Now that we are in the #MeToo era, it’s important to talk about how abusive marriages work and why women can’t walkout. It’s quite possible that if you live in India, you either know a woman who is in an abusive relationship or an abusive marriage or, unfortunately, you’ve been in one yourself. In the 21st century, you might be confused as to why you or anyone else managed to tolerate such atrocities in a private relationship; especially since we consider ourselves ‘modern citizens’ and such things are now seen as barbaric.
First of all, how do you know you’re in an abusive relationship? Your partner frequently screams at you or hits you, or manipulates you emotionally (abuse isn’t always physical). He might destroy your things and yell at you in public, control all your money and restrict your movements and other relationships (such as with your family and friends), and threaten your children. He might rape you or force you to engage in sexual acts you don’t wish to.
To an extent, it seems simple. Women can just walk out of abusive marriages, right? But it’s really not that easy, and we should stop piling further blame on women when they stay in such relationships. Here’s why.
Society and Culture
This plays a massive role in how the perception of a woman leaving a household is seen. Women are seen as caretakers of the domestic realm, and in many conservative places in India (yes, even in cities), it’s believed that a woman should just put up with it and be grateful that she has a husband at all. But society doesn’t just have these ideas, women too learn these ideas. Also, there is a huge stigma against divorced women and single mothers. People tend to pry and ask questions. So even though many people think it’s obvious that women should leave such relationships where they endure abuse, many pockets of society might feel differently. Many women know that they will be actively shunned if they choose to leave. They are made to feel like it’s a personal failure on their part, and not the fault of anyone else.
Children are involved
Men who can threaten or cause violence to their partners can obviously pose a threat to children as well. Obviously women who walk out on their partners cannot avoid the fact that their husband is a father to the children as well, and it cannot be legally or socially ignored.
Not recognizing it as abuse
We live in a kind of society where this kind of abusive behavior is accepted in certain circles. It might be that you’ve watched your mother face the same thing and swallowed it as a normal part of marriage, when in fact it is an abhorrent thing. So when a woman faces the same thing in her own relationship, she might just see it as a matter of course and feel resigned to it.
Lack of support systems
Many women simply are not that close to their parents and perhaps don’t have friends who can help them in this situation. Perhaps you come from a conservative home and you know your parents would send you back to your partner. In that case, where is a woman to turn? If she has nowhere to go and no one to trust, it can be very difficult to take that drastic step and leave a source of security, even though it is dangerous for her to continue living there.
Many Indian families still follow the pattern where the husband is the breadwinner and the wife handles the domestic sphere. Although this is just as hard a job, she obviously doesn’t get paid for it. Economic dependence can make it very difficult for a woman to realistically leave her husband, especially if he limits her access to the family finances (which often happens in abusive relationships).
If you or anyone you know happens to be in a situation where you require help, please contact a helpline and get the support you require. Gone are the days when women had to suffer in silence. Reach out or get your friends or companions who might be living through something as terrible as this to get help.