This is one of the most alarming myths used to give women a false sense of hope. Domestic violence often starts or worsens during pregnancy and can put a woman’s health at serious risk. Men who abuse their partners will not change their behaviour towards the woman because of pregnancy. It is likely to make things worse and more complicated for the woman. In a study from Eastern India, factors such as higher prevalence of undesirable behaviours like denying adequate rest and diet, demand for more sex, not providing antenatal care and pressure for male child were also associated with domestic violence in pregnancy.
Myth: Pray to God and ‘Sab theek ho jayega’.
Women often spend years silently suffering domestic violence because they are told by their family, friends and religious scholars to pray. There is ample evidence to suggest that the crime of domestic violence is a solid ground for divorce in India regardless of religion of the victim or abuser. Read more about Religion and Abuse.
Myth: It is alcohol and drugs that make men violent.
In order to lessen their responsibility, perpetrators often blame alcohol or drugs for their behavior. While drugs and alcohol may exacerbate emotions, they do not cause domestic violence. The choice to act in a violent and abusive manner remains with the man. Period. Note: This applies to alcohol abuse within your own family and in-laws as well.
Myth: It only happens in poor and uneducated families in rural settings.
Abuse can happen to any woman, irrespective of whether she belongs to a wealthy family or a poor family. Many women are trapped in violent relationships because their father is a prominent religious leader, or their husband is a rich businessman who can track her down. The tendency to inflict pain on others has no relation to religiosity or career. Men who abuse women can be pious or non-religious. They don’t have to be truck drivers or milkmen; they can very well be respected professionals such as lawyers, doctors, teachers.
Myth: If the abuse is THAT BAD, why doesn’t she leave?
When the word about the abusive relationship gets out, this is a common excuse provided by in-laws in the perpetrator’s defense. Society places a lot of pressure on women: they are expected to stay with the husband, women and mothers who ask for divorce are demonized, the family expects the marriage to succeed despite the odds and there is a lack of support and resources. Hence, it is completely understandable why it can be difficult to leave an abusive relationship. Some reasons why a woman might be struggling to leave an abusive relationship include:
- She is scared that her husband will harm her or her family.
- She might not want to be blamed if her husband threatens to kill himself.
- Her family and friends may have refused to help her.
- She may believe she’ll be separated from her children if she leaves.
- As most women in India are financially dependent on their husbands, she may feel she has no way of fending for herself.
- She may not want to bring shame on herself and her family because of the culture.
- Due to the effects of abuse on her self-esteem, she may lack the confidence to make something of herself.
- She may think her husband will change and doesn’t want to bear the repercussions of a divorce. Remember, it is never the fault of the victim for not taking action. No woman deserves abuse, and blaming the victim only perpetrates attitudes that promote violence against women.
Myth: His father was abusive to his mother, so that explains why he is like this. It’s not his fault.
While growing up in a violent household may influence a child’s personality, remember that it is ultimately a choice whether to abuse or not. Blaming childhood experiences for violence is, once again, the abuser’s tactic to avoid shouldering the responsibility for his actions. Evidence suggests that even though abusive patterns do run in families, it doesn’t necessarily always lead to domestic violence, because it is a choice.
Myth: She doesn’t keep the house clean or make good food. She deserves it.
Women are verbally and physically ‘punished’ by their husbands and in-laws for mundane reasons or no reason at all. Abusers take advantage of their victims because they like to feel in control and cause misery – not because the food didn’t taste good. No one deserves to be abused. Healthy relationships are built on mutual respect and love, not violence.
Myth: Men who are abusive must have a mental illness.
This is a commonly held belief which has no basis in reality. Studies have shown that the majority of abusers are not mentally ill. In a study done in Cehat in India, most rapists were found to be repeat offenders rather than mentally ill. If a mental illness is indeed present, then they need to get professional help and they should not be in a relationship. (Source: Centre for Enquiry into Health and Allied Themes or Cehat)
Myth: He may be a bad husband, but he is a good father. She should stay because who will accept her with kids?
Witnessing their father’s violent attitude towards their mother can have negative effects on children. As children get older, the scars from childhood can get deeper and cause a rift between the father and the child. Good fathers do not hurt the mothers of their children.
Myth: It’s no-one’s business. This is a ‘ghar ka maamla’. Family matters should stay inside the house.
When human rights are violated and individual(s) are hurt, it no longer remains a family’s business alone; it becomes everyone’s problem. Should people just consider this grave violation of human rights a ‘ghar ka mamla’, and let women keep getting hurt and harmed? Everyone has to care about the people who are suffering and experiencing injustice. It is their duty to help and contribute positively toward solving the issue(s) and alleviate the pain of the victims. Advocating for what is right is always justified. The personal is political, which means that most of the personal problems that women experience in their lives are not their fault but a consequence of systemic oppression. Martin Luther King Jr. said: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. Domestic violence is one of the worst forms of injustice. People should care about justice as well as the well-being of other people, and take action.
Myth: Initially, things go wrong in all marriages. Arguments, disagreements, clashes and fights are inevitable. So it’s okay. This will happen. Just find a way to deal with it and everything will be okay once this initial period is over.
Firstly, things do not necessarily go wrong in every marriage. Even if they did, it would not justify condoning domestic violence or advising to endure it – preserving human dignity and well-being is more important than just sustaining a marriage simply because divorce is socially frowned upon. Secondly, an abusive partner is unlikely to change his temperament because abusive behaviour is in the control of the abuser. The clashes could carry on for the entire duration of the marriage, even if they vary in intensity and frequency over time.
Myth: Women have to make compromises and sacrifices at every step of their lives. So you must learn to compromise to save your relationship.
Why should a woman feel the need to save a relationship that’s not fulfilling for her? It’s an unfair notion that only women must compromise for the sake of the relationship. A healthy relationship requires that both the husband and wife together make decisions and sacrifices. A marriage that is being sustained just for the sake of it, and where only the woman is expected to make huge compromises, is not a healthy relationship. In such a scenario, the woman must take action, including a divorce if need be. A woman is not a slave. She deserves just and respectful treatment from her husband and in-laws, as well as from everyone else. Compromise should not be a one-way street.
Myth: Be submissive to your husband and in-laws. Do what they like. Don’t do what they dislike. This way you will win their hearts and they will start treating you better.
While arguably it may be alright to compromise and be flexible in adjusting to a new family and relationship, being ‘submissive’ should not be a part of the equation. The burden of adjustment should be shared by both parties. A woman is a human being with free will and an independent mind. She must not be forced to succumb to her in-laws and change herself completely just to please them and her husband. Women in India go to lengths to satisfy their in-laws as this is what society has expected them to do and deemed as their duty. This should not define one’s life. Getting along with the husband and in-laws must not bring so much trauma onto a woman that it defines her life!
Myth: You’ve to tolerate this and be patient, at least for your children.
She doesn’t. Single parents can raise children – albeit often with some difficulty – but it’s possible. Did you know Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, among many other brilliant, inspirational global figures were raised by single mothers? The parent (mother) can actually set a heroic example for her children by taking the decision if it is required to protect human dignity, health, psychological well-being and peace. Furthermore, seeing so much hurt being inflicted upon their mother by their father is, as proven by numerous researches, extremely detrimental to a child’s mental health and personality development. These traumatizing experiences have long-term consequences and can totally jeopardize not only a child’s health –along with the mother’s, of course- but also their performance in school and later success in life. Children need a peaceful, violence-free environment to fully grow and to become good adults themselves. They’re better off without such a father and so much torture to their innocent years.
Myth: Every woman has to struggle/work hard to achieve her place in her husband’s home.
She doesn’t need a place in her husband’s home just for the sake of it. She needs a home of her own. Most of all, she needs peace and love – if she is so deprived of it that she would rather receive the exact opposite from her life-partner and in-laws, it’s time she reconsidered her stay there.
Myth: Does he beat you? So what? You’re his wife. He owns you.
No one owns you; you are a human being. You are not a slave. You own yourself! Preserve your rights and dignity, please! According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Article 1. “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” How come, then, a husband dominates and –much worse- hurts his wife without any accountability? You are his wife, but he can’t punish you for anything, however and whenever he pleases. Stand up for yourself!
Myth: God created woman for man. Men have divine right to get sex whenever they please.
Why this inequality when all religions say all humans are equal in the eyes of God? All religions give equal rights to women and men. A wife is not a sex-slave! If a woman doesn’t want to have sex at a certain time for whatever reason, then forcefully having sex with her is nothing short of rape. Women need to realise that they are not sex objects, they are humans with likes and dislikes, and their libido can vary, like that of a man.
Myth: if the victim sides with their abuser, then it’s okay to leave them to their circumstances.
Abusers tend to brainwash their victims into a sense of worthlessness which makes them think that the abuse is their fault and their abusers are innocent. Additionally, it takes time to break through that brainwashing and to help the person realise that the abuse isn’t their fault. They may stay and live there with their husband if they please “darwaza khula hai. Jab wapis aana hai a jao. Ghar tumhara hai” (The door is open. Come back when you want to. It’s your house.”) Now while this doesn’t stop men from doing as they please, their women have the option to just get out or throw him out, knowing their families will support them. Power dynamics shift, and that makes a huge difference. Besides, there are other options available as Chayn will help you become aware of.
Myth: Elders ‘discipline’ their children for their own well-being and excess loving can spoil children. Good upbringing will always involve spanking and verbal disciplining.
While it might be okay – depending on context – to mildly scold a child without hurting him emotionally or physically if he is being too ill-mannered, inflicting physical pain on a child for “his own good” is a plain myth. Besides, how can a child’s own parents inflict so much pain on their own child? Often what happens is that innocent children become punch bags for their parents on whom they vent out their life frustrations. This is extremely sad and unjust. Physically hurting another human is unethical, wrong by all credible standards, and even punishable in some countries. Research has shown that being beaten or otherwise physically hurt leaves an indelible negative mark on a child’s person psychologically and emotionally, which negatively affects him – often very profoundly – for a very long time, potentially for his entire life. The effect is often passed onto HIS children as he (most likely) will grow up to be a negative and/or abusive person towards his children. Parents should express their love positively and not pamper the child so much that he becomes spoilt and arrogant, but hurting him cannot be justified. Remember, you can catch more bees with honey than with vinegar. In other words, you will get the best results in your child’s upbringing by rewarding his good behaviour, than by punishing his bad ones. Instead, try to ignore his bad behaviour and if you need to react to them, do it by having him go through some “time out” sitting in a corner without his toys (a good rule is to have him sit there for as many minutes as his age in years is), not by physically hurting him. Always remind him at the end of the “time out” that you love him, and explain that you put him in “time out” because his behaviour was not nice so that he knows what you expect of him. You want your children to respect and obey you out of love, not out of fear.