Monday, February 9, 2009

Domestic violence

Continuing on the topic of Women in India, today I want to share my views on Domestic Violence.
I grew up in an atmosphere where no one beats anyone else, for any reason. But we had a maid who came everyday with bruises and black eye, and when I asked her what happened she would say her husband came home drunk and beat her. That is how I knew 'some' husbands beat their wives when drunk. I grew up with that notion. I only saw domestic violence on the TV and thought it only happens to the lower 'class' women who do not have the education or support from family to walk out on their husbands and come back up on their feet.

Then, a few years back, 2 incidents happened. To two of my very good friends. And the way their families 'handled' it has been a study in diametric opposites.

One of my friends is a younger daughter of a very well to do scientist in a prestigious establishment and she herself is an engineer. Her parents are like mine, and have always treated their daughters like friends. You could not find one moment in their upbringing where you could think they regret not having a son. She was free to do what she wanted and they only started 'looking' for a suitable boy to get her married only when she was finally ready and said yes. She got married to this guy who was working in the US and his family was back home in India. Post marriage she was at her in laws' place for a few months until she got her visa and left to join her husband in the states. While she was in India I chatted with her a few times and I remember she telling me her in laws were like friends and treated her very well. I was happy for her. Then one day, my dad called me and asked me to talk to her and find out 'what is going on'. He then told me that she was always crying when she talked to her parents during the weekly call home. Always wanting to come back home. Her parents thought it was because she was in an alien land for the first time, and was a housewife so missed her husband all day! Little did they know that he had her under a 'house arrest'. She was not allowed to go out, did not have a license to drive, her passport was locked up by him, she was given money only enough to do groceries, not allowed to call home when she wanted and did not have a computer while he was at work. He also taunted her and her parents because she could not cook very well (threw the plate on her face once). He did not beat her ever but this was enough to make her life a living hell. This was domestic violence she was facing. The last I heard, her parents talked to her husband and coaxed her to stay on and try to change him.

Another story is that of my dad's good friend's daughter, who is also my very good friend. She comes from a very simple middle class family, father, mother and younger brother, living in a small flat in Mumbai. She is also an engineer and worked for a few years before the marriage bug bit the parents. They found a suitable boy in the form of this son of rich gujju parents. He also was working in the US and came to India to meet her once. The next time he went was to get married. Cut to 2 years later, I get a call from my dad saying he is in Mumbai at his friends' place and they are trying to get a visa to the US URGENTLY. The reason? Their daughter was being beat up everyday by her husband, AND he was having a much too intimate a relationship with a female colleague of his. My friend was under 'house arrest', was on a dependent visa and had nowhere else to go. Her parents and brother swiftly managed to get their visas to the US and joined her soon. The first thing they did was to contact a south-asian women's domestic violence cell and got a restraining order against her husband. They then started proceedings for legal separation. Meanwhile, the women's cell also managed to get her a special work visa and a job. In a few weeks she was divorced and earning her own living. Her family went back after a couple of months. Now she lives independently and is much happier than she was when she was married. Her family visits her whenever they can.

Two similar stories, but the way they were handled was drastically different. Both victims of domestic violence. One still trying to make her husband see sense, the other, moved on in life. Both were independent women who were treated badly by men from 'decent' families. I don't know what is the 'right' thing to do in these cases but I strongly believe in one thing. A man who, regularly or intermittently beats his wife never changes his ways. A man who, regularly or intermittently, causes mental trauma to his wife never changes his ways. A man who does not respect his wife will never see any reason to change his ways. It works in movies, where a good Samaritan gives the bad guy a lecture about women and wife etc and the husband changes his ways and becomes good. It does not work like that in real life. Some women move on, others keep struggling all their lives. The cycle of violence, apologies, more violence, never ends. And do not think it happens only to women who are not educated or aware of their rights. It can happen to anyone.

I don't know what is the 'right' thing to do in these cases....
I was contradicting myself here. I KNOW what the right thing to do is. And that is to walk out.


  1. I think it is important to keep in mind that violent men do not change.
    I read some where, the first time you are a victim the second time you are a volunteer ...

    We all must blog about this and related topics.

  2. IHM I have seen many more examples of subtle violence in my extended family and have also seen the various methods parents employ to coax the girl into going back, which eventually does not work.

  3. Oh yes... this so true and very close to heart...
    Same way - 2 of my friends are victims of Domestic Violence...
    I had blogged about both of them...
    One is trying to move on with her life and the other has been brainwashed to stay on...

    it's sad.. and the ONLY thing is to move on... there is absolutely no excuse to Domestic ciolence and it is NOT the answer to any of the problems one might be facing in a marriage

  4. Leave the first time the man raises his hand on you. And hit him back. Thats all. He will not dare touch you again. If you take it once, it will always continue, no one has the right to raise their hands on you.

  5. Pixie, true. Also, in some cases, the violence is more subtle and it takes a while for the girl to know that she is being manipulated.
    karmickids, does it mean you hit and then continue to stay in the abusive relationship?

  6. I love your site, very interesting. I added to follow you, want to follow mine and link our sites?
    Best of the best,

  7. Thanks for the kind words Sarah. I saw your blog, it is very thought-provoking. Have linked to yours!


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