There is always someone who will then launch into a diatribe on ‘modern’ women who have nothing on the model wives of yore who drank nothing but water sanctified by their husband’s feet, dirt – encrusted and desperately in need of a pedicure though it may be. Then they will compose lengthy Whatsapp forwards to be widely disseminated about how the ravages of Covid may be traced directly to feminists synonymous with wanton women who are responsible for the deterioration of our revered customs which had shielded us thus far from mutating viruses, demons armed with nuclear weapons and assorted apocalyptic scenarios. And all because ‘feminazi’ types refuse to accept that it is a husband’s prerogative to slap his wife around. After all, it is well known that to spare the rod is to spoil the wife. While this kind of reasoning prevails, is it reasonable to expect a woman to save herself and ignore age old precepts binding her to the ironclad dictates of tradition?
Experts agree, that it is surprisingly difficult to bail out of an abusive relationship. The reasons are manifold. Often, it is the mere suggestion of leaving that causes the violence to escalate making it a dangerous choice. Victims who have taken a battering emotionally or physically are left feeling that they have no control over their lives. It is common for those who have been brutalized to feel as though they have been reduced to something less than human and suffer from a diminished sense of self-worth. We underestimate the capacity of emotional abuse such as gas lighting to undermine an individual, leaving victims convinced that they are somehow to blame for what happened to them. That it was some error on their part that resulted in a beating or a barrage of verbal abuse.
Money is always a factor. Many victims are financially dependent on abusers and are reluctant to break free with no resources to fall back on. Most are simply afraid, cowed by sustained physical assault. Others seem to believe that selfless love is enough to counteract toxic masculinity. Some feel compelled to defend their aggressors because they can be charming and sweet when not inclined to put their woman’s head through a wall. It may even be construed as an act of kindness, if an ice pack is tossed over to ease the throbbing of a wicked bruise. These don’t begin to cover what all the victims are undergoing or the myriad reasons they opt to stay. Only one thing is certain. It will take compassion, concern and all the support in the world to help victims of abuse make it to safety. Not criticism or censure in the name of culture.
This column originally appeared in The New Indian Express