HOME: A PRISON
Consider the following incidents and try to identify which of them is an incident of domestic abuse.
(1) A man returns home from his hectic work schedule and indulges in some intoxication to release some of the stress caused by work. Mostly frustrated, he loses his temper at little things and beats his wife.
(2) A married couple, both partners equally renowned and successful, the woman keeps the man's expenditure in check, keeps him on an allowance and often denies him material things that he might need.
(3) A homosexual couple have been together for a while. One partner frequently indulges in name calling and body shaming the other partner or even refers to his partner using slurs.
(4) A man tells his wife how to conduct herself and forces her, often times violently to stick by the rules in the religious scripture deemed fit by society He threatens her and says God will punish her. The man also tries to justify his threats using religious scriptures.
Domestic abuse, the two words are self explanatory of their meaning: abuse that takes place in homes. This can take place amongst married couples, unmarried couples or inhabiting partners, towards children, and towards the elderly too. Domestic abuse is a brutal and merciless crime which is entirely driven by power.
All the four incidents stated above are incidents of domestic abuse. This might come as a surprise because when we generally think of abuse, the picture that comes to mind is something to the essence of a rural and uneducated woman lying battered on the floor. This image brings out two very popular misconceptions about domestic abuse: Abuse is specific to a certain group of people and that abuse can take place in physical form only.
While in reality domestic abuse does not respect any boundaries. It can happen to anyone irrespective of their age, sex, religion, educational qualifications, sexuality, profession, etc.
And secondly that domestic abuse does not always take place in physical form. It has many other forms- psychological, financial , sexual and spiritual forms of abuse. Unlike physical abuse, these forms don't leave bruises or broken bones but by using methods of
intimidation, humiliation, manipulation and coercion it lowers the victim's self worth. These forms of abuse can be just as harmful as they render the victim self critical.
Since all domestic abuse taking place does not have obvious signs, it can be extremely confusing and difficult to identify. However in cases where it is identified, there are several factors that force the victim not to report these cases. Some of these reasons include fear of not being believed, victim blaming, being told abuse is normal and should be dealt with or being financially dependent on the abusive partner.
The fear of not being believed is the major driving force for the continuation of domestic
abuse. There are no typical abusers. Abusers are normal people and there is no way to
identify a potential abuser earlier, without abuse actually taking place.
When domestic abuse is reported, friends and relatives often do not believe the victims, mostly because of the perfectly healthy behavior portrayed by the abuser outside. But abuse does not take place at happy family gatherings or office parties, abuse takes place behind shut doors and hence becomes incredibly difficult to prove. Lack of physical injuries as evidence only makes it tougher. Instead of being believed victims are countered and are blamed. Fingers are pointed at the victim's behavior and hence is used as a justification for abuse .
There are many among us who are victims of abuse and many who are abusers themselves. There are also many who will try to justify abuse. But abuse is not normal, we are just conditioned to think it's okay to abuse or be abused. We have to break the silence and shine a spotlight at this social evil. Talk about abuse. Let victims know they are loved and cared for and that they have their lives ahead of them.