Many hues of domestic violence

Last Sunday, Satyamev Jayate brought up the issue of domestic violence. It is another well hidden truth across the world, not just in India. In India it takes on religious connotations and our film world has added to it – your husband is your God, whether he beats you up or berates you or sleeps around ! And then there are cliches, like in Tamil “adikara kai thaan annaikum” – the hand that beats you up will also protect you. While it is meant more widely for mother-child, brother-brother, father-son, it’s conveniently used also for husband-wife beatings !!

I just want to expand the definition of domestic violence. It’s not just about wife beating, domestic violence has many other shades, hues to it. The constant put downs, about one’s looks, dress, cooking, weight or constant sarcasm or constantly being made the butt of jokes …. Also qualify as mental torture and should be classified under domestic violence. The other unfortunate reality is – its not just women who are subjected to domestic violence, while their numbers far outweigh that of men subjected to domestic violence. Men also are subjected to domestic violence – berating their choice of careers, position in an organization, comparison with other men, comparison of wealth, looks (not as handsome as xyz) and so on. There is another more dangerous form of domestic violence that children are subjected to – besides the regular battering and abuse, it’s belittling their self worth constantly. Parents dont do it without love, they do love their child but constantly comparing them unfavourably with their sibling, not letting them live upto their potential, quashing their curiosity… All leading to the child growing up with little confidence and the wrong belief that they are no good !! A sad loss of human potential 🙁

I watched an episode of Oprah Winfrey’s show long ago on domestic violence and surprisingly women who were mercilessly battered chose to go back to the same husband who beat them up. Apparently they lose all self confidence and the human body does not register pain after a certain point, so the beating is not felt as much. The will to fight back is lost.. Inspite of the fact that in the US, there are no religious connotations or any films depicting husbands as Gods, the result is the same. Women accept the violence and live with it.

The aggressor is also probably a victim and needs help, so get him/her that help but anyone who is subjected to violence the first time, needs to slap back like the lady on the show on Sunday. Before you justify the action or your body gets numb or you begin to lose confidence, just retaliate – don’t accept violent behaviour, don’t become a victim. I don’t remember a single person who has been put behind bars for domestic violence and it’s a crime committed every single day – mental and/or physical violence. Do not accept the derogatory comments from your spouse, refuse to be the victim, if your spouse raises his or her hand, let them know, you won’t turn the other cheek. A forceful “No” is many times enough to stop the aggressor, because almost always the aggressor is a wimp, who wants to feel strong by beating up his partner.

All the aggressors who read this, remember there is nothing manly about beating up your wife and equally there is nothing gained by constantly berating your husband for his perceived shortcomings. Being human is about being compassionate, not violent.

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