. The typical abuser is:
• Is less educated than the abused
• Is afraid of abandonment and losing control
• Has poor control over impulses
• Has low frustration tolerance
• Blames partner for their abusiveness
• Is possessive, jealous, and suspicious
• Believes in traditional gender roles
It does not mean that everyone who violates fits this profile. Most of them have bruised egos that need to be tended to. The damage could be due to childhood exposure to violence in the home, having a parent role model, history of physical abuse and so on. Some abusers regret being violent and apologize for their behavior but somehow fail to use restraint. Counseling, Psycho Therapy, Training in Stress Management, Anger management, yoga, and Meditation, definitely help to steer them on the right path. Timely interventions can help enrich marital relationships and save families from breaking.
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