VAW – Another survivor shares her story

After the last story I posted on the woman who stayed on with her husband, I decided not to post anymore because of the number of questions and judgment she faced. But the truth is that there are many more such and we’re really not in a position to judge them and their choices. They are not you, they do not live their lives to gain our approval, and yes, we all want to set the best example for our kids but can you honestly say you make every choice in your life only to set a good example for your children? Is there never a time you make a choice because it seems right to you and to hell with what it looks like to the world and whether people approve of it or not? Well, these are those times.

At no point are we suggesting or encouraging women to stay on in situations of violence. Quite the opposite of course. On the other hand, we’re talking about these issues to get them out of the closet. So that the next time you see your ‘accident prone’ friend with a bruise or a fracture arm, you create an opportunity for her to talk, to confide and perhaps find a real friend in you. One who supports without judging, one who helps and one who allows her the dignity of making her own decisions. Isn’t that after all, what they’re fighting in their marriages too?

So inspite of my resolution, I’m posting this one. This lady reads my blog and wanted to share her story. Please be gentle. And appreciative of her willingness to share.

 

 

 

 

So the story is nothing new. Two young adults. 22 years old. Fell madly in love and got married, after convincing both sets of parents that they were meant to be. He was the real McCoy according to her. And she was an intelligent beautiful woman whom he’d like to spend the rest of his life with. Or so they thought. Moving into the in-laws house was her dream. Which began turning into a nightmare. Slowly, she realized everything was not as hunky dory as it seemed in the beginning. Unrealistic expectations. Young love took a beating. And how. The first time he hit her was during a spat about the in-laws. And she kept thinking, “I caused it.” She had a violent temper too – with a caustic tongue. But no, that does not mean you raise your hand against a woman. The first thing she did was go to a doctor, and told him she fell down the stairs. The second time was when she was seven  months pregnant. Again, due to a spat where she dared to speak out in front of her parents about the atrocities at home. Then they moved cities, and she thought it would get better. Sadly it didn’t. It got worse. Alcohol is never a good thing when it comes to violence. Then one day he hit her so hard she passed out. She came to, and promptly called the police. Sadly he was too drunk to know. The next morning she showed him the call and the time and told him he’d better be prepared to lose everything he had and owned if he ever so as to even thought of raising his hand ever again. She was the daughter of a police commissioner for crying out loud. She gave him an ultimatum. He’d better clean up his act. And she would, in turn try working on their relationship. Raising a baby and work and home wasn’t easy for her. And it was taking a huge toll on their relationship. They started going out on dates. Started everything from scratch. And thankfully, are in a better place now. But she will never forget. It’s always there in the back of her mind during a fight. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger they say. And she’s much stronger now. And she knows she will walk out, no questions asked, if it ever happens again. That’s a promise she has made to herself and her child.

Edited to add: Her response – Nikko (And others) Ironically, I always thought I’d be the one walking out too. Whenever I heard what other people did, I’d be the one telling them, “Just pack your bags and go.” It is not that simple in real life. I wish it was. There were far too many things involved. Families. Emotions. A daughter who loved her father and vice-versa. I recognized what was causing the violence. He apologized over and over. I could sit and tell you the entire story, but no one else but me will understand. What I ask of you and the others is just what TMM said. To sit and listen and to hold our hands and support us. That will do us a world of good.


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VAW – Another perspective

The old couple try to bury themselves deeper in their beds and put pillows over their heads to block out the sound as best they can. It’s not easy because she’s screaming and cursing so loudly. They hear their son respond quietly and try to reason with her, shushing her so that she doesn’t wake up the sleeping baby or his parents. It’s too late of course because they’re awake and grieving. She screams some more and the old couple fall asleep to the sounds of it, tears wetting their pillows.

The next morning they are bleary eyed and reluctant to enter the common areas. Not sure what they will be forced to see. But there’s only so long you can avoid the inevitable and they finally raise their eyes to see their son at the breakfast table, his scratched face and hands a reminder of the long, uneasy night.

A heavy silence surrounds them as the mother puts together breakfast for the lot of them, a breakfast that for all the love she puts into it, might as well be sawdust in their mouths. She is sleeping late, and they are all quiet as mice. The longer she sleeps, the more peace there is in it for all of them. Old and retired, they do their best to keep their minds occupied and contribute to the housework. Why do they stay quiet? Because their son has told them to leave his marriage to him. They suffer as only parents will, seeing him mentally and physically hurt.

Why does he allow it? For one, for the sake of the 20 month old daughter she threatens to walk away with – yes, every court in this country will award a mother custody. Also, the slightest bruise on her wrists as he holds her away will turn the tables and put him under the scanner instead. Will give her the chance to walk away with their child. But most of all, like countless others, he still loves her and also, is trying to do that commonplace but difficult thing – honour his marriage vows…Because he still remembers the vivacious young girl he fell in love with and sometimes wonders who this vicious, foul-mouthed, selfish woman is. Because he doesn’t have the heart to abandon her and know that somewhere deep inside is the woman he once cared so much for.

She is not working, doesn’t cook or keep house, and barely bothers with the child, knowing that her in-laws will take care of it all. She spends most of her day asleep or on the phone. The old parents have given up trying to figure out what he sees in her. How long will he put up with this? One wonders. It is his life and his choice and his child and wife.

When I suggested posting this story of violence against a man in the midst of Violence Against Women month, not all of the team was supportive of the idea. It might take away from the focus on women, they said. But I don’t see it that way. I see it as a greater understanding of domestic violence, as the breaking of many myths. My first post on this topic had a number of people commenting in shock and telling the lady concerned to ‘go back to work’. Implying that by not working, you are more likely to be a victim, almost putting yourself in a vulnerable position. Taking away from a family, the choice to delegate and divide responsibilities. Implying that the only reason a woman would stay on in a situation of violence is the inability to support herself. Truth be told almost any woman can walk out and find some sort of position somewhere. The reasons they stay on are varied and many. Love lies at the core of most of those reasons.

In this case it’s a man. He is the breadwinner and his violent wife a SAHM. He stays on because he has loved her for many years. Because now they have a little pint sized version of them, who has daddy wrapped around her chubby little fingers. Because he knows his wife well enough to know that if he lets her go and she takes their daughter, their daughter will lack for a lot. Most of all she will lack attention from the mother who doesn’t even notice that the temperatures have dropped and the child is running around the house cold and runny nosed.

And so it is that he goes to work each day, slogging to earn a living, coming back and keeping a strict eye on their daughter who until now seems to have escaped her mother’s violent wrath. How long will he continue? We cannot say. Is this weakness – its a little hard to call it weak when you realise how successful he is professionally, how firm he is on most other matters, how he is definitely physically bigger and stronger and capable of causing her physical harm. And yet, love is a weakness, is it not?

But as kennybunkportmaine said in one of her comments, as time goes by I realise more and more that life is far more complex than I will ever realise. That as someone wise said to me at the age of 16, there are shades of grey. That relationships are made up of 1000s of little threads and while its easy for us to stand on the sidelines and comment, stepping into the hot cauldron of boiling oil or even dipping a toe in, would give us much needed perspective. See a counsellor, walk out, hit back, don’t worry about your children having a home, these are words we’ve said so long that they slip out with a practised ease. Living them or having our stereotypes overturned on the other hand, is an entirely different matter.

VAW month – A survivor tells it all

This post too, is part of our series on awareness of violence against women. I hope you’re following our blog. This story is that of a survivor. An ordinary woman pushed into an extraordinary situation, she found the strength to walk out and start afresh. After the last post, I am going to request you to think your words over before you type them in. We all think we know better than those in a situation, but we’ll never know unless we’re there, will we? Again, intervene, support, spread awareness – and do it all with a dash of compassion.

I give you her story in her own words.

I have always viewed the world with rose coloured lenses – peace, love, harmony and eternal happiness – where one can trust people blindly. My mom on the other hand kept gently reminding me that we live in a cruel world where no one could be trusted.

I had been dating a guy (for 3 years) and we had decided to get married. My family was anxiously informed because he was from a different religion and not a south Indian. But one fine day, he decided to go his own way and just left. I was heartbroken and so were my parents. He got married, but I didn’t believe that it was fair to get married when I was still in love with someone else.

But two years down I was finally over him and I was now full of hope, faith – waiting for my life to unfold. I was 23 and doing my post graduation – I was at a very exciting stage in my life. Marriage wasn’t a priority, but there was definitely pressure because I was “of marriageable age”. My parents were on the look out and I knew that I didn’t want to be fussy and see a million guys and then go for the kill. All I wanted was a man who would love me with all his heart, care for me, a man I could trust in, a family I could call my own and yeah of course have a good job too – I didn’t want to live a pauper.

My ex husband (Let’s call him X to keep matters simple) was one of the first few proposals that came for me. His parents came to church to see me (that’s a traditional way of taking a peek at the girl), and they came home a few hours later. The background, qualification, family all seemed okay – the basics. He spoke to me on the phone one night and I still remember the excitement and thrill of speaking to him. I was very comfortable talking to him, he seemed simple and nice. That’s all I wanted – three days later I told my parents that I was agreeable.

X then came home officially, we spoke for a mere ten minutes alone and he left. Two weeks from then we had a Bible exchange – like a mini engagement of sorts. It was all really fast, but I was excited and I still remember every little detail – I wore a saffron saree studded with little sequins and my cousin decorated our home with peach carnations and golden bows. Everything seemed so beautiful and good – I loved his family and his grandmom. I felt I bonded with her instantly. I also remember that we had to address a Bible to each other… and in his Bible, he said ‘Love, X’. Oh that gave me a big kick –I think I was just so excited to think that I had found someone I was going to love for life.

We were officially engaged and were allowed to meet and go out and all that but we didn’t seem to meet as much. He didn’t seem too interested in taking me out or treating me to a meal or taking me for a drive or even a simple cup of coffee. Soon after that we were to go to Chennai together, for a trip I was supposed to do. X didn’t seem too keen, but nevertheless we finally did. We reached the station and he introduced me to a girl – his friend, B. We exchanged pleasantries and got on to the train. I had earlier asked X if I could bring him some dinner that night for the train, but he refused. The train left the station and in about ten minutes, B produced the dinner she cooked for X. I was definitely a little hurt but chose to rise above it and dismiss it as silly. I felt like a stranger as the two of them went on chatting and didn’t say even a word to me. That hurt – real bad.

Another day, I was in office and X and I got into some silly argument and suddenly he just said, “Oh I can’t live with you – let’s call off the wedding. I was shocked!! Could someone actually say that, do that?? He later felt bad and brought some lovely Hyderabad pearls when he was back the next day and life was good again.

Soon after, we were house hunting and found a small cosy little home that I loved. We were getting some furniture of his moved in and suddenly he calls B again. She comes by, ignores me and X begins asking her about our home and apologizes that he didn’t call her sooner to come see the place. What was that about?

Time passed and we planned a small housewarming. My mother in law was travelling to town for this and we were cleaning up the place and setting it up. Meanwhile we were to go for a dinner that night with his friends. It was pretty late and we were not done yet. We got a call from B – she was to go for the dinner too, but wanted X to pick her up. He just left me there cleaning and setting up the house and took her out for the dinner. I figured I needed to clean and organize anyway so I didn’t mind being left behind.

Another time we went to invite his old college friend for the wedding. I got busy on a phone call and I overheard his friend ask him – ‘Intha ponna engandhu da pudicha’ translating to ‘Wherever did you find this girl?’ I was shocked at her question and even more at X’s response when he smiled and said to her ‘Yeah, what to do. My mom found her’. I was shocked!! That was one of our first real arguments… I couldn’t bear the fact that a guy I was marrying couldn’t even stand up for me.

I was getting rather uncomfortable by now and two days before my wedding, I took my parents out for an ice cream and broke down. I told them that something doesn’t feel right and I was too scared to get married to him. I could talk about only some instances, but most of it was just my gut feel. They put it down to pre-wedding jitters and gently pacified me and I believed that all would be well.

We went for our honeymoon – and the trip was kind of okay. One day, X was having a shower and I was sitting out in the balcony watching the sea. We had called for a toothbrush for him through for room service and the guy had been ringing the bell. I sitting in the balcony just didn’t hear the bell, until I suddenly heard X scream at me – yelling how deaf and silly I was for not opening the door. I understand someone being upset because they had to come running out of the bathroom – but it didn’t warrant that sort of rage.

On our first month anniversary, I was very excited got home early and wanted to surprise him for dinner. Now I wasn’t a great cook and had just been learning to cook in the last 30 days J. That night I cooked him a lovely spread and arranged a lovely candlelight dinner at home. X came in, ignored everything, switched on the lights, put on the fan in full speed and my candles were snuffed out L. I was sad, but thought maybe the guy doesn’t fancy such stuff. He didn’t appreciate or compliment my cooking either. A few minutes later, he began talking about B again – saying he wanted to invite her home. By then I was quite sick of her and I quickly said that I can’t cook too well right now and we’ll invite her later. He bounced back excitedly and said she was a great cook and will cook at home. That irritated me, I tried to discourage the idea, but that turned into an argument and my dinner was spoilt.

The next rude shock was when we got some mails. X got his credit card statement for expenditure made before we were married – a bill of 1 lakh rupees. They were all bills for bars and pubs he had been to and one chunk of 30k was our honeymoon expense. I was worried – we were just married, I had just started working and we were already paying off debt. And I am the sort of person who doesn’t even carry a personal credit card. He thrust it at me and said ‘So how much are you going to pay towards this bill’? I asked him why I should pay for all his crazy spending even before we got married. It was my first salary and I wanted to buy a saree for my mom and grandmom but finally agreed to give him my entire salary, which was all of thirty thousand.

A few months later, we got into a heated argument and I being the persistent person I am, insisted on having my say. He threw me on the bed, sat on me and started hitting me with a pillow. I was in shock and began crying and begging him to stop. After what seemed like 15 minutes he just went to sleep. I wept the whole night and couldn’t come to terms with what happened. We didn’t speak the next morning and he left for work. I couldn’t do anything the next day and called in sick at work. I couldn’t even think of telling my parents about it and what pain they’d go through. And I thought that it must have been my fault – something that I had said. I called a very dear friend of mine, who came home and took me out for lunch. I did nothing but cry to her. X called me later that morning, came home in the afternoon, consoled me, apologized and left. All was forgotten.

We got married in September and we were sort of happy during Christmas and I loved him. I realised that just being married itself, brought in so much of a desire to love the man – be there for him, support him, and want him. We went out for dinner on Valentine’s day, I got a special table booked for us. My birthday came along soon after and we went out for a meal with my parents. He was also doing well at work and I was getting to know him better and my in-laws too.

Meanwhile, B also shifted away from our city to Chennai and I think that played a large role in our life. Life was getting better with her away. Though I hated the fact that X spent a whole day with her packing and dropping her off at the airport, when he refused to take me along! I lived with it, thinking I am a conservative girl and I need to broaden my thinking.

X then applied for a higher role in his company – one that would take us to Chennai, to his parents and his beloved B. I hated the thought of leaving my job, my cosy little home and the city I had grown up in. I discussed the matter of B with him and how she made me uncomfortable. He seemed understanding and promised that she was just a friend and if it was affecting our marriage, then he was going to keep his friendship with her at a distance. I believed him.

I was unemployed for a month after we moved to Chennai and very frustrated. I was new to the city, didn’t know too many people and felt like I was going nowhere. I then joined a small company that was referred to me by my earlier company and joined for a 30% cut from what I was earning before. I loved my job, wanted to do more and grow. But X wanted me to be home by 6pm, and didn’t encourage me being ambitious and fulfilling my dreams.

A few months later it got worse. He kept secrets from me and perhaps I was a little possessive too. There were a couple of instances, when we would have heated arguments and it would end with him just giving me a tight slap. It would shut me up, I would weep, he would apologize, do something nice and then we would patch up.

About a week before our first wedding anniversary, there was this showdown and he slapped me hard. I packed my bags that day and said I would leave. He cried and repented and said he loved me very much and wanted to live with me. He took me to his office and gave me a pair of diamond earrings that he had bought for our anniversary – I was so touched that he actually thought about it and spent on me. We went for a short holiday that weekend and all was well.

Soon after that we were driving home one day and we got into some really silly conversation about a shoe shop I wanted to go to. I know that X and I talked on that earlier and he mentioned that he had taken B to the store to buy footwear with her. This day, he seemed to act like he didn’t know the store at all. I tried to remind him and he said he had gone with his sister. Like I said, really ridiculous conversation but I asked him why he wasn’t being upfront and truthful – that triggered off an argument again and suddenly while we driving, he just pulled me by my hair and shook my head hard. I screamed at him and he did it again. I was wild with anger. We got home, I got out of the car and slammed the car door shut. I knew that would hurt him – his car meant everything to him. I also knew I was in for trouble and I ran to the lift but he caught the door before it shut. He got into the lift, held my neck and bashed my head into the the wall of the lift threatening that he would never let me sit in the car or touch it again. It hurt, and I was sick with a headache the whole day, like always he came back to me in a few minutes and apologized and cried. We patched up and went shopping and bought footwear the next day.

Later that year we were attending a family event and we had a disagreement. In a bid to maintain our image of a happy couple he came up to me with a simple ‘Let’s go for a walk’. He put his hand around my shoulder and with his hand concealed under my hair he pinched the skin on my upper neck and lead me to a quiet corner where he kicked me. I screamed in pain, but there was no one to help. We then quietly walked back to dinner and that night, I could not take it anymore. I told his mom and sister in law – my MIL didn’t seem too surprised and she said she would talk to him. After a few hours, he apologised, we patched up and all was well.

The differences continued and one day when he slapped me I threw an ashtray of his and broke it. I shouldn’t have done it but I didn’t have the physical strength to protect myself and then I told him I’d break his precious collection of liquor bottles one by one, each time he hit me. Livid, he kicked me and stepped on my feet knowing very well that I have a painful ingrown toenail problem. As usual he apologized when the red rage was over, but that night I know I didn’t forgive him.

The next day I was back at work and I got a call from someone I deeply respected and looked up to. She was my manager, she was in town for a day and wanted to meet up. I met her that evening, my face all swollen and I looked a mess. She asked me if all was well and I covered up saying I was just sick. After chatting for about an hour, I broke down and told her everything. She was shocked that my parents didn’t know and wanted me to tell them. It would break their heart – how could I? But this lady called me every day to see how I was doing and to check if I had spoken to my parents yet. Finally I did tell them and they were shocked. They wanted to come home, but I didn’t want to put X in a spot and I kept pushing their visit. They finally came and X conveniently left to travel out of town for the next 3 days. My parents stayed with me and suddenly one night my dad fell very sick – we had to rush him to the hospital and his BP was dangerously high. X returned the next morning and bumped into my dad in the lift. That scene broke my heart – my dad was crying and he put his hands together, begging X to be good and settle all of this.

Life was never the same and I realized it when I went out to dinner one night, too stressed to notice that I was wearing two different slippers on my feet. I wanted this marriage to work and I was willing to work at it. I spoke to my in laws briefly on the phone after that. My MIL seemed very understanding and they said they would come home the next day and talk. The next evening, my in-laws and X came home together. They started talking to me and accusing me for everything that was happening. They said that I wasn’t respectful, I didn’t know how to make coffee, how to cook, that I ate too early instead of waiting for him like a good wife should, that I needed to be patient and that I was responsible for the way he was behaving. They said that what X does is none of my business, I must let him do whatever he wants, not ask him any questions and more to that effect. X then complained that I hit him and my FIL said that he must go hide and protect himself from me and they all giggled. I was very sad that they were treating the matter so lightly.

Soon after that he began to pretty much live at my in-laws’ place and not come home. One night after waiting a long time I called, only to have him yell at me that it was none of my business, where he was – I could hear my in-laws’ voices in the background. That night I decided I wouldn’t take it any longer – I packed a bag of clothes, called my aunt and uncle to pick me up and left. X called when he got home and didn’t see me there. I didn’t take those two calls and he has not called me ever since. He messaged my mom and said ‘Your daughter not at home’.  That was pretty much the end of my marriage.

My parents were in town soon after that and they went to speak to my in-laws. They suggested sending us both for marriage counseling but only got a bunch of accusations in return. We never heard from them after that.

I moved into a small apartment near my office, my grandmom came to stay with me in Chennai and I tried reaching X. News travels and everyone was discussing my family life. I hated it. Among other things I came across tickets to Bombay in his name and B’s. After seeing them I knew there was no turning back and about two months after I moved out I called X and cleared our home of all my stuff and filed for divorce.

All this while I was gaining weight and suddenly had a weird paunch. My friends were teasing me. I went to the doctor who confirmed that I was six months pregnant. I took this as God’s sign for me to patch up and make things better with X. I called him, his parents and his home many times that day but no one took the call. News had reached and when I asked one of his uncles to call and inform them, my FIL said ‘ It is not his baby’. That was another rude shock. I had been living with my parents but now I moved back to an apartment near my office, moved all my furniture and took my granny along. I was 7 months pregnant. I used to try calling X everyday – he ether didn’t take my calls or would pick up and abuse me. I couldn’t take this after a month, realised it wasn’t worth the effort and moved back to my parents. I was offered a job again and I took it up willingly, 8 months pregnant now.

I didn’t let my pregnancy hinder my work and I was determined to do my best, succeed, grow and now earn for my baby. There was pressure from some to even give away the baby and stay single, but I couldn’t even bear the thought of doing that. I slogged and enjoyed every bit of what I did, took a day’s rest before my daughter was born and then was the birth. Everyone was happy, but I was sad when my baby was born – I wept throughout my c-section just at the thought of the situation and what was ahead of me. I came out of the theatre hoping for a miracle and that X would be waiting in the room for me and my baby. But I was wrong, I called him but no response. I messaged him and no reply. Days, weeks, months passed and I didn’t hear from him.

Meanwhile we also had our case in the court where he denied that the child was his. I wanted to prove him wrong and asked for a DNA test to prove his paternity. He then agreed on paper that it was his child, because he knew the DNA test would prove it, but they have told the whole world that the child isn’t his. In the initial months I was not close to my  baby; I couldn’t accept the situation I was in. I finished my maternity leave and got back to work after which I also slowly began bonding with my daughter. Love took care of the rest of our relationship.

It has been almost 3 years since my little girl was born and I am a confident, strong, fairly successful woman and most of all a loving and dependable mom. I know that I will not stand for rubbish from any man again be it in the home or outside of it. Life is tough and I yearn for the family life that many people have – I only have faith and hope that someday soon I will be able to have a lovely complete family that loves, respects and trusts in each other.

I walked out of my home with not a single penny – I had the love of my parents, encouragement of friends, faith in  myself and knew that I had done no wrong to deserve this.  Today 3 years later, I have my own little home (on rent), can afford a decent lifestyle, shop for myself, go on holidays with friends and last week indulged in a want of many years – my own car! Life is more than some of these material goods, but I am sure I will get there and get there soon.