Whenever I encounter a problem in life, be it the littlest one, I always turn around and look because I know my husband will be right there behind me to support me. He will always have my back. I see in him someone who will protect me and love me unconditionally. Most importantly I feel safe. The naïve or I should say the ignorant part of me used to think that this is how every woman feels everyday. It breaks my heart to realise that this is not the case. Some women are physically and/or emotionally abused by the very person who was supposed to protect them.
There are a lot of misconceptions about domestic violence – it only happens to the minorities, the uneducated or lower class people. I must admit I had some of these misconceptions before it happened to some I know. Then I realised that domestic violence has no limit or barriers. It crosses all boundaries of wealth, race and culture. It can happen to the most beautiful person, the couple who seems so much in love or the ones who have everything in life. We cannot always recognise an abuser or even a victim in public. We cannot always know what happens behind closed doors.
Domestic violence happens towards both men and women. However, it is more often towards women and the main cause is unequal power which is unfortunately rooted in patriarchy that encourages men to believe they are entitled to power and control over women. It is more common that we think it is. According to a 2013 study from the World Health Organisation, at least 1 in 3 women will experience physical and or sexual violence in their lifetime.
Far gone are the times where women used to be submissive and considered inferior to men. Far gone are the times when society used to think it is ok for a husband to hit his wife. Or so I thought!!! I was shocked to read in a study by the United Nations that 603 millions women still live in countries where domestic violence is not yet considered a crime! Certain people still think it is ok and it still sometimes considered normal behaviour.
However, it is sad to think that even in countries where domestic violence is strongly outlawed, women still fear to come out. The reason is because such violence against women is often stigmatised and socially sanctioned. It is wrong to think that women choose to stay with their abusive partners because they like it. No one likes to be abused. Women stay for various reasons – kids, they think he will change, they think they cannot make it on their own, but also because of what people would say about them
You and I will never understand how it feels if we have never been through it ourselves. So who are we to say it is ok, who are we to say a woman should think of her kid first, who are we to say it is the woman’s fault and she should make it work? Who are we to say anything? A married woman (especially in the Indian community) is sometimes frowned upon if they leave their abusive husbands. Parent will sometimes advise their daughters to go back to their abusive husbands ( give them a second, third, fourth or I don’t know how many chances!) because they fear that she will not find anyone else or no one will marry again. We need to understand that it is not about finding someone else, it is not about getting married again and it is certainly not about what people will say – It is about being happy, not living in fear for your life, it is about feeling free. These are every woman’s human rights!!! No society, culture or belief have the right to take these away from these women.
Domestic violence destroys everything – lives, dreams, happiness, confidence, self esteem… It is extremely difficult for a woman to be brave enough to take the decision to leave her abusive husband. We as a society should not make it any harder!