Violence of any kind is reprehensible. And Domestic violence more so, as it is enacted by a person to control, suppress and repress his/her wife/husband/partner/family member. Domestic violence includes spousal abuse, battering, intimate partner violence, physical, emotional and mental abuse, neglect, intimidation of subtle and overt kinds. There can be many, many types of violence, both overt and covert.
While occasional temper tantrums and disagreements are routine part of everyday life, what differentiates DV is the systematic, continuous pattern of abuse which the spouse is subjected to. Secondly, the intention to control. It is a vicious cycle. The abuser seeks to control the abused person using any method including blackmail.
It is highly frequent but it is more difficult to establish and prove clearly owing to the fact, that it often occurs behind closed doors and secondly, the social position of the aggressor may render it difficult to publicise accusations. Especially, in a country like India, where many women find it difficult to handle the social stigma, it is very easy and natural to remain silent. So while there may be a few which are publicised owing to various reasons, a majority of them may be unknown. Even in the cases of celeb cases, many times they fade off from public eye ( zeenat aman-mazhar khan, salman khan-aishwarya rai) probably owing to fears of reputation of the victim and for the sake of family. One never sees them being penalised for their actions.
While domestic violence is unarguably,a known and sad reality of life for many women in India and in rest of the world, what is more shocking is the attitude by which people respond to accusations of domestic violence against women. While a few are supportive and positive, many are cynical, question the woman’s background, attitudes, leanings, skepticism. In the case of well known people who are victims, it is even worse. In a recent conversation on twitter, one could obtain a sample of the responses and glean the mindsets. The conversation is here.
In my view, Accusations of domestic violence should never be taken lightly. One should give benefit of doubt to the victim, while keeping in mind that every person (including abuser) needs to be heard. An open mind set is required. Cynicism and conditional support till the story is completely proven is technically fine but at end of day, in a genuine case, this would be really dehumanising as victim is left to fend for him/herself in a traumatising situation. Hence, i feel we can do a greater service to humanity by being supportive.Yes, there are and would be people who misuse the laws and sympathy of others by false cases, but does that mean we become cynical to everyone? Isn’t that a blot on our humanity? What is the point of giving support when the victim is no longer in need of it?
One has to understand, that given the sort of societal structure and importance for reputations in a country such as India,obtaining support from one’s own family is itself a challenging process. Many times, it is the family who degrades you and disrespects your needs for the sake of its reputation. So, as society members, why do we want to add on to that set of challenges? We have a choice. To be human. We should and must exercise it.
And for the abuser also, we have to be human. We need to understand the roots of the abuse. Many times childhood abuse/insecurities/psychological issues may be behind the perpetrator’s actions. We must condemn the action of abuse but we must need to give help in the form of counselling. But, at the same time, if the relationship is not safe or healthy any longer, we need to ensure that the abuser does not get chances to victimise again. Hence, the need for publicity and legal action. Abuse is cruel but it is equally bad being an abuser or victim. We have to be fair to all.
Ultimately, in such cases, the law and investigating authorities would decide based on evidence. This may be a long drawn out fight with public scrutiny and inquisition, hence why so many hesitate to come forward. Even the courageous women who come forward, face such difficulties and flak. A recent case of Meena Kandasamy‘s public detailing of her shocking violent marriage in a magazine, invoked a whole range of responses on twitter. ( Conversations)Her own celebrity/activist status seems to have worked against her, creating disbelievers and skeptics who challenge everything she say. If a well known person can face this much inquisition, what about victims from humbler backgrounds, who have no support structures?
Some people accuse victims of making up stories. True, it is possible. But I believe, that no woman or man, in his right senses, would ever do that unless they have a grudge against that person and they are going all out to destroy the person or they seek to obtain some monetary benefits. If the latter is true, it will come out during investigations and in the courts. Justice may be delayed but not denied.
A victim, whether it is a man or a woman, needs to be supported at all times while an abuser, a man or woman, should be given help to manage conquer his/her abusive traits, without ensuring the re -victimization. Howsoever, the truth may play out, as circumstances and more evidence comes out, is a different issue. But, we, as humans, need to ensure that our humanity is not compromised by other issues. we should never fail to hear calls for help, no matter how many wolves in sheep clothing may be there.