Often the images of DV that we see on TV, advertisements and on other media platforms, is that of a woman, with bruises and visible signs of physical violence. Even as we type the words Domestic Violence on a search tool, the images that one gets are all women with physical violence. As a result, for most of the time, we limit our understanding of domestic violence that leaves visible scars. However, domestic violence is not just limited to physical, but also includes sexual, emotional, economic or psychological actions or threats of actions, that negatively impacts the other person. Domestic abuse can happen to anyone of any race, age, sexual orientation, religion, or gender. Considering there is a significant amount of social stigma around it, we have to start by reiterating that domestic violence is never the fault of the person facing it.
Is it only towards women?
The relationship of gender to domestic or intimate partner violence, is not as unambiguous and unilateral as was once assumed, i.e. violence is only committed against women by male perpetrators. We also find that, in most cases gendered, what most perpetrators of domestic violence usually have in common are economic control, beneficial distribution of resources, age among others factors. Hence, domestic violence against intimate partners, old people, children, adolescents, and differently abled individuals, can happen in various ways. It can also impact them in different ways that can frighten, intimidate, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, confine, humiliate, blame, sexually assault, injure, or wound them. On one hand there are high perpetration rates across genders, on the other, a review has concluded that women are still disproportionately victimized by domestic violence and more likely to sustain serious injuries. In India, National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) brought to notice a total of 3,582 number of cases of domestic violence between April, 2021 and June, 2021, as against a total of 3,748 number of cases between April, 2020 and June, 2020. Juxtaposing this against the global data, we get an estimated 736 million women—almost one in three—have been subjected to physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence, non-partner sexual violence, or both at least once in their life (30 per cent of women aged 15 and older).
Not just physical
Physical violence makes up for the most visible form of DV, however, emotional abuse is often difficult to accept and recognise, even by those facing them continuously. The fact that the perpetrators are often known intimately, are family members or even guardians and caretakers, also makes it extremely tough to see it. Often for reasons of dependence. – emotionally, financially and socially, social stigma, denial, etc, the person facing emotional violence is the last to notice. Physical threat or violence are often more acceptable reasons for people seeking help, however, emotional abuse and control, are often camouflaged with patronising language. The popular culture, media and films also cloud abuse cycles under the portrayal of attention and affection. The notions of gender hierarchy and the need to conform to them, also often leads people to portray a semblance of normalcy, and retain the hope things will become ‘normal’. These often manifest as humiliation, negating, criticism (Name-calling, derogatory ‘pet names’, character assassination, belittling your achievements, insulting your appearance, dismissiveness and so on); Control and shame; Accusing, blaming, and denial; emotional neglect (like placing their emotional needs above yours) and isolation; and co-dependence.
A recent Hindi film, Thappad, the wife leaves her husband after he slaps her in a party at their home. Her emphasis remains on how he cannot slap her, whereas everyone else tries to convince her otherwise, that is it just one slap. The movie subtly hints at the emotional and psychological impact it has had on her. Similarly movies like The Great Indian Kitchen, bring out the everyday emotional abuse and control over the woman, in a more nuanced way. However, the conversation on domestic violence needs to be extended, by including all the aspects of DV and the multitude of impacts they can leave.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3876290/#R25 (specific study – Hamberger LK. Men’s and women’s use of intimate partner violence in clinical samples: Toward a gender sensitive approach. Violence and Victims. 2005;2(2):131–151)