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Violence towards a woman cannot be condoned by saying “she provoked him”. This is just victim blaming, and the perpetrators get away with their actions.
Sitting at a party with friends and family, someone mentioned an acquaintance whose husband and mother-in-law had beaten her up mercilessly earlier that day, in front of her twelve year old daughter. If the details were not horrific enough, what appalled me further were the barrage of comments that followed. I am still reeling in the aftermath of the revelation.
Male 1: I have heard this has happened before, but I know the husband’s family. I do not think they are capable of doing this.
Female 2: Women should realise that men are aggressive and know when to back off or otherwise face the consequences.
Me: Isn’t this his second marriage? Didn’t his first wife leave for similar reasons?
Male 2: That may be the case but she got married knowing his past, whether it is true or not. Why would she marry him if she knew he was a wife beater?
Male 3: Even if he has temper issues, forewarned is forearmed. Why create situations that lead to this sort of outcome?
Female 3: I agree. She must have done something to provoke him. Think about it. It seems she had a black eye, and bruises all over her face and body. Her mother-in-law’s nails left scratch marks on her neck. I am sure she must have hit back too. I mean, I am quite sure she would have.
Female 1: She called me to ask if her daughter and she could stay over till she figured out what to do. She was crying and I felt bad, but I cannot get involved in someone’s personal life. They have to sort out their own matters.
Female 2: That was wise of you. I believe this has happened a few times before. Since she has no surviving close family, she would keep turning up at your doorstep at every little tiff in their house.
Male 2: In all honesty, he has money and decent looks. We were all wondering what he saw in her. She has to adjust. That shit happens in marriages. She should put it behind her for the sake of the child. Where will she go? If she goes to the cops, she has ruined her future and that of her daughter, along with the family reputation. We are not out to raise our hands on women unless the woman really pushes the wrong buttons.
Female Chorus and Male Chorus: I agree. She must have done something to provoke him.
I listened, flabbergasted. I protested vehemently and was brushed off. I was sitting at a dinner table with friends and family, who I thought I knew. I realised, after all these years, that I knew nothing about them. Nothing at all. This was a lost battle and I laid down my arms temporarily, but my words are my sword and I will have my say, one way or another. I will speak up for all those women who do not have a voice because it is muffled under violence and then smothered further by the insensitivity of society.
So she provoked him. What exactly was this ‘provocation’? She disagreed with him? Nagged him? Criticised him? Whatever she had done, can it condone raising a hand brutally and collectively on her? Vocalise your rage if needed. Would these standards apply to your own daughters, sisters or mothers? Will you continue to wear the sanctimonious rose – tinted glasses if it is your daughter who underwent this aggression and will you pardon the man who beats her to a pulp? If she was bludgeoned to death in a fit of rage, is that the outcome you seek, to condemn this kind of atrocity? Who are you, me or anyone to be a moral barometer in someone’s bedroom? Who are we, to be judge and jury and apply our standards of justice on another? Violence is unacceptable. Period.
Under provocation, animals are supposed to lash out, not human beings. We were placed on the top of the hierarchy because we were gifted with rationale, emotion and intellect. Yet, we sink so rapidly into base behaviour.
Yes, we get angry. No, we do not have the license to give that anger free rein and unleash it on another person.
Yes, we are emotional. No, we cannot cast aside someone else’s emotion and be so desensitised that we find excuses for the cruel acts of others.
Let us not remain panelists on a talk show but become activists on the stage of justice.
I am a humanist, first and a feminist, second. Yes, she provoked me. She provoked me enough to stand up for her. Through intervention or interaction, I stand by her and every woman or man who is at the receiving end of violence. To all of you, I want to say…
‘Do not get buried under the weight of your gaping wounds. Reach out. You are not alone. There are many of us, beyond the confines of limited thinking, who will shield you, till you bloom into the beautiful person you were born to be.’
Published here earlier.
Header image is a still from the movie Provoked.