More on adjustments, compromises, and a woman’s life.. Post 9

Commenting on Iya’s and Roop’s posts made me realize that there was so much more that I wanted to say on this topic…

Last year, someone we know got married. She was barely 22, not financially independent. The worst part was that she was getting married to an extremely conservative family, who lived in the same village as her parents. This also meant that she would not be allowed to drive her scooter(which she did before marriage) or wear anything apart from a sari even when she visited her parents. We had tried dissuading her parents and convincing them to let her get an education, and gain financial independence. But to no avail. They wanted the ‘responsibility’ out of the way. They wanted to get her ‘married off’ so that nobody accused them of ‘keeping an unmarried daughter at home’.  They believed that a daughter has no place in her parents place.

Not even a year down the line, she is back at her parents place. She has been verbally/mentally abused badly by the husband. He wants ‘money’ to shut his mouth. Things have got so bad that, she even tried to commit suicide a few times. Finally she is now back at home. Her parents are supportive of her, but they are still trying to see if a ‘samjhauta’ can be reached. I can’t help wonder what ‘samjhauta’? What compromise can be reached when the husband is not even concerned about her. When all he is bothered about is money.

Last year, I had met her when we were in India. She was newly married, and had a few concerns at that time.  I heard her mother/aunts explain to her that we, women cannot expect everything to go our way. We have to compromise, adjust. Don’t have high expectations. Just learn to be a ‘good daughter-in-law’ and everything will be all right. Having known her, I know that she is a sweet person, soft spoken, and someone who generally toes the line. Not someone who will try to make a fuss out of nothing. Knowing this, if she is unhappy, surely, someone should be listening to her rather than pretend that everything will be alright if she ‘adjusts’.

I can’t comprehend the huge rush to get her back in her marital home. What if her in-laws decide to make her life worse for going and talking to her parents about what she faced? Why, why do people think that an abusive husband is not a big deal? Isn’t it better for her to get out of an abusive marriage now, before she has children and gets even more trapped in an unhappy life?

Clearly, nothing matters apart from the perception that the daughter is married. What is of utmost importance, is that an unmarried daughter is not at home, so god forbid, if the married daughter comes home. Lets find the quickest way to send her back. Lets talk about adjustments, compromises, whatever,  lets just get her back where she belongs. After all, she is the paraya dhan. So what if her next suicide attempt is successful. All that matters is that she is in her marital home. Nothing else, apparently, matters.

Send me no roses

He always brought her flowers. Red roses.. as red as her bruises…

He was loving and tender.. as tender as her body felt….

The more she hurt, the bigger the bouquet, the more loving he got..

But today was the last.. she was free at last. Free from the roses, free from the tender loving care.. free from the sudden eruption of rage that left her hurt and bruised. She was now at peace, nobody could hurt her anymore.. This time, the roses were for her funeral.

 

October is the Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Domestic violence is one of the most widespread and the most under-estimated crimes. Domestic violence is just not between spouses. Domestic violence may also be perpetuated by members of the extended family. Domestic violence may also be against children. Domestic violence knows no barriers. It exists in every community, country, race, ethnic group , class of people, sexual orientation and gender. It could begin in any phase of a relationship.  It could happen to any of ‘us’ not ‘them’.

There is no excuse for domestic violence. Nobody ‘asks’ for abuse. It can not be justified. Once one slap is endured, it might just be a matter of time before it escalates to full-fledged regular abuse.

In India, the societal structures make it even more difficult to combat. After I had my daughter, I had a lady who used to come and massage me. She used to tell me about another person who she used to massage, who she was sure was a victim of abuse. Apparently the lady, just weeks after giving birth, had black and blue marks all over her. And at no point was she allowed to be alone with this lady – either her sister-in-law or her mother-in-law would sit by, while she massaged her. Apparently new bruises would appear every now and then. Hearing all this broke my heart.. Here I was being pampered by my parents, and there was another young mother, possibly younger than me, but being treated so badly.

In India, it becomes even more difficult to tackle as a lot of times, even the police refuse to intervene citing it to be a personal matter – between the spouses, to be resolved within the four walls of the house.

I remember another friend whose sister got married to a man settled abroad, who used to abuse her so much that she finally separated. It was terrible for her to live in a new country, with an abusive spouse. Thankfully for her, her parents and family stood by her. She was not sent back to her husband and told to adjust, to compromise…as happens with so many other young women. When reputation in the society and what ‘the neighbours think’ become more important that their daughter’s life.

Physical abuse is not the only thing that is part of domestic abuse. Although we tend talk about women mainly, because going by percentages, more women than men seem to be the victims of domestic abuse, domestic abuse can happen to anybody – irrespective of the gender. Mental abuse is just as part of domestic violence as physical abuse is. Keeping the woman from meeting her friends or family, keeping tab of what she does, checking her mail can all be classified under domestic violence, because of the effect of such activity on the victim. A lot of abusers are extremely gentle and nice in public making it difficult for others to even imagine that the abuser is capable of such atrocities.

Apparently, most people affected by domestic violence are often unaware of the resources available. Which is where campaigns like Bell Bajao become so important. A lot of women will not feel so helpless if they are aware that help is at hand. And a lot of abusers may think twice if they know that their victim can get help!

One of the biggest myths surrounding domestic violence is that a couple should stay together, despite the violence for the sake of the children. Children are NOT better off in an abusive environment. I remember reading about a girl who grew up in a family where her mother was periodically abused by her father. She grew up thinking that it was normal and ended up married to another abuser. It was much later that she realized that she could and did break the cycle. There are long-term effects that have been seen in children who grow up in an abusive environment such as loss of confidence, stress related illnesses, they could copy the behaviour to become either abusers or victims later in life, blame themselves for it. A happy and secure environment with a single parent is far  better than an abusive environment with both parents.

Some interesting links.

How to recognize abuse

Title inspired by a book by Jenny Tomlin called Send me no flowers, which tackled the subject of abuse and was one of the most brutal and shocking books that I read on the subject. It also brought home the different kinds of abuses that comes under the umbrella of domestic abuse.

 

Credit crisis sparks surge of domestic violence in the home

I just read an article about how the credit crisis has caused a surge in domestic violence. Apparently the National Centre for Domestic Violence(UK) saw a 40% increase in victims seeking support last month.

The statistics sounds very scary. 40% is after all a huge amount. This sudden increase is attributed to the credit crunch, which is making a lot of people stay at home in an effort to save money. The stress of the credit crunch, along with is being the holiday season, must also be taking a huge toll, for the figures to jump so much. One in four women, apparently, will experience domestic violence in their lifetime – and this may be more as a lot of cases are not disclosed.

That set me thinking about the statistics in India. If it is so bad in Britain – it must be much worse in India. In the UK – there has been a lot of campaign in an effort to reduce domestic violence. When I was pregnant – I was surprised on being asked by the midwife if I am being subjected to domestic violence. It was a routine question as apparently a lot of women report increased domestic violence when they are pregnant, so the government tries to take pro-active steps to curtail it.

Surprisingly, I could not find much updated data about statistics in India. Some of the information I found was surveys done in 2003! According to the UN , around two thirds of married women in India are subjected to domestic violence. The only countries with higher percentages are Egypt and Zambia. The UN report indicates that ‘ women with tangible economic assets were less likely to be victims of domestic violence than those who lack them, the report cited Kerala as an example.
“In Kerala, a survey found that 49 per cent women without property reported domestic violence compared with only seven per cent who owned property,” it said ‘. So it does look like financial freedom has helped in reducing domestic violence – according to this survey. However, I did read other reports, which indicate that violence has increased with women’s education! Alternatively, it might just mean that women are more aware, so they tend to report abuse than just accept it as their fate.

I was reading the other day about how, many women actually think they are to blame for the violence they are subject to and in India, especially where the a lot of women live with their in-laws, this is further compounded. Furthermore, they hardly have the freedom, to step outside their houses, leave alone report the abuse. I have even heard of instances where the police has refused to ‘interfere’ as it is a ‘domestic matter’ between the spouses..

According to studies done on the effect of domestic violence on children indicate that the damaging influences could lead to adjustment problems as well as undermining the mother-child relations. I had once read a true-life account of a woman who had been abused, she used to see her mother abused , so she grew up thinking that it was ‘normal’ and ‘to be expected’! Her expectations were based on what she saw and experienced as a child, making her a prime target for marital abuse. It took her a long time, before she came to realise that she was being abused and that she could stand up against it!

In this post, I have just touched upon physical domestic violence, mental domestic violence is also equally prevalent and equally damaging – but far more difficult to report and address, especially in nations like ours where men culturally have the upper hand.