Chances are you know someone who has faced or is currently facing mental and/or physical abuse at the hands of a loved on or partner. The signs may be subtle or very obvious but contrary to popular beliefs it is not always a straightforward path to just rescuing your friend or family member out of an abusive relationship.
It might be one of the hardest things to do, especially since we are not equipped with the right kind of strategies and understanding of such a person’s situation. However, when it comes down to it, we might have to take some form of action to save someone in need. The first part of the process is to get the person to accept that their relationship is not healthy but for someone who has to help such a person there are a few other things that need more consideration as well.
Knowing what to say is far more powerful than necessarily taking some action against the perpetrator because whether one likes it or not, your friend or relative is most likely in a serious love/hate relationship with them. It is NOT ever easy to leave your own home even if that home stops being a safe haven for you. Especially if there are kids involved.
When engaged with someone suffering from an abusive relationship, it is always important to remember that the victim is never to be blamed and although this is so strongly ingrained in our culture of “logg kya kaheinge” and “ghar ki baat ghar tak rehne do”, it needs to change.
In our context, marriage is the end goal for many and the fear and stigma of being associated with a broken home or worse “divorced” keeps many unable to take a stand for themselves. Pair that up with our lack of understanding regarding concepts such as marital rape and even what abuse looks like and we’re headed for more harrowing tales.
According to a 2017 UN report 1 in 3 married women aged 15 to 49 report that they have faced physical violence at the hands of their husbands. Just in 2016, the Human Rights Commission reported 3000 reported cases. This says nothing about the ones that go unreported or the ones that are not necessarily physical in nature.
The condition looks bleak because the fear of being labelled as divorced does not end with legal issues but also pins a question on the woman’s character and whether or not she remains fit to be a mother and keep her children. Alternatively, it is important to remember that men are also victims of domestic abuse although it is far more difficult to find any credible statistics about this side of the argument. This in itself is extremely disturbing as not only other men but women are also responsible for inflicting torture and abuse upon male relatives and/or partners.
Even if we as bystanders are unable to physically help a victim of abuse, here are several ignorant questions and comments that we should not bring up in their presence.
Never ask them why they don’t just leave because it is never as black and white as that.
Don’t blame them for being in the situation that they’re in because victim blaming is never okay.
Stop making them feel as if they’re like a broken record and just listen to them. Because sometimes that’s all you can do.
“Oh, but others have it way worse than you.” Saying it could have been worse is really just erasing their struggles and issues.
Just because the abuse isn’t physical doesn’t mean it isn’t there!
Don’t invalidate their opinions, experience and emotions by telling them they’re sensitive.
“But didn’t you guys just celebrate your 10th anniversary the other day..?” Abusers aren’t in action 24/7.
“What did you do to make him/her angry?” Just stop. Please. You’re not helping anyone with that attitude. A little empathy goes a long way. Some people deal with abuse all their lives and getting out of a relationship like that isn’t all that easy.