Saturday, October 22, 2022

“He Said He Was Sorry … “

“She stays because the Fear of Leaving is greater than the fear of Staying. 
She will leave when the Fear of Staying is greater than Fear of Leaving.”

I happened to see the Telugu movie “Ammu” yesterday. The moviemakers have done a good attempt at creating an awareness of the concept. The actors have done a commendable job since many scenes leaves us in chills. Though I feel, that the director could have dealt with the topic with more perspective and maturity, especially when it came to how they dealt the situation or the climax, overall, I feel the movie did a decent job in conveying the concept. It leaves you behind with a haunting premise.

This post is not intended as a movie review. However, the movie left me behind a lot of thoughts and feelings, which I felt the need to pen. How many of us understand domestic abuse, how many of us acknowledge it, how many of us work to get out of it and how many of us accept it? Why is it still taboo to talk of domestic abuse and do we recognize it?

To understand the same, Google helped me find one of the most apt definitions for the same: Domestic violence, also called intimate partner violence, occurs between people in an intimate relationship. Domestic violence can take many forms, including emotional, sexual, psychological and verbal— intended to intimidate, humiliate, denigrate and control. This definition kind of sums it up. It can be sexual, when people take their partners without consent; frequently emotional where it involves isolating the partner from his/her family, friends and colleagues, monitoring his/her activities and threatening to harm family and friends or take custody of the children etc. Yes, it happens between intimate partners, not necessarily husband and wife alone. I would also add 2 distinct sides to the abuse:

  • the Evident – where its clearly known to yourself that you are being subject to abuse and your partner is open about it; and
  • the Invisible- where you don’t have a clue what you are being subject to because your partner masks it beautifully.

          The topic is something I feel strongly about and that’s what made me write this because luckily / unluckily, I have had the chance to experience both these sides and with a decent share of the emotional, sexual, physiological and verbal shades of it; and again, more than once. Nope, this is not a history on my story, but rather a take on how we react to it, how our loved ones react to it and of course the Society. We still base everything on what’s acceptable and not acceptable to the society, isn’t it?

          The first time my ex slapped me across the face, I went into shock. A reaction from a silent / submissive guy during a casual conversation left my head spinning. I just couldn’t hear the million apologies he was giving me for the action, because inside my head the only noise was “How dare he do that”? As the shock set in, it transformed into anger within me, asking me 100 times why I should put up with it, why I can’t just walk away? After a day, this changed into shame: “How can I tell anyone? What will they think of him?” I called up my uncle and told him in 1 line that my hubby had slapped me and I was not going home. His immediate reaction was that “Don’t worry, we will sort it out. I will come and speak to him. You please go home.” And then he asked me, “Did you say anything for him to react like this?” I said No, I didn’t, it was just a normal conversation where we didn’t agree on some small general topic. But then as an aftermath, I thought, what if I had something, does that give him a right to slap me?  With the same feeling of shame, I told my best friend the next day what happened and her reaction was totally different. She was so angry that she called my hubby over to meet and between themselves I still don’t know what they talked, because all that he told me later was that she had given him a warning that if it happened one more time, she would complain to the Police etc. It did leave him in fear for a few months. My Uncle did manage to come over to speak to us after a couple of days since he thought we will manage between ourselves to sort the ISSUE. He too gave him some advice and said this should never happen again and that both our families are looking forward that we have a good life etc. He told me to FORGET the incident and consider it as a MISTAKE. That moment I knew Life was never going to be the same again.

          The slap never happened again, but it graduated to a broken arm once, post graduated to sexual abuse etc. But I never told anyone anything. By then I had resigned myself to fate and convinced myself that this was what my family wanted. A couple of times, I did try to raise the issue at our homes.  The common statements that always comes up: “I’m sure you must have said/ did something to irritate him/her. All families go through all this. Look at your parents, you think we didn’t have tough times, we also went through some turbulence. Look at his dad, he was also the same once upon a time, but he has changed now, right? Spend more time with each other. Just try to understand more of what he likes and doesn’t like. All will be well once you have a kid!”

I read somewhere an account of a person where she said “We become ghosts of who we are “. That’s so true. I couldn’t recognize myself; I had become a Ghost 😊

Your partner apologizes and says the hurtful behaviour won't happen again — but you fear it will. At times you wonder whether you're imagining the abuse, yet the emotional or physical pain you feel is real. One day it got too far, that I asked myself Is this what I want? And the answer was so startlingly evident right in my face and heart, that I don’t want to live with it. I walked out of it, it was my life, I needed to live it without fear!  WALK OUT from Domestic Abuse! It’s not worth it! If you cannot live with self-respect, what good is that life to you?

While the first experience left me with scars, it didn’t pain me anymore since ours had been more of a marriage of convenience than of love. Then comes along someone who is just the opposite of all your experiences. The man who sweeps you off the floor with his love and care. His sensitivity and love are so over encompassing that you forget the world. 😊 When you are so madly in love, you forget to notice the small signs that life throws at you. You fail to notice that he wants your life to revolve around him only. You need to keep assuring everyday that I will do my best to keep the relationship going. The lovingly forced confession to my undying love many times a day. You fail to notice that you are the only person in his world and other relationships don’t matter (be it good friends / family etc.) You don’t heed to the occasional emotional outbursts for small matters because when weighed against the happiness, this is minimal.

People often hide their true natures maybe not knowingly but it cannot be suppressed for long. The first time I was accused of something in a fleeting convesration, I brushed it away thinking it was a joke. I never realized that it was serious until the same was repeated verbatim again. Ouch! That hurt, are you serious, I asked? And then it began – a long string of questions, accusations on infidelity, friendships / relationships, family relationships everything including my morality was questioned. The words used was way beyond my accepted vocabulary.

To add to it, technology nowadays is so advanced and free that it can be used for the good or the bad. How do you react when you realize that all your electronic devices like phones/ laptop etc. has been cloned? How would you react that your house was bugged without your knowledge so that your partner could keep an eye on you?

The first reaction once again was Shock!  How could someone you love so much or someone who loved you so much say all this or do all this? The feeling of the earth below you ripping into 2 pieces is beyond shock. Then comes the Anger stage, where you feel angry at being violated, where you know and accept that you haven’t knowingly wronged anyone. How dare you do this to me, was the question?  The answer was always the same , everything was just because the person loved me and couldn’t bear the thought of losing me to anyone.

The next stage this time was submission/ self-doubt. When you love someone so blindly, you wish to give them a second chance. You question yourself, maybe there was something lacking in you, can you make changes so that your partner will be happy? The million apologies, tears and promises make us believe that things will change. But trust me it never changes. The person does it again. The verbal abuse continues every day. Words we never would dare to repeat would be used. They have no qualms about what they did. They become the VICTIM because you were WRONG. You try to seek professional help, which again is expensive for common people. We don’t have an issue is what we convince ourselves. Lastly comes the acceptance where we mutually accept that this is not going to work out any more.

The point is not my story, but the patterns to it. The different shades to it. Be it physical or verbal or sexual, abuse is abuse. That’s what we and the society have to realize and accept.  And again, its not only about women, I know couple of men too who are subject to the same shades of domestic violence. Unfortunately, the ratio of domestic violence against women are more compared to men, so often it is generalized.

Family and Society need to be more compassionate as well. The movie beautifully talks about how women are conditioned to domestic abuse across generations and most have even accepted it as a way of life. The mother quotes the examples of her father and defends it by saying men have no other means to take out their anger and stress. The conditioning we often go through in the Indian society that we bear the brunt of shaming a family's name and legacy, where we are hung up on the idea that marriage is the ultimate destination. Also, where women coming from the poorer section of the society are compelled to believe that getting thrashed by the husband is the norm. These are all norms and conditions we have built around. Movies like Ammu or Thappad are all complying to the same conditioning.

I don’t advocate that everyone woman or man should walk out of their relationship at the first instance, that’s not what I meant. But what can we do when we realise or see that there is domestic abuse be it within the family or outside in your society.

·      Reach out to someone, don’t hide it.

·      Raise an alert so that the person knows that a third party knows.

·      Do not judge the person. There is so much of self-doubt already going on.

·      Advise to go for professional help rather than family advise.

·      Make professional help economical for people to avail.

·      Don’t sympathise with the Victim, be their strength.

Sometimes, all that it requires is for someone to be there for you, to reach out to. I am happy that the Society is slowly changing for the better. Exposure through movies, social media etc is quite rampant these days that people are finding alternate sources to create the awareness. At least for the future generation, I am sure that we can leave them better aware of how to deal with it.

I don’t know what triggered me to write about this, it must be the movies, but more than that the fear, the despair, the shame, the anger was all so relatable. All the characters in my story now are happily settled in various parts of the world and we have found our peace with each other and have moved on with our lives. We have accepted our learnings and moved on our journey for better tomorrows.

“You are not the Darkness you endured. You are the Light that refused to surrender.” John M Green