In India, one in five women faces domestic violence from their husbands. (as `published by Jagori, an institution for protection of women against domestic violence). The abused woman suffer at a gross physical level where she is attacked with weapons, beaten, kicked, slapped or might be subjected to sexual abuse and at a more subtle level, the woman suffers emotional injury from threats, attempts to invalidate her, belittle her, humiliate her either in public or in private. Sometimes there is economic abuse too where she is forced to ask for more money from parents/relatives or taking her money away forcibly and creating thereby financial dependence. These are published statistics; the unpublished statistics probably have a more shocking story to narrate. Mostly this suffering is in silence, inside the four walls and hardly a third person is aware of the level of emotional turbulence a woman undergoes.
Why does a man have to resort to abuse? Abuse of his beloved wife and sometimes children and other family members? Researchers have found that men who abuse often:
- Use violence and emotional abuse to control their wife.
- Believe that they have the right to behave in whatever way they choose while in their own home.
- A man who thinks that he is entitled to dominate family members, and that it is okay to solve problems with violence, may not believe that he needs help.
- Think that a ‘real’ man should be tough, powerful and the head of the household. They may believe that they should make most of the decisions.
- The causes of domestic violence include deeply held beliefs about masculinity. For eg: the idea of what it means to be a man, for many men, includes silence and strength. A man may avoid seeking help because he doesn’t want to look ‘weak’ or feminine. Therefore, there is continued abuse.
- Believe that men are entitled to sex from their partners.
- Don’t take responsibility for their behavior and prefer to blame the victim for ‘provoking’ his behavior.
- Make excuses for their violence: for example, they will blame alcohol or stress.
- Report ‘losing control’ when angry around their wife, but can control their anger around other people. They don’t tend to use violence in other situations: for example, around friends, bosses, work colleagues or the police.
- Try to minimize, blame others for, justify or deny their use of violence, or the impact of their violence towards women.
- He may be charming and pleasant between his acts of violence. Outsiders may view him as a nice guy.
Abuse of the wife is largely an issue of power and control. The abuser begins using violence as an effective method for gaining and keeping his control over someone else. He continues the abuse and battering for the same reasons. It is sad to say but the abuser usually does not suffer any adverse consequences because of his misbehavior. However, it causes a huge dent in the self-confidence and thereby reciprocative love of your wife might diminish replacing it with fear and terror of the husband. A responsible husband can take steps of correction before much damage is caused and take steps to restore harmony and peace in his family life.
Let’s try to dispel some of the myths around man’s thinking-
- Myth #1: Within your family, it’s OK to “let it all hang out” – to be as emotional as you want, and say things you’d never say to a friend or a boss.
- •Whether you’re abusive or not, (or even upset), you’re still responsible for and accountable for everything you say and do. Moreover, the hurtful, mean and outrageous things you say will be remembered by your spouse or the other family members who hear them and it affects them in more deeper ways than you can imagine. Remember, words hurled at someone cannot be retrieved just like an arrow once it is released from the bow.
• Myth #2: An outbreak of temper just happens, you can’t control it.
You always have a choice about your behavior and how you express yourself. Masculinity is about having total self-control by overcoming your lower senses & thereby commanding respect and not demanding respect by trying to control your wife by means of abusing her. If you’ve developed an abusive habit, or never learned to control your temper, you may need to work on yourself and learn to behave differently.
• Myth #3: My wife makes me do it. She provokes me by her unintelligent behavior.
No one else is responsible for your behavior. You are 100% accountable for every word that you speak. Nor are you responsible for anyone else’s words or actions. You can always choose to speak calmly or resolve the matter through discussion in a more mature and acceptable way.
• Myth #4: Any time we get angry, it’s natural to argue and yell.
Arguing, and shouting is not the only way to express your anger. It’s just the most dramatic way. As a matter of fact, it’s the least effective way to reach a solution for whatever is making you angry.
• Myth #5: It’s a family trait – everyone in my family yells.
Yelling, temper tantrums and arguing may be common in your original family, but it’s not genetic, inherited, or inevitable. It’s still a learned behavior, and it’s a dysfunctional family trait. It’s a habit, and you can overcome it for the benefit of your spouse and children and peace in the family.
• Myth #6: It’s OK to yell, shout, curse, throw things and hit walls as long as I don’t hit a person.
These raging behaviors are classified as emotional abuse, which is just as damaging to family’s peace as physical abuse. Emotional abuse over a long period of time causes a lasting and permanent damage not only in your relationship and family peace but will cause irreparable damage in the psycho-emotional health of your spouse.
The vedic scriptures entitle a man to be the head of the family but with such a position comes huge responsibility too. It is a selfish man who wants the position but not the responsibility. Grihasta ashram or family life is about responsibility otherwise it is grihamedhi ashram (non-compliant with the vedic principles i,e a sense gratificator).
Recognizing the true responsibility as a husband is the first step in resolving the matter. It definitely needs great strength and inner conviction on part of the man to accept the problem. Viewing the reality from a spiritual perspective (tattva-vichara) also will help tremendously. The man is encouraged to examine his motivations for the violence and make deep deliberations as to the real cause. Practical strategies include:
- Learning that violence and abuse is not caused by anger, but the desire to hurt or dominate others
- Learning how violent behavior damages his relationship with his partner and children, and how he can behave in more respectful ways
- Self-talk – the man is taught how to recognize individual signs of anger, and how to use strategies like self-talk. A man can use self-talk messages, such as ‘Anger will not solve this problem’ to remind himself to remain calm. A trained counsellor can help a man find his own effective self-talk messages.
- Time out means walking away from the situation until the man feels calmer. Time out must be discussed with the man’s partner so that both parties understand how and why to use it. However, time out is not an avoidance technique and the man must try and work out the problem at a later opportunity.
Radhanath Swami says it is the husband’s duty to protect the wife through all different trials and tribulations, protecting her body by providing the basic needs even if it is in a simple way, protecting her emotional condition by providing her encouragement and affection, and by protecting her soul, especially by guiding her on the spiritual path by words and example. Radhanath Swami goes on to say, “If you are a spiritual seeker and if you unnecessarily mistreat your wife, it is an aparadh or an offense which will create a great problem in your spiritual life. The wife does not belong to you, she belongs to God. The Spiritual Master and the Lord are entrusting your wife under your care and how you treat your wife is how your treat the Lord. You primary duty in Grihasta life is to show great respect for your wife.”
There are similar responsibilities that he speaks of for a wife, but we can discuss them in a separate article.