Previous part here
In the previous post, I had tried to discuss why a woman does not stop her husband from physical abuse when he first attempts it. The tacit assumption, of course, is that the first such attempt happens in the early days of marriage and that assumption would probably be true for the most part.
Issues of inter-personal relationships are normally complicated and, as humans, we tend to complicate those issues far more than they really are. For example, in the first instance of physical abuse, the wife may even feel that she was at fault. Clearly, being at fault does not make it acceptable for the husband to beat her just as punching a subordinate for mistyping your name is not acceptable. People, however, do not see things that clearly even in cold blood and, when wallowing in a welter of emotions, everything appears murky.
So, what is the way forth is a woman has allowed her husband to get away for a period of time with physically abusing her? What if she has a couple of kids? Should she continue to live this life of physical abuse, return tit-for-tat if possible or walk away from the husband?
What could have been solved with firmness when the first instance occurs may not be possible after you have accustomed the man to acquiescence. To continue to live a life of physical abuse is not merely demeaning to you but is harmful to your children as well. This idea of staying put in a relationship for the sake of the children has always seemed quaint to me. Is the psychological scarring of marital strife any more a happy atmosphere to the children than a broken home? If that is your only consideration, then I think you not only bring up psychologically healthier children by splitting but also inculcate in them the thought that physical abuse of a woman is not acceptable. Is it the thought of losing custody over your children that is vexing you? That is a tough one to answer but I would still say it is worth more to keep your peace of mind as well as set an example to your children – not to mention that you should not accept defeat in the battle for custody before you have even fought it. Is it the thought that the father can provide for a better future for them than you can? Well – there is a choice between material benefits to the children versus psychological benefits. But, make no mistake, staying put has its costs for your children.
If you are financially dependent, there is an issue. The idea should, nevertheless, be to achieve your financial independence – be it by your own work or by way of alimony. If the achievement of the idea will take time and you have no choice but to stay on, it is still not worthwhile to put up with the physical abuse. At this juncture – after a few years of accustoming your husband to acquiescence – it may require more than words to stop the abuse. Am I advocating violence? Yes, in retaliation and self-defense. Non-violence is a great ideal in the clashes between cultures, civilizations and communities since you can expect a majority to be reasonable and good people. Apply it on any one-on-one relationship and you may well be showing the other cheek to Jack-The-Ripper and, if you think it is going to melt his heart, you belong in cloud-cuckoo-land. Even that apostle of non-violence – Mahatma Gandhi – said that it is not against Ahimsa for a woman to fight with every weapon at her disposal to save her honor. I am a votary of Swami Vivekananda who is reputed as having said that you first learn to be Rajasik and fight against evil, even by violence, before you start talking of being Satvik. Too often, we find votaries of non-violence arguing for being the patient victim and nothing encourages the violent more than a passive victim.
Am I talking of a lifetime of such battling at home? In some circumstance it may work out to be so, since the woman may not be able to achieve economic independence for herself and a decent future for her children on her own. If she can, and the very moment that she can, she should adopt the third option of walking away from the marriage. Why should one live a life full of resentment and anger when you can achieve peace by merely avoiding the person who causes the strife?
If it is at all possible for the woman to walk away with dignity, she should. That does not mean that she needs to give up her rights – either to property or, more importantly, her children. As for what the world would say, it is a question of facing it down. I have hardly found anyone persisting in nagging a person with unwanted advice and criticism when she says, “You may like living a life of physical abuse or not have the courage to act against it. I do not!” As for what the world would talk behind your back that is something it would do anyway regardless. No-one, not even someone who loves you, lives the life you do and it is your needs that should be paramount and not their gossip.
Of course, there is an additional plea to all women – mothers, mothers-in-law, sisters, sisters-in-law, neighbors whoever. When a woman chooses to act against a life of physical abuse, could you kindly be more supportive? Is there a pressing need to always prove that the worst enemy of a woman is another woman? Men, I am sure, need to change a lot of their attitudes but if women find it so difficult to change their own in favor of their own sex, how then do you expect men to change?