Indians have heard the phrase, “miyaan biwi ke beech toh yeh sab hote rehta hai” for centuries. Under the guise of “beta, thoda compromise toh karna hi padega” and “yeh toh uska pyaar hai”, marriages have normalized abuse. But gone are those days when abusive spouses were no big deal to make a marriage work. From celebrities to commoners, people irrespective of gender, are speaking up about abusive marriages. Shaadi Mubarak actor Nisha Rawal recently accused her husband and actor Karan Mehra of domestic abuse and violence. Actress Shefali Jariwala, of the Kaanta Laga fame, recently opened up about divorce, domestic violence, and second marriage.
What Is Abuse?
Abuse can be physical, emotional, or sexual. Physical abuse means any form of violence, such as hitting, punching, pulling hair, and kicking. Abuse can happen in both dating relationships and marriages.
Emotional abuse can be difficult to recognize. Sometimes people mistake intense jealousy and possessiveness as a sign of intense feelings of love. It may even seem flattering at first. Threats, intimidation, putdowns, controlling behaviour, and betrayal are all harmful forms of emotional abuse that can really hurt — not just during the time it’s happening, but long after too.
Sexual abuse can happen to anyone, irrespective of gender. It’s never right to be forced into any type of sexual experience that you don’t want.
5 Signs Of An Abusive Relationship
1. Humiliation, Negating, Criticizing
These tactics are meant to undermine your self-esteem. The abuse is harsh and unrelenting in matters big and small. Name-calling like blatantly call you “stupid,” “a loser,” or even swear words are some major signs. If your partner yells at you, constantly talks in a patronizing tone or dismisses your thoughts and ideas, then that counts as abuse. Insults about your appearance, belittling your accomplishments or making fun of your shortcomings in public is not a great sign in any relationship.
2. Control & Shame
Trying to make you feel ashamed of your inadequacies is just another path to power. Such manipulation is abusive. Threatening you with leaving you is a common abusive tactic. If your partner is incessantly monitoring your whereabouts, checking your internet history, emails, texts, and call log or telling you what to wear, what and how much to eat, or which friends you can see, then they are controlling you. Tendencies like maintaining financial control over you, barking orders are expected to be followed despite your plans to the contrary or stomping out of the room mid-conversation are all signs of abuse.
3. Accusing, Blaming & Denial
This behaviour is fueled by an abuser’s insecurities. They want to create a hierarchy in which they’re at the top and you’re at the bottom. Traits like unwarranted jealousy, using guilt to coerce you or trivializing your feelings are all ways of an abusive partner. Gaslighting or denying that an argument even took place is to make you question your own memory and sanity. If your partner says that whatever’s wrong in their life is all your fault or engages in the destruction of your belongings in a fit of rage, that’s also considered abuse.
4. Emotional Neglect & Isolation
Abusers tend to place their own emotional needs ahead of yours. Many abusers will try to come between you and people who are supportive of you to make you more dependent on them. Demanding that you respect them, shutting down communication, keeping you from socializing and withholding affection are some ways abusers induce emotional trauma. If your partner tells co-workers, friends, and even your family that you’re unstable and prone to hysterics or tells family members that you don’t want to see them or make excuses why you can’t attend family functions, they are isolating you.
A codependent relationship is when everything you do is in reaction to your abuser’s behaviour. And they need you just as much to boost their own self-esteem. You’ve forgotten how to be any other way. It’s a vicious circle of unhealthy behaviour. You might be codependent if you frequently seek out your partner’s approval, bite your tongue and repress your feelings to keep the peace or consistently neglect your own needs for the sake of theirs. This is a sign of abuse that can be easily overlooked but can turn harmful in the long term.
What Can You Do?
If you’re being mentally and emotionally abused, trust your instincts. Know that it isn’t right and you don’t have to live this way. If you fear immediate physical violence, contact the authorities. If you aren’t in immediate danger and you need to talk, either connect with a loved one whom you can depend upon or connect with NGOs and organizations that offer shelter and help.
5 NGOs Helping Indian Women Get Empowered
3. Guria India
4. Sayodhya Home For Women In Need
5. Committee For Legal Aid To Poor
Nisha alleged that Karan smashed her head on the wall and pinned her against the wall when she, along with her brother Ritesh, was trying to discuss with him the future of their relationship. She also revealed that he had hit her multiple times in the past, but she never raised a voice as she wanted to save their marriage. Karan was arrested and then freed on bail. He claimed that his wife ‘smashed her head on the wall’ after the alimony discussions between them failed. He has even called the case filed against him as ‘false’.
Domestic Violence Laws In India
What Is Domestic Violence?
- Any kind of physical, sexual, emotional or economic abuse which causes physical injuries or mental trauma to a person
- Also covers harassment for dowry
Laws That Protect Against Domestic Abuse
1. Protection of Women from Domestic Abuse Act 2005
This Act protects women who are victims of violence in a domestic relationship
Under this Act, the victim can claim monetary relief, a safe place to stay and protection from the harasser
2. Dowry Prohibition Act 1961
Prevents giving or receiving of dowry and makes it illegal in India
3. Indian Penal Code 1860
Section 498A: Cruelty against women by husband or in-laws
Section 406: Criminal breach of trust are relevant provisions for domestic violence
Actions You Can Take As A Victim
- File an FIR at a police station for cruelty in the marriage or for return of Stridhan
- File a court case under Section 12 of Domestic Violence Act or Section 3/4 of Dowry Prohibition Act in the case of dowry harassment