07 October 2010

DV. And our role in it.

October is Domestic Violence (DV) awareness month. link. Though this issue does not need a particular "month" to create awareness, but I am glad that this issue is given its due importance (or should I say "some" importance) among scores of other issues that are present in our society. I am against all sort of violence: spouses abusing each other, parents hitting their children, cruelty against animals, against unborn (most of the times girl) children link . It contradicts our race. The race that we call "human race".

When you don't get the opportunity to directly help anyone facing domestic violence (or any injustice for that matter), then the next best thing to do is create awareness and spread the message. And that's what I am doing here, in this post. I also posted a link on my facebook page about the DV awareness website, and I was indeed saddened that I got no response to it. I mean i get f*#&*%& 10 messages and "likes" to my lame "flying to CA" status updates, but to this one, not a single response. Neither did anyone re-post the link on their page. Why cant this issue raise the same amount of public uproar that a Rajni movie gathers? Why are we, as a society so mum about these issues. Govt had started some schemes link but I have not seen their awareness commercials that frequently on TV, especially in recent times. This is one awesome scheme that we all MUST be aware of. Please read through this link. Why cant we let the victims know that we as a society wont shun them, wont question them, wont sneer and gossip about them if they walk out on their husbands to avoid DV. Or has the society not reached that stage yet. Maybe the society needs more deaths, dowry incidents and abusive marriages to make it "AWARE" and do something against it?
I wonder.. are the people on facebook lucky enough not to have comes across DV before (or know someone who has) or whether they simply just don't care about this issue? There is also a possibility that people in my friend list are actually out there helping others with issues like DV (but I have decided to be a skeptic, and ignore this possibility). And as I said above, we ought to be more vocal about such issues that are still considered as a stigma by the society. Imagine what we can do if we use these social networking and mass media channels for issues that really matter?! Issues that can save lives. Issues that can make the society 'humane'. We underestimate the power these mediums have to create a positive change.

Anyways, whiners are wieners, and I don't want to be one. So I shall just do my bit and write on this topic. I have grown up knowing people who have suffered DV. Right in my family. 2 such cases to be precise (that I know of). In one case, one relative xyz (now, no more) hung herself because her husband and in laws were torturing her physically and emotionally. She had a son. xyz was very close to my mom (but never mentioned the torture to her or any other relatives), and I was a little girl at the time she died. At the age when I didn't even know what domestic violence meant. Her death (and many other incidents i witnessed in my childhood) have left impressions on my mind. They are indeed responsible in making me more aware, more independent and more confident. (I am using xyz here because I am trying to keep this post as 'general' as possible without any mention of names or my relationship to them) But I still remember this incident with crystal clear details. When xyz died, and we came to know about the whole torture that she was subjected to, I had cried. I was shocked that someone would physically abuse anyone to this extent. And i was even more shocked that xyz's own parents had sent her back to her husband's house after she had come to them for help. The first time. And every time after that. Even me, a child, knew that this was wrong. Parents are supposed to protect their children. But its shocking her parents were more worried about what the society would think of them. For them, protecting the family name was perhaps more important than protecting their daughter. I read a nice line in an article: Duniya me sabse bada rog: kya kahenge log?!! Well, I don't know what the society thinks of them now, but I absolutely detest them for sending their daughter back to die. As for xyz's husband and in laws, I have nothing to say apart from the fact that they repent. They repent so badly, that their conscience does not allow them to live peacefully. And I also detest the society I live in which thinks less of divorcees and single mothers. And I also detest myself that I can do nothing other than write this post about an issue I feel so strongly about.

The other case in my family is exactly the same as above. The only difference being the lady finding enough courage to walk out of the marriage after 25 years. She is sane, happy, with her children making her proud. And yes, I salute this lady for her courage. Though late, she did muster the courage, and did an awesome job of raising perfectly sane children single-handedly.

Other than these 2 cases I have come across in my own family, almost EVERY domestic help we have had till now has been a victim of DV. Few months back, Mom was telling me about this lady she had hired to clean the house, has her own miserable story behind her. Husband is a drunkard, beats her, makes her work (while he himself sloths around the house doing nothing), and takes all her money to be incharge of all the finances (which are all spent on booze). He wont divorce her. When she left the house with her kids, he attempted suicide and left a note holding her responsible for his act. He did survive (i think that was his intent), but then to get the police case off her head (as a result of him blaming her for suicide), she had to pay some hefty amount, putting her in debt. And in the meanwhile the husband is back to troubling her and beating her up. She has no support from her family, and that single woman with no money finds it impossible to go register a complaint with the police. The police and the corruption and the horror stories that involve them is another day's post.
But just listening to her story sent shivers down my spine. This is something that is not new. (According to UN, 2/3 of married women are subjected to DV, according to a report that gave year 2005's statistics. I could not find more recent stats from a trusted source.) But I wonder if there will ever be a moment of peace for that lady? will she ever sleep a good nights sleep, knowing she will not be beaten up later that night?
Some would argue that she herself should be strong and fight it out. But how? Is it her fault that she was not educated when she was little, because her parents found is more important for her brothers to educate (which they will make use of by being sloths when they grow up and beating their wives). Was it her fault that she has not a single channel of support? I know, and have seen some people fight out of these situations even without any support. But what about the cases when the victim seems to think this sort of abuse is a part and parcel of life. It is something every one has to endure, Because her mom also had to endure?
Mom did all that she could do to help her out, but she left after few months and we have no idea where she is or what she does.
In most of the cases, the victim does not know that the abuse he/she is being subjected to is wrong. The social conditioning we get matters a lot. If a son grows up seeing his dad beat up his mom, chances are he will turn abusive. There are exceptions, and I am not generalising anything, but unless you are taught that violence of any form is wrong, you wont learn.

I request the people who read this, please spread the message around about this month being DV awareness month. Also, keep your eyes and minds open. DV victims (women, men, children.. DV is not gender specific) can be around you, in your circle of acquaintances and you might just end up helping them in some way. Be aware, be safe, help others by making them aware. There is another article I had posted on my fb page a while back: pink saree gang. This article had inspired me a lot. These are what I call "modern" Indian women. Women who don't need western clothes and english accents to prove they are modern. They don't even need to "prove" it. They are the people who "are bringing about a CHANGE". Who are not just writing articles but actually going out there and saving lives. I salute them.


arbitthoughts said...

I really fail to understand how people, humans, can do this to their spouses. And worse, how/why are the women made to stay in the marriage and not walk out.

Perpetrators of DV should be publicly shamed so that they understand how wrong they are, and other realise that it is not OK to ever hit anyone.

Neha said...

I agree piyu. Hitting is never an option, unless one wants to 'control' the other person, and show who the boss is. And DV cases are so common, that in most of the cases the abuser and victim feel that such behaviour is normal.

Ketaki... said...

I never encountered anyone going through a DV so I never thought about it as strongly as you did. You know, I am going to post your post as a link on my FB. That would me my bit for the cause for now. In future I will try to help anyone who would be in need.

nightflier said...

Neha! what a fiery post. I am inspired to say the least.
I have never encountered any DV cases, but that doesnt lessen the fact that it exists and it is outright cruel.
I hope to contribute by doing my bit though.

Neha said...

@ketaki, nightflier: first of all thanks for posting it. I appreciate it.
I have not personally come across a rape victim or someone who is forced into a child marriage or a dowry incident. But I feel the same amount of frustration and helplessness that I feel in cases of DV. As nightflier said, that does not lessen the fact that these things exist. injustice is just injustice, whichever way it exhibits itself.

Mansi said...

Very powerful post!
The first case of DV that you have mentioned, the domestic help my mom had has had a similar life.
My mom asked her once, "Why do you want to live in such a bad marriage? In any case you are the one who earns and takes care of kids?" You would be surprised(at least I was) at the answer she gave, "If I left him, I will be tagged as a single and available woman in the slums with other men running after me...that is more horrifying than bearing this torture!"
My mom didn't really know how to answer that!
I think the basic flaw is that woman are not educated enough to realise that they DO NOT need a man to survive!

deathtotrolls said...

nice post slightly half-baked. two things are subdued/missing.

first define and classify domestic violence as what is a genuine evil, cynical or chauvinistic.

Cannot be confused with domestic quarrel, jealousy, ego, contest that happens even within roommates.

The other aspect, men are equally exposed via emotional blackmail, mood swings, unrealistic expectations up-to physical abuse.

Because its unthinkable and ridiculed, its never reported.

Neha said...

@mansi: that is what happens unfortunately.
One of the most common replies I have seen when asked this question is: "so what!! thats the case in every household in the neighborhood"!! which is shocking. They tend to take the beatings as something being 'normal'

Neha said...

DV is defined in wiki as:
Domestic violence, also known as domestic abuse, spousal abuse, child abuse or intimate partner violence (IPV), can be broadly defined as a pattern of abusive behaviors by one or both partners in an intimate relationship such as marriage, dating, family, friends or cohabitation.[1] Domestic violence has many forms including physical aggression (hitting, kicking, biting, shoving, restraining, slapping, throwing objects), or threats thereof; sexual abuse; emotional abuse; controlling or domineering; intimidation; stalking; passive/covert abuse (e.g., neglect); and economic deprivation. And this post is clearly based on this broad definition.

If the domestic quarrels between spouses include blackmailing, threats and other things that might be the reason of emotional suffering for either of the partner, then that is DV. Contests between roommates... they happen in good fun with both the parties knowing what they are getting into.

I have mentioned in my post that DV is NOT gender specific, and that men are equally prone to it (maybe you missed it )

Akhila said...

Thank you for this incredible post. It's so easy for most people to ignore this issue, and I'm thankful that people like you out there still care. I had relatives who also suffered from DV, and I have similarly strong feelings about abuse and violence against women.

Bhagwad Jal Park said...

I think the "bell bajao campaign" is very innovative and useful because it shows a concrete action that anyone can take and which isn't too intrusive.

Sometimes the danger of interfering in DV is that the victim herself/himself will tell you to mind your own business.

But if I see something like that happening in a public place then I definitely do something about it since it's not a private matter anymore. Till then, bell bajao it is!

Neha said...

@Akhila: Thanks for stopping by and commenting :)
@bhagwad jal park: Yes, I had got a similar scolding from the victim when the couple was fighting and abusing in public. But then if you are doing it in public I have every right to come and interfere. Especially if it is disturbing me!

Anil P said...

I suppose it's to do with folks not wanting to walk down any path that'll require them to make an effort of any kind.

The abuse is widely prevalent.

girlsguidetosurvival said...

Research has shown shaming initially works but gradually abusers become shameless. So the the viable solution is kicking where it hurts the most- imposing fines and jail time. Then the problem arises, if the man goes to jail then who will bring money to feel the kids and pay the rent? In many places Mahila Panchayats and women's groups have organized neighborhood watch groups where they make sure to go and visit the abused regularly to check how is she doing. That way the abuser knows if messes he'll have to face some very angry women.

DV is not just physical. The minute someone raises his/her hand but does not hit the other thus creating fear, use of fear and threat is also classified as DV. Emotional manupulation, even if in the name of love, if it is out of one's comfort zone then it is abuse read it as if it is making you uncomfortable then it is abusive.


That is like a known devil is better than unknown. By making lives of single women who break the norms dreadful society keeps other women in line. In small cities and towns single female teachers and college lectures either live in bunch or their parents have to come and settle them cause the local hotshots think they are accessible and available as they have chosen to come out of homes to make money that is traditionally men's prerogative.

Education has nothing to do with victimization. A study has shown with rise in education in India Dv rises. See it in another way more educated women may be reporting DV. But research has also shown it is the women from economically deprived sections who not only report and sustain such cases becuase they do not have the baggage called log kya kahenge. Like the "Proletariat of the world unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains, and you have a world to win."

Visit GGTS and you'll find women with Ph.D. are facing abuse in their homes.

People lack healthy relationship role models. Every abused knows what is being done to them is wrong but they do not know any better role models to look for. Children of abusers are abusers 80% times and children of victims learn victimization. Understand this way: if a man hits wife, his son will learn how to abuse his partner and how to treat women as inferiors in general. Where as the daughter will learn how to be submissive to men. At the same time both children will learn how to abuse rather emotionally manipulate the mother thus use of aggressive passive behavior. Children of both genders will learn in order to get their demands met they can abuse other people.

Even if violence is not happening in the public place but is in our knowledge then we should challenge it tactfully. There is so much emphasis on ghar ki baat and ghar ki izzat that women often do not want anyone to know. That is how abusers keep the victims isolated.

Though DV is a human rights issue but in such cases we recommend one uses Public Health approach. "DV is not private matter. It is a public health issue, the morbidity created by abuse is treated by the tax payer's money. So as a tax payer I ask to stop now or I report it to the authorities." If you are abroad just call 911 and report the incident. You don't have to explain who is at fault. It is considered as public disorder.

If you are in India just let the person know exactly the same and threaten to call the police. Just the knowledge someone is there detters most abusers.

Keep up the good work,

Desi Girl