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Domestic Abuse: All You Need To Know

Domestic Abuse

What Is Domestic Abuse?

Domestic abuse is a pattern in which an individual tries to show their dominance over the other individual/individuals by trying to control, threaten, disregard, disrespect them by their behavior or acts.

It is considered that domestic abuse happens only between people who are in an intimate, romantic relationship like partners who are in a live-in relationship, romantic partners, husband and wife. But that is not completely true. Domestic abuse can take place between in-laws and the daughter-in-law or son-in-law, between children (including adult children) and their parents, between siblings; in short in any domestic setting and between the people in that setting. It is not just women, but men too are victims of domestic abuse.

Different Types of Domestic Abuse

The thought behind domestic abuse is to show dominance and control over the victim. The reason for this could be low self-esteem of the abuser, repressed or suppressed anger that gets displaced on the survivor, sense of superiority or any other psychological issue.

It is assumed that domestic violence takes place only in physical form, when the bruises of the abuse are visible. But it can take place in many different forms where the bruises are not visible to our eyes.

Here are such types of domestic abuse:

1. Control

Here the abuser keeps a check on the individual’s behavior and tries to control it- like going through their phone history, continuously calling to check whether they are at home, checking how much food they ate or how much money they spend, not giving a freedom of choice etc. It is important to understand that this behavior stems from the need of establishing dominance and not from emotions like caring or protection.

2. Physical Abuse

This kind of abuse includes violent physical behavior from abuser like hitting, kicking, hair pulling, stabbing, trying to kill, burning etc.

3. Sexual Abuse

In sexual abuse, the abuser exploits the survivor sexually. The abuser can get this done by means of coercion, giving them guilt, by manipulating them or in a non-consensual way. Making fun of one’s sexuality is also considered as sexual abuse. It also includes unnatural ways of having sex and deliberately withdrawing themselves from having sexual intercourse to show disregard.

4. Emotional Abuse and Intimidation

Emotional abuse is a way in which the abuser gains control on another person with help of emotions. This can be done by manipulating the person, shaming them, manipulating the victim by using the victim’s sense of worth.

5. Isolation

In this type of abuse, the abuser tries to exert their control by restricting the individual from meeting or seeing someone. This might be seen as a form of love or protection, but if observed keenly, it is done to show that the abuser has all the reins of an individual’s life in his/her hands.

6. Verbal Abuse

Verbal abuse can be seen in combination with other forms of abuse. Typically, in this kind of abuse, 3 main aspects can be seen which are blame-game, giving threats and coercion which can be attained by name-calling, screaming, terrorizing etc.

7. Using Male Privilege

This type of abuse can be seen more in the men dominated cultures. To put simply, here the abuse takes place so that men can exercise their dominance. This could be because of the conditioning that the men go through or observed behavior etc.

8. Economic Abuse

Withholding the economic resources of another person is economic abuse. The examples can be not providing financial security, keeping check of the finances, deliberately spending money on non-essential items.

Related: What Are The Different Types of Domestic Abuse?

History of Domestic Abuse

Many societies and cultures see or have seen women as a weaker gender which gave way to male dominance. Even though change is taking place, this was the case in most of the countries since many years. It is said that there were incidents of physical and sexual abuse and sexual assault in the German concentration camps to demoralize the people and to exhibit power. Even though it wasn’t in a domestic setting, the roots of abuse were present.

We hear phrases like ‘Men should not cry’ or ‘Mard ko dard nahi hota’ in different settings, but is that true? No, because after all men are also human beings with various emotions present in them. If the society keeps conditioning them about not expressing their emotions, they tend to repress these emotions and most of the times, these repressed emotions come out in form of abuse.

History of Domestic abuse also lies in “learned behavior”. If a child sees the father hitting the mother and if no action is taken against it, the child will feel that this is how one, or  women, should be treated and they adapt this behavior and this can be passed on from generations to generations, until one takes a step to stop the abuse.

The Cycle of Domestic Abuse

Indicators of Domestic Abuse

In India, we have adapted a thinking- ‘Ghar ki baat ghar mein rehni chahiye’ meaning one should keep the household matters to themselves and not talk about it outside. This mentality may kick in at the time of domestic abuse. The abuser might not discuss or ask for help thinking that it might bring shame to family or out of fear.

However, we can observe the signs of abuse even if they are not visible to our eyes. This can give you some idea and you can help a survivor of the abuse to break that cycle of domestic abuse.

These can be a few indicators of domestic abuse:

  • Giving excuses for the bruises on body which are very frequent.
  • Living in constant anxiety.
  • Not having money on hand.
  • Covering the abusive behavior and calling it love or protection or possessiveness.
  • Having self-issues like low self-esteem, self-confidence etc.
  • Wanting to take permission from a person, even for very small things.

Domestic Abuse Facts & Statistics

The National Family Health Survey (NHFS) carries out surveys regarding child health, family planning etc. In their 2015-2016 survey, it was found that 31% of ever married women face domestic abuse. The number of percentages of domestic abuse in the NHFS-5 has decreased, but it is said that could be because of the under reporting by women regarding the domestic abuse. Following chart represents the data carried out in NHFS-5 (2019-2020 year).

How Can We Stop Domestic Abuse?

Domestic abuse can be a very sensitive topic, which could be kept under the covers, thinking that it will pass. However, the behavior of the abuser will not change if the reason behind his actions is not known and if the thoughts of the abuser are not changed. To know the reason and work on it, one will have to take help or be self-sufficient to introspect, which happens very rarely. 

If you are survivor of the domestic abuse, know that things might not fall into place, that this may never end. Remember the domestic abuse cycle? There comes a honeymoon period where the abuser apologizes for the behavior and promises that it won’t happen again but remember that the triggers are still present. Ignoring the abusive behavior gives the abuser an idea that you won’t take any action. Then what to do in such situation?

  • The first step that you need to take is to accept that it might never stop.
  • Second step, which might be difficult, is to decide to break the cycle and not be a victim to abuse, to stand up for yourself.
  • Register a legal complaint against the abuser.
  • Educate others on the reality of domestic abuse.
  • Stand up for someone who you know is the victim of domestic abuse, be their buttress.

Related: How To Stop Domestic Abuse?

Domestic Abuse Prevention Tips

It is not your fault if someone wronged you, but it is your failing to be a victim and not standing up against the mistreatment. Domestic abuse is never a one-time situation and preventing it could be in your hands.

Here’s how you can prevent domestic abuse:

  • Financial independence: In cases of domestic abuse, the number of women survivors are more than men. Most of the times, the women do not take any action against the abuse because they are not financially independent. Being able to take care of yourself will give you a confidence of coming out of an abusive domestic-relationship.
  • Don’t turn a blind eye: In the initial days, domestic abuse can be seen as a form of love, jealously and that is why it increases later. Remember, jealousy and possessiveness are harmful, and definitely not the ways to express love. Know the early signs!
  • The red-flags: If you are in a romantic relationship and suffer from domestic abuse, know that it won’t change after your marriage. If your in-laws show sign of abuse before marriage, don’t think that dowry can change it. The red-flags are always present, observe them and don’t let it spoil your life.
  • Acquire knowledge: Educate yourself on the matters of domestic abuse. Attend workshops, join the support groups. This will help you in prevention of the further domestic abuse incidents.

Domestic Abuse Helpline Number in India

The number of cases of domestic abuse increased tremendously during the 2020 lockdown. Many NGO’s and government organizations arranged helpline for such people and to help them to come out from their distress.

The All-India Women helpline number for domestic abuse is 181 women police helpline numbers are 1091 and 1291. Apart from that, here’s a list of helpline numbers given by National Commission for women- http://www.ncw.nic.in/helplines.

Men also suffer from domestic abuse. The Save India Family (SIF) works towards rights of the men in our society, it is a conglomerate of NGOs across India. It is the parent NGO which has 40 NGOs under them and together they work for men who are in distress. Their national helpline number for men who suffer from domestic abuse is +91 8882 498 498.

Effects of Domestic Abuse

Small or big, domestic abuse has it effects on the survivor. The after effects of the abuse can be seen in the survivor’s physical and mental health. The intensity of the impact may differ from person to person, but it is important that these bruises are healed.

A few such effects of abuse are-

  • Mental trauma.
  • Depression and Anxiety disorders.
  • Physical shock.
  • Somatic symptoms.
  • Shame and regret.
  • Decrease in self-worth.

Domestic Abuse FAQs:

Q1: Can verbal abuse be considered as domestic violence?

A: Yes, verbal abuse is a very prominent type of abuse in domestic violence. This kind of abuse can get masked as “fights” and “arguments”. Knowing the difference between them is of utmost importance.

Q2: Does mental abuse come under domestic violence?

A: Yes, mental abuse is one of the forms of domestic abuse which is also called as emotional abuse or psychological abuse.

Q3: How to cope with domestic abuse?

A: One has to seek help to cope with the effects of domestic abuse. The help should be in form of mental health, legal advocacy and physical health.

Q4: Is domestic abuse a crime?

A: Yes. Domestic violence is considered as crime under IPC section 498 specifically. There are various laws that consider domestic abuse as a crime in India.

Q5: Are all domestic abusers psychopaths?

A: No, not all domestic abusers are psychopaths. The behavior can stem from observation, suppressed emotions etc.

Q6: How to heal from domestic abuse?

A: The impact of domestic abuse can deteriorate your physical and mental health. Hence it is important to undergo a physical checkup and taking the appropriate treatment for the same. Psychological counselling/ therapy can help one to deal with the mental trauma.

Q7: How to report domestic abuse complaint?

A: One need to lodge a police complaint. If you are unable to take that step, you can also take help of NGOs who work for similar cause, they will help you in taking the necessary legal steps.

Q8: Is child abuse considered as domestic violence?

A: Yes, if the abuser is the immediate family member, living under the same roof as that of the child, then child abuse is considered as domestic violence.

Q12: Is sibling abuse considered as domestic violence?

A: Yes. Usually, sibling abuse is ignored under the name of sibling rivalry, but upon close observation the signs of abuse can be seen.

‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter’

– Martin Luther King Jr.

Being a survivor of domestic abuse, going through the abuse frequently can be very difficult. But understand that abuse does not take place because of you, it occurs because of the mentality of the abuser. What is in your hands, is to take responsibility of your safety which can happen only if you talk about the abuse and take firm steps against it.

WAITT is organizing a webinar- ‘Your mind matters’ on 31st July 2021, which will have a domestic abuse counsellor as one of the speakers. Attending this can be one of the small steps that you can take if you are a victim of domestic abuse or if you think that you can help someone else who face domestic abuse.

The link for registration is – https://www.waitt.in/register-now/

If you are looking for a domestic abuse counselor, then we are here to help you with it. Go on to domestic abuse counselling service page and you can book a session with our counsellor who has specialized in domestic abuse counselling.

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Shriya Rajendra Khalate

MA Clinical Psychology, Counselor, Co-founder at Unico

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