When My Mother Chose To Ignore Our Domestic Worker’s Abuse

Every morning, before the clock strikes nine, she is at our door. The woman, neatly clad in a salwar suit, walking a distance of around two kilometres, braving cold and heat, is very punctual in her timings and routine. She has been serving us for the last five years and over a period of time, with her honesty and hard work, she has managed to raise herself from being a domestic helper to a family member. From being with us through all the good and bad, she has developed a different kind of bond with my family, and more importantly, my mother.

It was a normal Tuesday morning. She was helping my mother in the kitchen when she blurted out, “He beat me up again baji.” Saying this, she broke down in tears, showing her bruised hands.

She is in her forties and the mother of six children – five daughters and one son. But this was not the first time she was complaining about it. In the past too, she has confided many times to my mother. But as the wounds heal, she gets back to her normal routine life, as if she is accustomed to all the suffering and has accepted it all as part of her fate.

But this time, when my mother told me about the incident, I was furious. More than that, I was shocked that my mother chose not to interfere, considering it as her personal matter.

Domestic violence is one of the most severe kinds of violence pervasive in Indian society. The general notion that the family is the private sphere and should be under the male’s control is also what makes it pervasive. What adds to the trouble is the question, why some women, despite having an abusive partner, choose to stay and not walk out of abusive marriages.

Although there are provisions and laws against it, the matter is hardly reported and laws are seldom enforced.

The societal framework stresses deep-rooted patriarchal notions, putting the male in a dominant position and further giving him the right to control and exercise power over women. Although the degree of exploitation and the level of coercion differs depending on various socio-economic factors, what remains common is the subordination of women.

While understanding the dynamics of domestic violence, it has been observed that due to conformity to social norms and a lack of agency, women are not able to resist it. Other factors that exacerbate domestic violence include expectations of fulfilling the role within a relationship, economic dependence of women, illiteracy and sanction by a society that rationalises it up to a certain level. Women, on the other hand, accept it as a means to resolve conflicts.

Hence, the survivors of domestic violence choose to suffer in silence. It not only affects them physically but emotionally as well. Such violence has a wide impact and remains a source of duress in their lives. This turmoil could be prevented if only we chose not to ignore such matters and start sensitising people around us. A nation cannot develop until and unless half of its population stops suffering in silence.