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No One Hears A Woman's Silent Screams

December 15, 2023 10:04 IST
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The most common abuse happens in marriages in the confines of one's own home.
Be it raising a hand on one's spouse without the slightest provocation, or abusing them without their consent, notes Aarti David.

Illustration: Dominic Xavier/

I was with family and listening to a very close family member narrating the story of her first marriage.

She was married too young (literally a child), to a man who was many years her senior. He was studying to be a doctor. Supposedly well-educated man, yet he used to hit her regularly.

She said that when it happened for the first time she was totally stunned and didn't even know how to react. But then it became a regular affair.

Reflecting on her past, she said that if her father had been stricter with her as a child, perhaps she would have been mentally prepared to handle the situation better. A justification for the violence that she endured at an age when she was meant to be happy and carefree.

The thrashing continued in all the years that she was married to him. Nothing stopped him from raising his hand at her, not even when she was full-term pregnant with their baby.

He used to slap her so hard that the imprint of his hand wouldn't go from her face for days. So, she couldn't step out of home to do any chores lest anyone ask what happened to her.

For him, nothing changed as he went about his life normally, as if nothing had happened. This cycle of violence only stopped the day she took the bold step of walking out on him.

Much against her parents' wishes to make it work, now that she had kids to take care of. A sad truth that stems from societal and familial pressure and stigmatisation.

Abuse in a relationship can prove to be extremely detrimental and yet in so many instances, the women continue to put up with it and live in that situation till they can no longer survive or simply perish.

Very few are able to find the courage to stand up for themselves, get out of the situation and leave. There is just no logical explanation for why the abuser acts the way he does.

Most times people tend to attribute their behaviour to social conditioning or even upbringing or the lack of it. But nothing can really justify such a heinous act.

I say 'he' here, as estimates published by WHO indicate that globally about 1 in 3 (30%) of women worldwide have been subjected to either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.

Worldwide, almost one-third (27%) of women aged 15-49 years who have been in a relationship, report that they have been subjected to some form of physical and/or sexual violence by their intimate partner. [1]

The most common abuse happens in marriages in the confines of one's own home. Be it raising a hand on one's spouse without the slightest provocation, or abusing them without their consent.

What is the reason for this kind of behaviour one wonders and why do women continue to put up with it?

There is really no conclusive answer to this. People act this way because they know that they can get away with it because, too often the victim is helpless or too meek to retaliate or oppose them.

Our society always explains to young girls that once married the husband's home is their home and that they should find ways to adjust and continue to manage the situation and live there no matter what.

There is no room for listening to or indulging them. No one engages in a dialogue or hears the women's silent screams. She is left to her own devices and has to decide what she should do in that helpless and hapless state.

So many young girls and women take their own lives as a result or are killed by their spouses. Yet, the parents continue to accept this as their fate.

They would rather have their daughters suffer, than offer them the comfort and security to come back home, to their own home, where they belong.

According to NFHS (National Family Health Survey 2019-2021) data, 87 per cent of married women who are victims of marital violence do not seek help. [2]

One would think that such acts of violence only occurred in rural areas and not in urban spaces. But the reality is quite different.

These situations are encountered by working women in similar numbers as homemakers.

Interestingly, in families where women are employed and husbands earn less, it has been noted that the latter are more likely to engage in violence presumably to have an upper hand in the power dynamics of the household and control over the female partner. [3]

Husbands want their wives to bring in the money. But are paranoid about them earning a higher salary than them.

Plus, they get insecure if they see their wives being friendly with their 'male' colleagues. This is something that is common across all strata of society.

A few years back, I had a house help who came to work at my place as a stand-by for a couple of weeks as my regular help had gone to her village.

She was relatively young and quite good-looking, but she had a very suspicious husband. One day she stayed extra hours to finish some work and she received multiple calls from her husband who refused to believe she was at work.

The next morning when she came, she had a black eye, he had beaten her up brutally because she reached home late. This despite informing him that she would be late. Sadly, she left the job the same day, but she didn't speak up against her husband.

Another incident I recall is of a close friend who showed up at work one day wearing sunglasses and a scarf wrapped around her neck. Her husband had got violent with her after they had an argument. He hit her so badly that she hurt her eye and had marks around her neck.

This was a much educated, cultured man whom no one would suspect of committing such a brutal act of violence. She too couldn't come out and tell anyone what had happened to her. She said she had a fall in the bathroom and got bruised badly as a result.

Two women who belonged to extremely diverse socio-economic groups, yet they suffered a similar fate at the hands of their respective spouses.

Numerous women continue to stay in abusive relationships for the sake of their families -- there are other siblings to be taken care of; the financial situation of the parents is in dire straits, or they have young children they feel responsible for -- so they end up getting violated, they are ill-treated, harassed, raped, humiliated and continue to bear all this for the sake of society and for fear of shaming the family name.

After all, what good is the family name if the daughter ends up dead?

It is imperative that we give our daughters hope and encourage them to speak up against intimate partner violence and report the person responsible for violating their agency.

A recent gesture by a father whose daughter got divorced gained a lot of traction on social media as he welcomed her back with a celebratory band similar to one at a wedding. It was an act of courage as he gave his daughter the confidence to return home.

Maybe not everyone may want to indulge in something similar, but as long as we give women the space to speak out against the violence that is inflicted on them, we will have taken a step in the right direction.

Works Cited

[1] Violence against women (external link)

[2] Nearly 30% of married Indian women face domestic violence, shows data (external link)

[3] Locating perpetrators of violence against women in India: An analysis of married men's characteristics associated with intimate partner violence. Published online 2023 Aug 4.

doi: Locating perpetrators of violence against women in India: An analysis of married men's characteristics associated with intimate partner violence (external link)

Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/

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