Intimate Partner Violence

“You are a nothing, a nobody. Look at you!! Do you hear me? Coward? You call yourself a man? Go on, show me you are a man, show me”. He backed off into a corner as she scratched him and pushed him. She saw anger flash in his eyes, she hissed– “touch me and see what happens. I will send you and your parents to jail”. “Try, come on, try me. “Coward”, “you dumb fool”. He shut his eyes as if to shut out his wife’s scathing voice and the mocking loud laughter that invariably followed her tirade. He felt acutely embarrassed– what if the neighbours heard her yelling? He had just returned from his shift and was greeted by a dirty house, piled laundry and a sink full of vessels. He knew any retort was a waste of his energy. She managed to talk louder and smarter. While he always floundered even when he was entirely in the right. He went on completing his chores silently.

This was an almost daily routine. His wife would get up late, leave for work, almost never prepared food and would leave all the housework behind- knowing he could not stand a messy house and would clear it himself. He could not understand why she was so mean and uncooperative. Was she deliberately provoking him? Of course, he reasoned, she had the right to be unhappy. After all he was not that smart or rich, and she was lively, popular with their neighbours… He sighed. He wanted peace not just for himself, but for his two young kids. After all, his children deserved a good, clean home, hot food, andloving parents. But she was good in talking- he thought, almost admiringly. Their children were afraid of her, but they also loved her. Of course, she never cooked or did anything else, but she could make them laugh, take them out, spend money on them, and other people also thought she was wonderful. People liked her, her colleagues, her friends, her family. She could be very affectionate and caring to him – in public. “Even if I talked about her behaviour, who would believe me”, he thought?

Perhaps, he thought, it was him. He had failed to be a good husband, she deserved someone better.He remembered recoiling when she reached out to him after her assault. He just couldn’t, no, not like this!!He just did not want any intimacy with her.Nervously he had watched her as she pushed him away in rage. Then she almost spat out contemptuously– “are you really a man”?

I was listening to a client as he talked about his desire to make his marriage work, his children– don’t they need both parents, what would people think, his reputation in his society and family, and so on. His sister who had accompanied him said hehad become a shadow of his former self. From being a confident man, his marriage had reduced him to a person plagued by self-doubts. He often looked lost and dull. Slow. His wife on the other hand seemed to positively bloom in comparison– almost as though she had sucked the blood of him- said his sister, seethingwith resentment.

I was struck by how he sounded, and appeared,similar to many other clients who were abused by their wives. I was also struck by how similar the narrative was with other clients- female clients. There was the same kind of helplessness, and defeat, and the same kind of guilt andreasoning.

People think only women are victims of marital violence. But is that really true? The much-publicised case of Hollywood actors Johnny Depp and Amber Heard,revealed the ease with which abusive women misuse the law and social stereotyping, to manipulate, intimidate, defame, slander and play the victim; while abusing their partner both physically and mentally.

What is Intimate Partner Violence (IPV)?

It means mental, physical, and, or sexual abuse of anindividual by their partner or spouse.

Let us take the example of one of my female clients. For sake of convenience, I will call her ‘C’. C was as concerned about society, her family, her children, and had a great sense of shame and embarrassment whenever her husband shouted and misbehaved with her. She too appeared as though she had withered away from inside. Her husband, on the other hand, was gregarious and suave.

The similarity was not only in their suffering, but also in their decisions to continue their marriage, and thereby their miseries. The similarity was in their thinking process and in the impact their pain had on their psyche and on their outer persona.Does this mean thatvictims of marital violence have similar experiences - regardless of their gender?We shall delve further into this topic in our upcoming article.

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