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Abuse In A Relationship Is Not A ‘Personal Matter’, And Here’s Why We Need To Speak Up

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“He beats her every day even though her frail body cannot take it. She cries to sleep every night.”

“What a disgusting man. And why is the woman so weak? Why is she putting up with this abuse?”

“She is in a pitiable state. She is in no position to speak for herself.”

“That is just sad. Wish someone had taught him a lesson.”

“We have to do something about it. Should we all confront him? Should we report him to the police?”

“Stay out of it. It is their personal matter. We should not be interfering in this.”

When we talk about instances of abuse, or violence in relationships, we talk as if they’re distant events. We will speak about it, debate on it and demand laws. But when the time comes to act, we tell ourselves that it is none of our business.

When a confession of abuse is made, the person goes through a lot of emotional turmoil and needs a great deal of courage to do so. And when we dismiss it as a ‘personal matter’, we push that person back into that hell to fight alone. Abuse isn’t something unheard of; sometimes it happens in our own household, sometimes in the neighbourhood, sometimes with a distant friend. But it isn’t uncommon even when we choose to ignore it. We keep thinking that it cannot hit so close to home. And when it does, we either suffer or choose to look the other way.

A few days back, I got to know that a girl who I see every day and occasionally talk to, has been suffering in an abusive relationship for over a year. That girl is an acquaintance of a close friend of mine. And when I got to know the horrid details of the relationship, I was utterly shocked.

I know how some women choose to suffer in silence in cases of domestic violence because the society and their own families stop them from taking a stand or because they are scared to let go of the ‘stability’ of married life. Many are stopped by their own emotional vulnerability. I always thought it was the institution of marriage that made people suffering from abuse unable to speak up or walk out.

But I see this girl, with mental scars even deeper than her physical ones. Yes, the abuse is both physical and mental and she has suffered for far too long. And now that she finally disclosed it to the ones close to her, she is still in a dilemma and blames herself. And even though she has been in a relationship (not a matrimonial relationship), she finds it impossible to walk out because she has been manipulated and conditioned to believe that she needs that guy and whatever he does is right.

That guy slaps her anytime he wants to and vents his frustrations on her. Over time, she has learnt to accept it. He humiliates her in the public and does not allow her to mix with other guys likely due to his own insecurities. The last time she tried to walk away, he brainwashed her into thinking that she is to be blamed for all that he did and all that he continues to do to her.

After tolerating it for a year, she finally confessed to her friends. She was completely heartbroken. The ones who stepped up for her were chided by that guy. And the rest simply dismissed it as a personal matter.

I ask you all, how can we treat it as a regular confrontation? Is violence in a relationship to be looked upon as a personal matter? And why do we refrain from voicing ourselves? Do you really think anyone chooses it or voluntarily signs up for it?

I had a friend who was in an abusive relationship for a few months. Luckily she managed to walk away from it. But she was a wreck even after it.

Don’t you think actions like this should be dealt with even more severely because the most trusted person chose to become the abuser?

Why does the law fail to protect the survivors in such cases and, on the contrary, blames them for it?

And we sit here and call abuse a personal matter and dismiss it till someone close to us is subjected to abuse. Anyone can be a victim of abuse irrespective of their sex. It is about time we started reinforcing the idea of consent in society instead of ‘victim shaming’. It is about time we realised that it is never the fault of the individual that suffers abuse and that abuse is never a ‘personal matter’. It is about time we raised our voice.

You must be to comment.
  1. Batman

    Women are abused by mothers-in-law, victims of family politics by sisters-in-law, taunted by grandmothers, and 71% children are killed by mothers (google). Lets have some articles on the above topics. If feminists are so concerned about violence against women, why don’t they talk about violence by other women. Why the silence over the suffering of those women whose brothers, fathers, and sons are in jail in false cases of rape, dowry, and domestic violence.

  2. Monistaf

    I started reading this article “Abuse in a relationship” with the hope that it will talk about BOTH sides of the story. But, just like every other article here it is ONE sided.
    Abuse can be emotional, physical, verbal, psychological or financial. Both sexes can be abused and abusers. Being a proud feminist, you should stand for gender equality and
    not even acknowledging the fact that a significant portion of the abusers in a relationship can be women makes this article really weak. There is the domestic violence act
    of 2005 that can be used by victims of domestic abuse to have their grievances heard in a court of law. And yes, they should exercise their right if they are abused.
    Again, being a “proud feminist” and standing up for “gender equality” I would think that you would support that the DV act of 2005 be made “gender neutral” so male victims
    of abuse can also be protected. It is NOT a gender neutral law, only women can be victims and only men can be perpetrators.
    Now, before you start saying that it is mostly women who are victims of abuse, the answer is we will never know, because even if men want to report abuse, there is no law
    to protect them, so 100% of male victims of domestic abuse are not reported. Judging by what is going on in other countries, the CDC in the USA documents that in 2013
    43% of the victims of domestic violence were men, a lot of women in India are simply getting away with it.
    Being a “proud feminist” you should remember the quote that started a revolution “If you do not feel their pain, it is inevitable that you will be forced to feel their anger”.

  3. Snigdha Priyadarshini

    Being a proud feminist doesn’t mean I will have to balance out a narrative of a friend who is still suffering by talking about men who suffer too. Ofcourse men too are the victims but that doesn’t mean I am not allowed to bring to light my friend’s suffering.

  4. Monistaf

    Of course you are allowed to say and write anything you want about your friend, your experiences or anything else. I too have that same privilege to express my
    feelings when I read a one sided article like this. When you frame ALL discussions around “Women have problems and men are the problem”, you get the feminist
    narrative about the female victim complex. It also drives gendered legislation that privileges women and any point of view that is outside that framework subtracts
    from the female victim complex and feminist narrative. I understand why this forum publishes so few articles that are deemed “Politically incorrect”. The feminist
    ideology is so fragile that it is threatened by the truth, and one way to maintain it is to suppress all dissent. It is happening all over the world too, not just at Youth Ki Awaaz.
    Opposition to form men’s groups at university of Toronto, banning celebration of International Men’s day at York university, banning men’s group from SFU, KSU and
    many others. Celebrating twitter hashtags like #killallmen, #banfathersday, #killallwhitemen etc. One sided articles like these only serve to propagate and expand
    the ever widening public empathy gap when it comes to gender. This, is the reason why I try and point out the other side of narratives like these. All victims of
    any kind of domestic violence deserve our help, sympathy, compassion, kindness, understanding and help. I cannot understand the feminist opposition to making
    these laws gender neutral. What exactly are they terrified about?

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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