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How We Support Domestic Abuse

Posted: September 12, 2011

This recent piece of news on actress Nikhita Thukral being banned from Kannada films for 3 years, for spoiling the “domestic harmony of a fellow actor” makes me see red on so many different counts. First, there is the question of why the Kannada film producers’ association should play moral police and ban actors for non-professional reasons. Second, even if they require all actors to be of impeccable moral fibre, clearly, it applies mainly to the female of the species. Third, the issue at hand is not really adultery, but that the “fellow actor” in question, Darshan, has been accused of domestic violence by his wife – apparently, they began fighting over his affair with Nikhita.

The warped reasoning of the producers goes – if only she had not got involved with the man, his wife would have had no cause to fight with him. Totally irrational as it is, that’s not what my post is about today. Instead, it’s about some reactions to the incident, and what they reveal about our attitudes towards domestic violence.

I got to know about this incident through a friend’s status update on FB, and here were some of the comments made by people – in the interests of privacy, I’m not linking.

One gentleman said, “Wife withdrew her complaint against husband’s violence infront of Magistrate. In other words, she is ok being beaten black & blue by her husband. What’s all the fuss about?”  Clearly, said gent has zero understanding of what it is like for a victim of domestic violence to come forward. How easy it is for family members and friends to persuade her to withdraw a complaint, in the “interests of the family” and all that. That when your financial well-being (and that of your children) hinges on the abuser – you may prefer to keep quiet. You may rethink your ‘over-reaction’. Victims of domestic violence often come out of the marriage only after multiple attempts – and sometimes, never.

There were a few “light-hearted” comments too such as “One sided commenting, i say! Maledom.. fight back” and  “i think you should go on a fast in Cubon Park to fight this and ask for a LokBal bill which empowers women to whack their husbands…”. Regardless of the intentions of these commenters (both male), I found it distasteful to realise that there are few situations vile enough when it comes to violence against women, that jokes cannot be cracked. Perhaps if there was “serious injury”, rape or burning involved, ‘decent men’ may desist. Even then, I am sure there will be someone else with a lower bar – and if we protest, we will still be called humourless feminists.

Elsewhere, I saw comments blaming Darshan’s wife – after all, she had included Nikhita in her complaint, which is what led to the latter being dragged into the mess. It is a fair point – there is no need for any woman to bring in a third person, when it is the husband that is abusing her. Even in the case of adultery, it is your husband that has cheated on you – not the ‘other woman‘, who has no obligation to you, no contract. Yet, the truth is that even today, women have bought into these codes that frame men as innocent victims seduced by the other woman. And then – when your entire life (read mental stability/status/social approval/financial well-being) hinges on saving/keeping your marriage at any cost, isn’t it easier to blame the outsider? That’s not to say it is correct, but that is how it often is.

So, what’s my point? It’s this: Abusers thrive on society’s tacit approval – by keeping quiet, joking and blaming those other than the abuser (including the victim), we give abusers the courage to continue abusing, and deter victims from coming forward. Think about it – what message do your casual comments on incidents involving violence give out? Would a friend, a cousin, a relative who is being abused feel 100% confident of approaching you if they saw your comments or heard your ‘just a joke’? Let’s not ‘take it easy’, let’s not crack ‘just a joke’ and let’s not pretend that violence in relationships is a simple thing that would be controlled if only women acted as they should. Sometimes, victims won’t complain when you want them to. Our job is to be around for them when they need to.

Founder & Chief Editor of Women's Web, Aparna believes in the power of ideas

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