By Mudita Sonar:
During my multiple debates on gender and feminism, I have often heard men use the signature line, “I don’t understand why women keep staying in abusive relationships.” And while countering this statement has already consumed numerous hours of my life, today I will narrate an episode which will make all such people understand why women “stay” in abusive relationships.
There is a house in front of my place which has a man, a woman and three children (all girls between 5-10 years). I have often seen the man get drunk and then whine about the imperfections of his life and blame everything on his wife. In these episodes, he has verbally abused his wife and daughters multiple times and while the woman answers back, the kids stay quiet and pretend to study. In the morning, he becomes a loving and caring father and the women in the house pretend to be happy and fine.
On a rare afternoon when I took a day off and decided to stay at home, I began hearing abuses again. Only this time, they lasted longer. The man was sober, I knew that. I saw the little girl crying in the corner room and the other two came to console her. The man then entered the room and dragged the little one off the bed and yelled, “Get out of my house!” The other two tried to protect her and I could see that they were themselves scared for their lives. The eldest girl almost pointed her finger at him but struck by fear, pulled it back. The woman was in the balcony and came rushing into the room. At this point, the man began beating his wife up and the kids tried to save their mother. The eldest girl finally mustered up the courage to raise her finger, and her voice, and screamed, “Don’t you dare touch Mom again!” To this, she received, “aukaat me raho (stay within your limits),” as the answer. The beating and abusing continued; each woman was equally thrashed.
I could not bear it anymore so I dialed 100. I explained the situation to the police and they were very cooperative. While I waited for them to turn up, I saw the two elder girls leave (for tuition, I later found out). From the corner of my window, I saw two lady police personnel go into the house and come back after fifteen minutes. One of them called me. “We went into the house. The daughters were gone for tuition. The wife said that there was a little disagreement because of the timing and fees of the tuition classes and that every household has these small arguments.”
“But I saw him beat his wife and daughters up. That is not a small issue, is it?”
“You are right, but the woman said that nothing like that happened and that her husband just yelled a little. What can we do when she has no complaints? We asked her to call us in case she needs help.” I did not know what to say. I thanked the lady for attending to my call.
Being a woman, I felt like it was my duty to help that woman. I know she is not timid but maybe she did not want any ruckus. Maybe she is financially dependent on the man. Maybe she bears this because she thinks he is a good father. Maybe she is scared to be a single mother. Whatever the reason, I wanted her to know that there is someone who does not like seeing her beaten up. I know what it is like to be in this sort of house (not home) – to be abused and wishing for someone to pull them you of a life shackled by abuse. In those moments, I had often wished to be a boy, as if that could have averted the abuse. As a survivor of abuse, I know that it destroys you – every hour you feel scared, that you might be dragged out by your hair while you are asleep.
I am writing this to all the women who are abused every day and dismiss it as “little disagreements.” They are not little and they are not disagreements. They are episodes of abuse, which is not right. I was pulled out of these in time and I got my life back. I know that a lot of people see and hear this particular man’s bouts of abuse, but none have bothered to call the cops. Do they not know that he is wrong? Of course they do, we all do. We just shut our windows and switch on the television so that we don’t have to hear it. But it still goes on, and will continue to unless you report it. As someone who has sought the help of police, I can vouch that a distress call is answered and lady police officers turn up for your help. And they know who the victim is. They always do. But they cannot help you unless you ask! Why must you keep on tolerating? Is this why we get married? To live a life full of fear and abuse?
Women often internalise abuse, thinking it is a part and parcel of marriage or of being a woman. NO! Marriage does not mean that the man gets to colour your body red and blue. Being a woman does not mean that you have to spend an eternity tolerating abuse. Speak up, please. I urge you. Don’t let me be the spectator of your destruction. Don’t let anyone be the spectator.