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Beyond The Law : Seeking Help Against Domestic Violence

Posted: September 17, 2014

Domestic violence is a reality that remains confined to hushed tones and behind doors. How can one seek help without going to the police? Here are some answers.

A friend recently put up an anonymous document about the abuse that she faced in her relationship. In that document she demanded that her partner be brought to justice by his employer. She had named the partner and his employer in that post. Is that fair? Especially since the document doesn’t reveal her name? I maybe be biased as her friend, as someone who works with survivors, or just as someone who loves poetic justice – I think she should be able to name and shame, if that’s what she wants to do.

Is his employer bound to take action? No. Do they have a moral or ethical obligation to do so? I don’t know.

I wondered if it was important to give you a little background about this friend to explain why she couldn’t make a formal complaint, when I realized that it didn’t matter. I remembered another girl who lived away from her family who was beaten up black and blue by her then partner. She reached out to friends and then put her story up on social media. She wanted to shame him without a formal complaint. She too wrote to his employer, and his superiors in the UK fired him.

What is it that makes women shy away from making a formal complaint? Frankly, it is easier for us to ask women who are not independent or belong to the lower strata of society to go file a complaint. If he hits you, go to the police. But is it really that easy? Is it the only way to deal with violence?

If he hits you, go to the police. But is it really that easy?

Each one of us has our own personal definition of justice. A formal police complaint is associated with the hassles of the police, the questions, the taunts, then comes the court. We have grown up to associate these with negative experiences. There is also an additional burden of your parents, your neighbours coming to know. It is easier to deal with unknown people over the internet than the family.

Today, when a woman goes to the police station to report that her husband is abusive, she is most often told to go home, that it is a private matter. We know that it is abuse when he hits her, but our law (Protection of women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005) lists down four kinds of violence: physical, emotional, sexual and financial. This law also empowers women to go file a Domestic Incidence Report (DIR). This DIR can be used to get a protection order or a residence order from the court. This law isn’t a criminal law and it can’t imprison the abusers.

Given the situation as it is, what can you do if you don’t want to go to the police?

  1. Find a safe place. Your safety is of utmost importance, do not gamble with it.

  2. Talk to a trusted someone. This person could be a family member, friend or a women’s organization. If you can’t talk, write a letter or email with all the details of the abuse as and when they happen. Tell them that you aren’t ready to receive help right now and/or aren’t ready to talk.

  3. Approach a women’s organization that deals with violence against women even if it is only to know all your options, legally.

  4. If you are hurt, approach a health facility or a doctor. Don’t fear about what they will say.

What is interesting to note is that in the US, there is Jane Doe reporting of rape. A woman can approach a health facility, reveal that she has been raped and get the necessary treatment. Evidence from her body will be collected at that time and it can be stored. She gets appropriate time to think about what she wants to do about the case. What would it mean for Indian women to have this option? What would it mean if this law were extended to Domestic violence?

Pic credit: Stuant63 (Used under a CC license)

Rashi has a masters in Criminology and works at an NGO as a researcher in

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