7 Reasons Why People Find It Hard To Walk Out Of An Abusive Relationship

Posted on July 29, 2015 in Bear No More, Domestic Violence, Gender-Based Violence, Taboos

By Asmita Sarkar:

I don’t even know if my relationship is abusive or anything. Only that I sometimes feel like it is”, said a journalist friend who wishes to stay anonymous. After talking to other friends, I realised that they had a common position – they weren’t quite sure if they were in an abusive relationship or not. The journalist also added, “Every relationship has an aspect of it. At least almost every Indian relationship does.” Another friend, an M.Phil English Literature student, Ishika Grover (Name Changed) said, “I don’t know if it qualifies as emotional abuse. Sometimes he is sweet. But I stay mostly because of nostalgia and I am very scared of being alone.” Her classmate, Laboni Bhattacharya when asked if she had heard of men being on the receiving end of abuse said, “Abusive women? There are none I know of, in India. But I read a story online where a guy landed up in the emergency room with injuries from being beaten by his partner, and everyone disbelieved him.”

couple fighting sad
Image source: smile_kerry/Flickr

Intimate partner violence is described as emotional, physical and sexual abuse that a partner inflicts. We accept what we grow up seeing around us – in the media, in popular culture, in our families – as normal. Violence in relationships has been justified in movies, books, and some even perceive it as romantic, an offshoot of passion (think Shahrukh hitting Aishwarya on her forehead, making it bleed in the movie ‘Devdas’, so that she’d have a scar on her un-blemished beauty). But is it really so?!

Owing to this sociological upbringing that ‘normalises’ violence, many a times people in an abusive relationship accept their situation as a given, what we may call an ‘accepted reality’. These accepted realities then prevent them from actively questioning their relationship and the harm it does to them, whereby they then choose to live with the violence. The most common of these are:

  1.  Violence is a part of relationships – Unfortunately society has made it okay to think that only physical violence is something to look out for and sometimes even this is not enough reason to leave a relationship because if only we ‘compromised’, everything would be okay. This fails to acknowledge that verbal abuse is equally bad.
  2. Being single is not ‘cool – For many, owing to peer pressure, being single carries some sort of social stigma, preventing them from leaving a harmful relationship.
  3. It’s not easy to find ‘love’ againNothing compares to your first love. Believe that and no matter how horrible the relationship is, coupled with the insecurity of being alone, it becomes hard to leave.
  4. Men should be in control – From food that’s cooked as per the partner’s liking to feeling responsible for keeping the ‘peace’, replicating certain accepted values and traditions prevents many from realising the inherent unfairness in such a relationship.
  5. Women are never perpetrators, men are never victims – In a patriarchal society, women are thought incapable of doing anything on their own. Further, women are thought of as weak and men, strong. So we often overlook a man who might be in an abusive relationship.
  6. If you’re educated, you won’t go through violence – The class divide in our society rarely lets us see beyond our ivory towers, and realise that the situation may be quite similar on both sides of the fence. We mistakenly think that our privilege would keep us from ever experiencing a violent relationship.
  7. It will never happen to me – It is always difficult to see ourselves as victims with whom something traumatic is happening. The belief that we are ‘strong’ enough to ‘deal’ with it is what leads many to stay in an abusive relationship.

Acceptance and coming out of the denial phase is intrinsic for coming out of a violent relationship. Only when one questions these ‘accepted realities’ will we be able to bring about a change in mind-sets and society as a whole, enabling more people to feel the courage to walk out of such relationships.