Domestic violence can be defined as the act of physically and mentally abusing an individual or a group of individuals in a domestic setting like a marriage or cohabitation. Whenever we hear news of domestic abuse, we automatically assume the victim as a female and the perpetrator as a male. This sexist notion has resulted in 17 laws protecting a woman and none protecting a man. Before we understand what instigates violence, we need to unlearn societal theories. Anyone can be abused. Gender doesn’t automatically exclude you from being the victim.
What causes domestic abuse?
Abusers abuse to assert their dominance. Be it a man or a woman, an abuser feels better about themselves if they can bully their opponent into subordination. People will usually assume the person contributing to this domestically abusive environment is a man. But, women contribute to it as well. Here are the factors:
When arguments tend to get nastier, women will resort to body-shaming their opponent. It doesn’t even have to be a fight. Unknowingly, your comment about someone’s shape and size might lower their self-esteem. That would result in them labelling themselves as a ‘good-for-nothing’ individual who deserves the shame and abuse. People are coming out of this circle, they are fighting for themselves. Different personality types perceive abuse differently; it might empower some but not everyone.
As a child, I was called ‘fat’ by a friend of mine. I starved myself after it, my self-confidence rode on a downward slope. I have suffered from anxiety most of my life, but it hiked when I became more conscious of my body.
Body-shaming might not be a primary factor, but it is one of the factors. Again, you never know what affects whom and how.
2. Promoting toxic masculinity
Men usually cannot get out of a physically abusive relationship out of the fear of what people might think. In a society, where manliness is equivalent to being stone-cold, it is tough for men to admit they’re being physically and mentally abused. There’s this common saying, “Aye, ladki se maar khaa gaya”. You might think times are changing, but how many people understand this? Near my household, I have heard people tell their sons, “Chhelere kaande na.” Translation: Boys don’t cry. Mother’s teach their sons this to promote toxic masculinity. You never know how these notionalities manifest themselves in the later years.
Let’s admit it, slut-shaming is prevalent in the contemporary world as it was in the yester-days. Women and men are more vocal of their sexuality, there are individuals trying to pull themselves down. Last night, I came across this post from Female Problems on Facebook (the image below):
A woman proceeded to slut-shame and kink-shame women who were open about their sexuality. A couple of comments later, she mentions her man doesn’t like it as well and then proudly claimed he liked a “princess in the streets and a freak in the sheets”, thus contradicting her entire stance. Slut-shaming is the number one reason why so many people get out of abuse. Being a girl, I can only give you my point-of-view. When you slut-shame someone, you normalize their objectification and other people might think it’s okay too. When children grow up hearing this, it has an impact on their still-developing brain and they view western wear as an invasion. The first question a woman is asked when they’re filing a report against harassment is, “What were you wearing?” Why does it matter what they were wearing? My mother constantly told me to wear longer tops instead of cropped ones. If someone is uncomfortable by a little belly or shoulder, it isn’t my problem to deal with.
4. Sympathising with the perps
6 years ago, a woman was brutally raped in New Delhi, the capital of India. 6 years after, the perpetrators are still alive and the victim’s mother is being asked to forgive them. Questions like, “Is it okay to murder five individuals for the death of one?” are arising. The victim was shamed for travelling with her boyfriend at a time she was fighting for her life. Their death sentence is being delayed since they keep sending in their pleas consecutively. This not only delays their sentence but also mocks our judiciary system. But that’s a story for some other time. In a nutshell, the age-old notion of “Boys will be boys” is brought up whenever this happens. Not to mention, hundreds and thousands of abuse stories are suppressed. When someone is going through domestic abuse, their relatives and parents will jump in and say, “That’s how it is. He is your husband and he can do whatever he wants.”
5. Mother-in-law or Hitler re-incarnate?
It’s the same as slut-shaming but not entirely. In certain households, women are seen as a sophisticated substitute for a maid. They aren’t explicitly termed as such but “Bahu, chai bana do” or “Bouma, log eshechhe, chaa baniye daao” (Translation: Guests have come, please make them some tea) says a lot. Have you ever noticed, in a get-together, women are laughing and chattering in the kitchen while the men sit on the sofa and have a gala time? It might not be the same as in your household but it’s the situation in most. In most of the cases, it’s the mother-in-law who has high demands and expects them to be fulfilled always. Otherwise, the wife is possessed. In their defence, it’s not entirely their fault. It’s what they’ve seen and undergone and a complete shift in the environment will leave them bitter and anxious. It’s what the society has taught them to believe – they’re nothing more than caretakers. Domestic violence occurs when the men in these households marry and try to indict in their wives the values their mothers have taught them.
Try not to become a part of something you know is harmful. If you judge someone on the basis of what they wear, you’re actively participating in the culture that eventually questions the victims of abuse. It’s never too late to unlearn what you’ve learnt so far. We do that all the time. We make mistakes and we grow and learn from it. As I have said, your family might not be facing these, but that doesn’t mean no one is. If you see someone’s voice is being suppressed, contact these hotline numbers:
AKS Helpline no.: – 8793088814
For legal advice: – 8793088815
For psychological counselling: – 8793088816
Women’s organisations in Delhi
Shakti Shalini: – 1091/1291(011)23317004
Shakti Shalini Women’s shelter: – (011)24373736/24373737
JAGORI: – (011)26692700
Toll-free no.: – 1091
Dial 1298 for women’s helpline
For more information, click here.