IS IT ABUSE?
(BY: SHRUTI CHOPRA, AUTHOR OF ‘BATTERED EXISTENCE’)
“My husband tries to control me. Sometimes, when I do not comply, he verbally abuses me. But that happens in every house now. Isn’t it?” Ah! That defensive tone.
“Men will be men. You cannot change them. I have got used to it. It does not bother me anymore.”
You see where the actual problem lays- LIVING IN DENIAL. Who does not get emotionally hurt when their better halves abuse them? Why do we accept this hurt and let it become a good part of our lives. Will we not love an abuse free and peaceful life?
I understand how choosing to maintain silence becomes the only need of the hour. But, do we realise its repercussions? The cycle of abuse is not very complicated to understand. For a child, his/ her mother being abused is not a pleasant site. They grow up hating their father and a time comes when the child does not deter to hit back at his father. He too becomes violent just like his father. And so it continues.
I believe the greater problem lies for a woman is in not realising when to act. The solution always cannot be acceptance or separation, but standing up for what you feel is right for you and your children. It is imperative to have zero tolerance for abuse- be it emotional, physical or financial. The first insights of abuse should get you on your toes to draw a line. I completely apprehend it is not easy but a resilient try is all we need.
In majority of the domestic violence cases, shock is one the very first emotion that engulfs a woman leaving her crippled with fear and distrust. It is hard to even get out of it lest take a stand against it. The point that I am trying to make here is the need to stand up against it as soon as you get calm and sober. However, I do not advice, at any cost, to keep taking the abuse just for the fear of disturbing peace at home for it is internal peace that you should aim for. Let not anyone crush your confidence and morale and snatch your right to live with dignity!
There are cases where women are taught to ignore the abuse or maintain silence so as not to provoke the abuser to the point of violence. For such a case, I do not understand how somebody can provoke the other to the point of violence. Abuse and violence has absolutely NO justification! If a man is, by nature, abusive, dominating and intimidating, he will abuse no matter what. Believe me when I say that silence will only get matters worse. The abuse will increase with time, so will your inner frustrations. And that is enough to disturb peace.
Another defence that women use to defend their tolerance is that they do it for their children which I do find completely baseless. I believe that it is for their children that they should stand against violence for it is their children who suffer more than the victim.
We, women of 21st century are educated, intelligent and mindful. There is no doubt that we work harder than our men. We, with time, have become appropriately decisive and do not shy away from any kind of work. We look after multiple arenas of our life and manage it with balance. We were, are and will always be sole providers for our family.
After all that I have mentioned above, We, women, also aspire to live with freedom, equality and dignity. Then, why do we endure violence in silence? The first step towards a dignified life is to gather knowledge of all our rights and make use of them as and when required. My plea to all women out there is to not to suffer in silence. Rather, Get yourself to stand against it or ask for professional help. 1091 is the number that you can dial to get assistance. The police, the counsellors, the lawyers, are all prepared to help you if only you are ready to help yourself!
Diary of a Victim
(BY: SHRUTI CHOPRA, AUTHOR OF ‘BATTERED EXISTENCE’)
I was beaten by a stick yesterday. I kept dragging my body in the entire house, my husband after me holding the culprit in his hand. Tears rolling down my cheeks, I pleaded for him to stop. I apologised for opening the door late. I accepted I had fallen asleep and was not able to hear the doorbell. I tried to convince him that it would not happen again but he was not listening.
When he had first hit the stick on my leg, I was not aware of my mistake. I did not want to scream for my son of 11 was fast asleep. I held my leg and gently asked him to let me know of my fault. He hit me again, “I stood outside the house for 20 minutes before you opened the door,” he screamed!
“I fell asleep.” was all I could manage to say. He held the stick above my head, “are you defending your mistake?” and he hit me on my head. I resisted screaming again.
His facial expressions sent cold shivers down my spine. I did not know what his next step would be. I immediately apologised.
“Will this happen again?” and he hit me again on my back. I shook my head holding onto my tears. He dropped the stick and marched inside the room.
I held onto the table near me before I heard his voice again, “come in now.”
I walked in immediately so as not to provoke him further and quietly lied down on the bed. He changed and lied down next to me. I jumped out of the bed on his first snore and sluggishly walked outside. I opened the door to the next bedroom and headed for the bathroom. I shut the bathroom door and broke down there was no stopping for my tears.
I do not remember for how long I cried. I cannot remember how long it took me to gather myself back to composure. But I do remember that it took me a little time to be OK.
The next morning he was as normal as before he was drunk. He had breakfast, kissed me on my head and went for work. I too became normal and smiled at him. Though I could not look at myself in the mirror, I was content that there was peace at home. Though I loathed the bruises on my body, I was satisfied that I and my son had a place to live and money was necessities.
I spent the day cooking, reading, thinking and waiting for my husband to come home. I had prepared his favourite dish. He came home in the evening and we all sat for dinner.
“Do I slog all day to come home to such a dinner?” and he threw the food on the floor. I kept quiet.
“But this is good.” My son said.
That was enough to get my husband angry. He got up and slapped my son hard across his face. . I rushed towards my son’s side and held onto him. My husband angrier than before, dragged me with my hair to the room and shut the door. In all of the slapping and punching and kicking, I could only hear my son banging at the door and asking his father to stop.
I too prayed silently for all of this to stop so I could go to my son. It was killing me that he had been hurt because of me. I knew I was to be blamed.
If only I had stood up against the first insights of violence. If only I had taken a firm ground against these beatings. If only I had warned my husband with a police complaint. If only I had asked for professional help. If only I had enough courage to stand up for my and my son’s rights. If only I had recovered my strength to do at least something to prevent violence. If only……..
A Chapter from Book ‘Battered Existence’
CONTEXT: CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE
(AUTHOR: SHRUTI CHOPRA)
It took Samira about three hours to finish her homework. She sat on the floor in her room assembling her books. Once in a pile, she got up to pack her school bag for tomorrow. One look at the wall clock, half past nine in the night!
I’ll go to bed in half an hour she thought to herself.
She opened her cupboard, took out her school bag and packed it with her notebooks. Her preparation was disturbed by a fumbling sound. She turned around and noticed Ashish peeping through the half closed door.
Ashish was Samira’s paternal cousin. He was a stout 19 year old boy with an oval horrid face and a slight beard. He spoke fast with a fake American accent. He almost always stared at her with an immodest expression which left her feeling uncomfortable. Not that she despised him. It was his eyes she loathed.
Nonetheless, Samira managed a smile.
“Would you meet me in school tomorrow?” he said from the door but did not enter.
She nodded but did not turn around. Ashish approached her and sat down on the floor with her, “let me help you dear.” He said and put his hands inside the bag and pulled out a notebook.
Samira stared at him for a moment. then, snatched the book from his hand and put it inside her bag again, “like this, you idiot!”
“Ah! You taught me well!” he smiled at her, “it’s my turn to teach you something now.” He pulled her frock up and touched her thighs.
Samira did not move and stared at his hand moving up and touching her panties. He bent down and smelled her.
“You smell nice!” he said and put his hand on his genitals.
“Samira!” her Dadi (grandmother) yelled her name from the veranda, “Samira!”
Samira immediately got up and ran outside.
“What are you doing inside? Go help your mother lay out the table.” She put pan (beetle leave) in her mouth and turned towards Rajesh, Samira’s father, “girls these days I tell you. Kuch nai aata (do not know any anything).”
Anita, from inside the kitchen was listening to everything. How Dadi loved Samira when she was born. And now that she knows I am expecting with a baby boy, she has stopped loving her.
Anita watched as Samira picked up the plates, spoons and glasses and ran to the dining room to lay out the table. Her heart went out to the poor little creature who never complained. She was happy when Dadi loved her. She is still happy now that Dadi do not love her.
“Dinner is served maa.” Anita called out to everybody for dinner. Everyone sat at the table. Anita served vegetable and daal in everyone’s plate.
Samira looked around and laughed out loud. “what? Can’t you eat without disturbing us?” dadi ranted
“I laughed because I smell good down there!” Samira screamed innocently and laughed again! Dadi stared at her with annoyance, left her food in the middle and went to her room.
Ashish too stared at Samira in horror.
“Teach her something!” Rajesh said feeling disgusted with his daughter’s mannerisms. Samira looked down without another word. she could not comprehend her mistake but she knew she must have definitely said something wrong to have enraged everyone.
“Ok ok. Please eat now.” Anita cut short the tension. And everyone resumed eating again. Anita picked up a plate, served food in it and took it inside for Dadi.
“Do you want to come and attend the dance class with me?” Ashish asked Samira after they were done with their lectures.
Ashish and Samira studied in the same school. He was in class twelve and Samira in class three. Everybody in school knew Ashish had been futile in his board exams. So, he had to repeat a year. Dadi had given the responsibility to Ashish to look after Samira in school. In other words to keep an eye on her and he was undoubtedly doing his duty very well.
Since that day he always made excuses to see Samira. He would sometimes land up during her class unannounced and created excuses to talk to her. Once outside, he would talk nothing but stare at her. It was as if there were no rules for him. He would come and go as pleased.
His behaviour did seem a little strange to Samira but she was a little too young to understand his intentions. It amused her at first and she thoroughly enjoyed all the attention she was getting from her elder cousin but later it became a constant intrusion.
Dance? Why not she thought to herself but she remembered she had to be home in time.
“Dadi scolds when I get late.”
Ashish smiled, “I shall take care of that! Main hoon na (I am there).”
“I can come tomorrow. Today I have to go back.” she insisted reluctantly
But Ashish was not listening. He held her hand and pulled her aside. Samira did as he commanded.
“There is nobody here?” Samira asked as they entered the auditorium.
“They are in the green room.” Ashish held her hand again and dragged her behind the stage.
The awkwardness aroused fear in Samira, “I can come tomorrow bhaiya (big brother)”
But Ashish was not listening. He pulled her into the green room and closed the door behind him. He snatched Samira’s bag and threw it on the floor. He put one put forward and pulled Samira’s skirt down.
“What are you doing? My skirt…” but he had already hauled her skirt down. Samira felt awfully naked in front of him as she immediately grabbed her skirt and pulled it up. Ashish laughed at her as she stood there holding her skirt. She tried to scream at ashish for making her feel so horrible.
“I am teaching you something new today. Why do you have to shout? Keep quiet!” Ashish said softly caressing her face, lips and then neck. He thoroughly wandered his hand on her upper body over her shirt. He went on to unbutton her shirt but was disturbed by an unexpected noise. He instantly went near the door and heard some students walk in. he picked up his bag, opened the back door and escaped!
Samira held her skirt with one hand, picked up her bag and slowly walked out of the green room. She went out and was glad to see her baggiwala waiting for her. She sat in the buggi and went home ‘unhurt’.
Ashish came home, burning inside with rage. He threw the bag on the sofa, marched to his room and banged the door behind him. Shalini stared at him with animosity but maintained silence. She knew it would be useless to try and talk to Ashish anyway. She went to the kitchen and asked Ravi to serve Ashish lunch.
Ravi’s family lived in a small village in Kashmir. He came down to city fourteen years back with his two friends to find work and landed up here. He was kept as a servant by Ashish’s father and the other two were kept on work in his factory. Ravi had been so grateful to Ashish’s father that he decided never to leave his family.
Ravi put food on a plate and took it to Ashish’s room. He knocked and went in. the television in the room was on and Ashish was in the bathroom. Thoughtfully, as he switched off the television, he heard noises from the bathroom. He stood there stunned as he heard Ashish moaning. Suddenly the noise died out. He quickly left the room.
A minute later, he stared as Ashish marched in the kitchen and punched him in his nose. Ravi fell to the floor in agony. Shalini came in running and helped Ravi get up.
“What is wrong with you?” Shalini yelled at Ashish.
“Tell him never to come in my room again.” and he left the kitchen.
Shalini hurriedly got her medical kit, cleaned Ravi’s blood around his nose and made him sit with his head up.
“What happened?” she asked impatiently.
“Nothing bibiji. It was my fault!”
Shalini knew he was covering up Ashish but she said nothing more.
I do this too…all the time! It’s my entire fault!
Samira thought about the episode with her ‘bhaiya’ more frequently. Though her routine was not perturbed, she did feel uneasy. As soon as she had come home, she had wanted to tell her mother but unfortunately, she was not around. She had gone straight to her Dadi and sat in her lap. Dadi was praying and in a good mood today. She kissed Samira on her cheek and continued chanting on her rosary.
“Bhaiya pulled my skirt down Dadi!” she said innocently and stared at her grandmother.
Dadi stared at her for a minute, “off my lap!” and pushed Samira to the floor.
Samira moved her body close to Dadi but this time she did not sit in her lap. She kept her hand on Dadi’s knees, “he pulled my skirt down, Dadi.”
“shhhh, you little devil.” Dadi said and prayed louder.
Samira got up and slowly walked towards the door, “do not dare tell your mother! She will turn you out of the house. And do not go near him again. I warn you!” and she closed her eyes to concentrate on her prayers.
Samira nodded and walked out of the room.
Samira’s grandmother had understood she was talking about Ashish but she knew it would be inappropriate to encourage the little girl to embolden her feelings of her own sexuality. It was ‘sensible’ for her to cease the topic right there, once and for all.
Dadi could no longer pray. Her thoughts distracted her. For Dadi, Samira’s experiences were not new. She had heard and experienced a lot worse!