One of the more enduring ills plaguing society over the course of our history, family violence is not something one spots on a frequent basis but comes in many shapes and forms. Violence is perhaps an intrinsic function of human beings within the microcosm that is society, however, when it comes to family violence, it can be difficult for one to process a narrative wherein the perpetrator of violence is someone who should ideally be a trustworthy figure- parents, siblings, relatives and spouses.
Albeit one might not across stories of people being subjected to family violence as part of their daily routine, it’s a lot more prevalent than we think it is. Moreover, the global environment that Coronavirus epidemic has created has worsened the situation, increasing instances of domestic violence all across the world. Reports of exploitation and abuse by a family member are pretty low due to the socio-cultural norms and alarming levels of corruption or/and incompetence on the part of local law enforcement.

Forms of Family Violence

As stated earlier, family violence comes in many shapes and sizes. In India, women are usually the target of heinous crimes ranging from anything that can be summed up as lethal battery or prolonged torture through physical, mental or economic avenues.

Physical Violence

Needless to say, it is the most acknowledged form of family violence in homes. Tales of physical violence could be fairly sordid, often taking the form of slapping, kicking, strangling, pushing, assault carried out with the use of an object, being threatened with a lethal weapon and in quite a good chunk of cases, having one used on them. In some cases, chemicals namely dangerous acids have been used to abuse and torture victims, with women often being the target.

Sexual Violence

Sexual abuse refers to any situation or event in which a person is forced or threatened to attain participation in unwanted sexual activity. Coercion for engagement in any sexual activity against a person’s will, even if that person is a spouse or intimate partner, is an act of aggression and violence. In some cases, this can happen in family members as well. Unfortunately, there are many incidences of child sexual abuse and in most occurences, it is done by a close family member who may or may not be suspected by an adult or a trusted caregiver of the child. Sexual violence at home is an unfortunate reality that many people, adults and children alike, face without letting friends or loved ones know. 

Emotional violence

In recent times, emotional violence has been gaining more and more recognition from society 

and the courts at large. Emotional violence can be quite a harrowing experience, especially given its subliminal yet corrosive nature. It is often pointed at the victim’s self worth and can have adverse effects on the person’s physical and mental wellbeing. Following are some of the types of emotional abuse: 

  • Verbal Abuse: This involves yelling, insulting, and hurling curses at the victim
  • Gaslighting: This involves manipulation of truth to make the victim doubt their own feelings, thoughts and sanity
  • Isolation: Abusers limit the victim’s contact with other family or friends, and restrict their mobility and movement. They might not let the victim go out and do the things that they normally do. This symptom overlaps with those of social abuse. 
  • Humiliation and degradation: This involves name-calling, public embarrassment or humiliation, and telling the victim that they’re stupid and blaming them for all the toxicity in the relationship
  • Rejection: Abusers tend to entirely reject all the ideas, thoughts and opinions of the victim
  • Intimidation: Abusers will make the victim feel afraid, fearful and threatened. They’ll purposefully say things that hurt the victim. 
  • Financial Abuse: This may involve stealing or withholding the victim’s finances, and not letting the victim work or be productive. This is a form of domestic violence. 
  • Codependence: A codependent relationship creates a symbiotic dynamic in which everything that you do is a response to the perpetrator’s demands and manipulations, at the same time, everything that the victim does is to boost their self-esteem and gain control over you. You may feel very unhappy in the relationship and may have to deal with the abuser’s extreme mood swings and may have to make a lot of sacrifices to please the person that you’re with. 

Again, based on incidences and data, women are usually the victims of abusive derision and degradation, stalking and isolation. It might be difficult to get justice in such cases, but there are support groups and organisations that might be able lend a helping hand and help one navigate through the system in order to ultimately get such crimes prosecuted. 

Consequences of Family Abuse

One in 3 women experience physical or sexual violence (or even both) caused at either home or by some relative outside of home. Domestic abuse leaves behind many devastating effects on the victim, the family, and the community at large. These effects can be personal, social or economic. 

Domestic and family violence is in fact one of the leading causes of death, illness and disability for women. It leaves severe impacts on a person’s physical, mental and emotional health including depression, shame, anger and suicide. Violence and the threat of the same creates a fearful environment at home and destroys the dynamic of a family, which may lead to the break-up of a family. Often, such families move from one home to another to avoid the abuser. Such families have to deal with regular household conflict. Children growing up in such families go through physical and emotional harm and are at risk of developing anxiety, depression and go through constant emotional distress. Their eating and sleeping cycles are disturbed and may also experience physical symptoms such as headaches and stomach aches. They find it difficult to cope with their stress and have a low self-esteem. In many cases, they may even resort to self-harm and may blame themselves for the violence caused at home.

How to Tackle Family Abuse

It is important that society at large attempts to form a support system for victims and greater sensitivity and diligence be imbibed in terms of empathising and helping victims of domestic violence and child abuse. There are support groups and movements which intend to make it easy for victims of domestic violence and abuse to come forth with their stories and seek justice. Following are some of the steps one can take to get out of an abusive dynamic in their families and reach out for help: 

Call 999 or Go To The Nearest Police Post:

You must call 999 if you feel you are in immediate danger. Moreover, the police can provide you with a referral letter to the hospital in case of medical emergencies. From there on, you will be in safe hands. Do not risk your life and health if you suspect you may be in serious danger and seek help. 

Seek Medical Treatment or Examination: 

You must visit the doctor or go to a clinic in case you have been physically or sexually hurt. It is of prime importance to make sure that you are well physically. 

Go To A Family Service Centre:

Social workers at family service centres help you understand how to keep yourself safe and protected from the abuser and otherwise. The abuser may also unlearn destructive ways of behaviour. 

Consider Seeing A Mental Health Professional:

Seeing a counsellor or mental health professional will help you overcome the aftereffects of abuse and take the steps to rebuild a better life for yourself. You will begin to perceive events and experiences as beautiful and lively again, and will accept your past and yourself in ways that will help you lead a good life ahead. 

Go To A Family Justice Court:

You may apply for a protection order to stop family violence, an expedited order if you feel there is imminent danger of family violence against you, or a domestic exclusion order to prevent the victimizer from entering your place of stay or home. You can do this if you are 21 years old and above, however, if you’re below that age, any guardian, caregiver, or social worker can apply for a protection order on your behalf. 

All in all, we all have to do away with the mentality that violence or abuse of any sort is not warranted and no conditions or motives can act as justification for the same. 

Impact Of Counselling

Suffering in silence only serves to exacerbate and prolong the circle of violence and abuse. It is incredibly difficult to compute and share one’s experiences and talk about them. Counselling can provide a suitable environment to slowly process, share and ultimately step out of the shell one is pushed into by incessant exposure to cruelty. 

Through a structured framework, one can come to terms with what has happened and look beyond the walls erected by the isolation and hopelessness that comes with living with a violent, abusive member of the family. It is important that one realizes that such experiences cannot and will not define their life, and having someone dedicated to provide helpful support can be cathartic and have a positive impact.

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