An elderly woman came to a judge to ask for divorce on grounds that she had been physically and mentally abused over the course of more than three decades of marriage to the same man. The judge asked her, “What took you so long?” The woman said, “I have been raised believing that I must always obey my husband no matter what. Only recently did I know that I am actually a victim of domestic violence.”
Sometimes, you need to be cruel to be kind. This is an adage that an abuser might apply to justify his actions. “As the head of the family, it’s my duty to teach my wife a lesson when she errs. Otherwise, she’ll commit the same ‘mistakes’”. The ‘mistakes’ the wife makes could be anything: Coffee that’s too hot or too cold, not answering the phone, not enough sugar in my tea . . . How do you explain an abuser’s behaviour? You can’t. Logic does not exist in the abuser’s vocabulary. The victim might see herself at fault, that she deserves to be hit for any particular reason. The fact is, no one deserves to be hit.
Domestic violence is very much alive in the world today. It cuts across country, race, religion, profession. Do not make the mistake of thinking that domestic violence only happens in some remote areas in underdeveloped nations. Both the abused and the victim might be professionals. They could be someone you know: a member of your family, a neighbour, a sibling. It goes beyond anger management issues; experts say domestic violence is deliberate.
A man can be gentle to the most fragile creature, yet beat up his spouse with hardly any regret. A sad but true fact. The abuser might target only one person and not others. Coercion, threats, intimidation – these are all common ways to cower the victim into submission. A victim might unknowingly walk right into an abuser’s den, as in the case of a woman I met several years ago. This lady decided to accept a man’s marriage proposal although she did not know him well, because a community leader vouched for him. A few months into their union, he began to beat her black and blue for the slightest “mistake”. This woman’s story is especially significant because, when the man proposed, she was a New Muslim revert. She thought that by marrying a born Muslim, her new husband would be able to guide her.
What stops the victim from leaving? Many reasons. It could be because of economic dependence, thinking that the children will grow up without a father, believing that tomorrow will be better, hoping that the abuser will change. Perpetrators might be full of guilt after a violent outburst, beg the victim to forgive them after an episode, leading the victim to believe that it will one day come to an end. But it is common that this is only part of a cycle. It will just be a matter of time before the abuser strikes again. Domestic violence is a crime. Treat it as one. There is no excuse for such behaviour. To turn a blind eye is the most unkind act one could do. Do not let it take root in your family.
Image by Alexas_Fotos