Domestic violence affects both men and women across the globe but where it affects 1/10 men, it affects 3/10 women. Surprisingly, you’ll find that 70% of the abuse occurs after a partner leaves and Just because you can’t see the bruises, doesn’t, mean it doesn’t exist.
Due to personal reasons and the social stigma attached, this particular crime is known to be under reported by both sexes across the world which means, therefore, that the numbers could be far higher than first presumed. As such, it’s important to discuss and as statistics clearly show that the ones that are abused are overwhelmingly women, makes sense to point the spotlight on that particular category.
Domestic abuse can apply to anyone in an official or an intimate relationship and no country is immune if figures are to be believed. It comes in many varieties that sometimes we find it hard to spot. Apart from the physical and verbal violation, it can also come in the way of, mental, financial, sexual and cultural forms which one needs to be aware of before it’s too late.
Considering the seriousness of the situation, I thought I’d talk to Ruth Darlene, the Founder and Executive Director of Womens.Sv, an institution that safeguards the right of every woman and child to be free In their own home. Ruth is based in Silicon Valley and has worked with thousands of women in abusive relationships who have come to her or have been referred. Even though she may be based elsewhere in the world, she feels that the story of domestic violence is the same across the globe.
IDENTIFYING AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP
The first question for me was to understand what an abusive relationship really looked liked. Coming from a patriarchal set up myself, I think I may have been guilty of overlooking and accepting certain things my self. In doing so, does it mean I teach and carry down the same? A frightening thought. So what is an abusive relationship then? Well Ruth describes
Violence in many formsand the most obvious being physical, but the more subtle forms where you see no bruises, are the ones that are difficult to spot.
• The Honeymoon period
You’ll see this at the beginning of your relationship where your partner will try to woo you by being very attentive indeed. It will seem so romantic and why not, don’t we have the right to dream? You don’t want to lose your faith in man do you but when, after around 30 odd days, you see something shift in the relationship, it’s best not to ignore it.
• The Red flags
The red flags are when he starts controlling pretty much everything around you and may start by simply ordering for you and deciding what you should eat. Now this may be pretty normal for a child but to do this to an adult, something may just be amiss. Ok, so if you don’t mind this and it doesn’t seem so bad at this point, well maybe you should be concerned when he now starts telling you what to wear. Chances are, not long after, he’ll start calling you multiple times a day, which could mean something more sinister. Ruth does say, that a lot depends on how you feel. If you think that you’ve reached a point where you need to start editing what you say in front of him, then things may not be as hunky dory as you believe them to be. He will likely take over the the relationship entirely.
Finances will most likely be controlled first, then when you say something, he’ll assure you that you’ve misunderstood everything and that you are imagining things. Now this is, what some of us would term, as Gas Lighting. I would say, before it blows up in your face, to do something about it when the time is right.
PROFILE OF AN ABUSER
They can all look great, charming and educated. Just like a good citizen, you may find them contributing to worthy causes and hold titles like Lawyer, Doctor, religious leader or even be in law enforcement. The absolute image of perfection which hides a dark side that lurks behind the mask. He will want and demand to be the centre of attention and want to win every argument and he will by whatever means. That attentive partner that initially cared about your every whim, will suddenly lack empathy and remorse, a dark take on that guy who brought you flowers and chocolates to woo you a month ago.
Ruth Darlene warns that you have to be very aware if your partner starts trying to get rid of all your friends and family because abuse thrives in secrecy, silence, and isolation. He’ll not want you to have any allies whatsoever so he can do what he likes to you. Be aware that he’ll take away anything that could give you any independence at all. Remember, he needs you totally dependent to make his plans work so don’t be blind to reality.
WHAT STEPS YOU NEED TO TAKE
Well from our conversation, our specialist suggests that there are 3 stages to leaving. The 1st when you’ve been enlightened and you see your relationship for what it really is and leave in your mind. The 2nd stage is when you actually physically leave your partner, then the 3rd time is when you exercise the demons that plague you when you’ve left. All that brainwashing that’s been done to try and tell you that you will never survive alone needs to be overcome and you need to believe in your self once again.
Ruth is very serious when she says that when you reach the first stage, that you need to keep it to yourself. It’s crucial to not let the perpetrator know that you have found him out and you’re on to him because your life could be in danger. And before you get to stage 2, you need to make sure you gather some assets and allies. You need to make sure that you develop friendships and revive family relationships and update them about your situation all the time.
It is crucial to re engage with someone or a support group that understands your position by overcoming the social stigma that is attached to this issue, especially in the Indian cultural setting. Make sure you are prepared to leave without alerting your partner otherwise he will stop you. Losing is not an option for him so he’ll try everything in his power to imprison you once again, even make you look crazy in the eye of the law.
It’s amazing how that honeymoon period in a relationship, where you were being looked after, protected and mollycoddled, fast becomes a prison where you become controlled and dominated and sex, power and revenge become the driving force. NO, it’s not easy to leave especially if you have children, but for your mental health, becomes imperative. I did ask Ruth if there was ever a time when abuse was ok, and the answer wasn’t easy. She clearly says that It’s a decision that you have to make if you think that the roof over your head and the food on the table is more important than your worth as an individual.
Remember, none of this stops with you, but carries on through generations so it’s a decision that cannot be taken lightly. What’s really funny about this all is that we are all taught and brought up with certain values that have taken years to solidify, yet it doesn’t take a moment for someone to make you believe that you’re unworthy and incapable. Reality is that something needs to change as Rekha Sharma from the The National Commission for Women (NCW), who receives calls of domestic violence from all parts of the country, has recorded a twofold increase during this pandemic where people have had to stay home more. There’s been a sharp rise in rape or attempted rape from 2 to 13 and where police have received, instead of 6 calls, 16. But the positive thing in this is that even though violence is increasing, the complaints are too! So do your part and stop the cycle of abuse. If you see any or suffer any signs of violence within a relationship, then call 7217735372 immediately! Whether you realise it or not, there is always someone waiting in the wings to help.