Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Case Study: Does Violence Against Women Begin At Home

Madhavi is in the last year of School. Her board exams will start in March. She is under considerable pressure of studies at this moment. But she is almost at breaking point and cannot concentrate in her studies as there are unmentionable problems at home which are driving to the point of suicide. Her neighbour, a strong and dependable girl, Nisha, who is also a good friend and studies in the same school, has found that Madhavi is behaving very peculiarly. One day, at about 10.30 am, about an hour before they are about to leave for school, she goes to Madhavi’s house. Normally at that hour, Madhavi is at home alone with her father, who works with Bombay’s Local Train services. Her mother leaves for work by 9 am.

On arriving at Madhavi’s house, Nisha is about to ring the door bell, but has stopped short. She can hear a whimpering sound inside. It is Madhavi’s voice. Nisha puts her ear to the door and is surprised to hear Madhavi plead –

“Daddy, no! Daddy, no, please no…” between tears. Nisha is curious. She tries to catch the sound of a slap, or a beating. Was Madhavi’s being beaten by her father? But no, there is no such sound at all, except the whimpering and the same haunting Daddy, no! Daddy, no, please no. Nisha decides to leave but not before she has made up her mind to confront Madhavi about this. Inside the bus, on the way to School, Nisha tells Madhavi, she has some wonderful news to tell her but she can tell her this, only after School. They must meet after they have returned. Madhavi is excited.

After school, the two girls meet for a walk. It is not uncommon for the two girls to take a walk after they return from school. But today, is different.

“What was happening inside the house this morning when I came to meet you at 10.30 this morning?” Nisha asks directly coming to the point right away.

Madhavi becomes defensive. “You came? You should have rung the bell!”

“I would have but for the fact that I could hear you crying inside and pleading - Daddy, no! Daddy, no, please no!”
Madhavi suddenly became very scared. The colour left her face and she hurried to leave. Nisha grabbed her hand insisting that she tell the truth before she flees. Madhavi breaks down in tears. It is perhaps, the first time she has cried about herself in front of someone.

“Nisha,” she blurts out as if unable to hold the fact any longer, “Daddy is forcing me to have sex with him!”

The words out, Nisha and Madhavi are dumb struck. Nisha continues to look ahead as her fingers and heart freeze while Madhavi continues to cry.

“On and on, it has been more than a year……” Madhavi adds, wiping the tears off her eyes.

Once in change of the situation, Nisha, pleads with Madhavi to disclose this to her mother as soon as possible. Madhavi is scared. What if her mother does not believe her? What if her father accuses her of lying? What if he threatens to leave them? But, Nisha is insistent. Madhavi must end this by telling her mother about it. And if Madhavi finds it so hard to say it, then she threatens to tell Madhavi’s mother herself.

Madhavi is really scared now. Under no circumstance can that happen. The next day, between sobs, she tells her mother about what has been happening in the house for the last one and a half years. Madhavi’s mother is astonished and angry. Was it not what happened earlier too with Madhavi’s elder sister, Lata as well? In fact, that is why to take Lata away from her husband, she had sent Lata to Bangalore to pursue her studies. But that was two years ago. She could hardly believe that after the fight and the apology from her husband, that he should continue his evil acts on their younger daughter as well.

She confronted her husband. He flew into a fit of anger. He screamed at his wife and taking his wallet, he left the house threatening to never return again.

The last blow had been dealt out. Had not Madhavi feared this all along? What was she going to do? What would her mother do? Would she not blame her for indirectly chasing her father out of the house?

She dashed to Nisha – “See, what you have done? Why did you force me to tell my mother? Now, my father has left the house!”

“Let him! He will return shortly. Where will he go?” Nisha was cool.
And so it was, that after the hue and cry, Madhavi’s father returned home after two hours but continued to make everyone suffer the consequences of making public his evil deed, by stopping to talk to everyone in the house, stopping to eat in the house, etc, etc. But as all abusers will, he finally gave up all his psychological blackmailing to return to normal. Another example of violence against women, springing from within the safety of what we call a home, ended.

But this time, I have a few questions to ask, the first being –

Does violence against women begin at home?

Second, are women in household an accomplice to this violence?

Okay, given the fact this is a Case Study of a magnitude that we think rarely happens in all families in India, the UNIFEM report quotes - “Violence against women and girls continues unabated in every continent, country and culture. It takes a devastating toll on women’s lives, on their families, and on society as a whole. Most societies prohibit such violence — yet the reality is that too often, it is covered up or tacitly condoned. — UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, 8 March 2007 (See http://www.unifem.org/campaigns/vaw/facts_figures.php)

My second question is more pertinent. Given the fact that violence is there, and in many cases it begins are home, is it not the woman’s responsibility to ensure the safety of their children? In the above case, what is wrong with Madhavi’s mother? Why was she so naïve? Her elder daughter had had to face the same plight vis-à-vis her husband’s pathological behaviour as well. Why did she not take precautions to see that it did not recur again? Why did she not warn Madhavi about it and cautioned her in advance? Did she want to maintain a stoic silence on this subject even knowing that she has a teenage daughter who might meet with the same plight? Or did she fear her husband and the consequences? Why did she not ask him to see a psychiatrist about his disorder? Is she finally also to blame for perpetrating violence in her house?

According to RAHI Foundation, an NGO that is working in the area of Child Sexual Abuse and Incest, speaking of mothers a few important myths and fact according to them are cited hereunder –

Myth: Men are forced to have sex with their daughters or other children because their wives won’t have sex with them or cannot satisfy them sexually.
Fact: Men who sexually abuse children do so in addition to, rather than instead of, having sex with their wives. This myth shifts responsibility from the offender to his wife or the child’s mother.

Myth: Mothers always know, either consciously or unconsciously, that sexual abuse is happening to their child.
Fact: Few men are careless enough to have a witness around when they abuse. Many mothers react with shock when they learn about the abuse. Often mothers who do know about the abuse, are in no position to prevent it because of their own powerlessness.

Myth: It is the mother’s job to protect her children. Therefore she is equally responsible for the abuse.
Fact: A mother’s failure to protect her children does not mean she is responsible for the abuser’s actions. Child protection is the responsibility of every adult and does not rest solely on the mother. **

Excuse me, I tend to disagree with the last point. If one of the adults is deranged and addicted to violence against children, all adults in a household cannot be trusted! Especially in the present case, it stands invalid. Madhavi’s mother knew of the potential damage her husband could do to her girls since he has already done it before, so why was she playing, Mrs Innocent?

I say this here and now, in most cases of violence, whether it be sexual abuse or any other form of deprivation or abuse, women are equally responsible because, they are unable to face consequences of what might happen, if they confront the male perpetrator. They exhibit weakness of character and will, fear to fight back or to take to task the perpetrator, which in fact is used as weapons against women themselves, by the male perpetrator of violence.

Hence, in cases of violence against women inside the home, women are accomplice. Is this what everybody feels and thinks as well? Or am I the only woman basher on Blogspot?

** Myths and facts by Rahi Foundation : http://www.rahifoundation.org/incestchild/incestchild/document.2004-07-15.0476800028
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