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.