My advice to women, if they ask for it: If your man hits you even once, walk out. He is going to do it again. And again.
My advice to men, if they ask for it: Never ever raise your hand against a woman. No situation or circumstance can justify violence against women. I have no respect for wife- or girlfriend-beaters.
Why am I talking about this now? It's because I have just finished reading Meena Kandasamy's horrific tale — her own story — of domestic violence in the latest issue of Outlook.
Here's a chilling excerpt:
The first time he hits me, I remember I hit him back. Retaliation can work between well-matched rivals, but experience teaches me that a woman who weighs less than a hundred pounds should think of other options. It also teaches me other things. I learn that anything can become an instrument of punishment: twisted computer power-cords, leather belts, his bare hands that I once held with all the love in the world. His words sharpen his strikes. If I deliver a quick blow, your brains will spill out, he says. His every slap shatters me. Once, when he strangulates me, I imbibe the silence of a choked throat.
And when I tell him that I want to walk out of the marriage, he wishes me success in a career as a prostitute, asks me to specialise in fellating, advices me to use condoms. I shrink and shrivel and shout back and shed a steady stream of tears. He smiles at his success.
Kandasamy, a poet, writer, activist, and translator, walks out of the marriage ultimately and moves back to her parents' home in Chennai. But she suffers, and suffers terribly, because she is reluctant to call it quits. And why is she reluctant? She explains at the beginning of her article:
In the early days, his words win me back: I don’t have anything if I don’t have you. In this honeymoon period, every quarrel follows a predictable pattern: we make up, we make love, we move on. It becomes a bargain, a barter system. For the sake of survival, I surrender my space.
Read the article in its entirety here: "I singe the body electric".
- Photography courtesy: Outlook
- UPDATE (March 14, 2012): As I expected, Meena Kandasamy's heart-rending account of her violent marriage has drawn a flood of responses from readers. Read their comments here.
IT'S VERY DIFFICULT TO BREAK
THE CYCLE OF ABUSE
- My good friend and former Khaleej Times colleague Shagorika Easwar, editor of Desi News and CanadaBound Immigrant, commented via e-mail:
- ALSO READ: Journalist Nita Bhalla, who covers women's issues in South Asia for the BBC, recounts the lingering scars — physical and mental — from an assault on her and draws a wider lesson about violence against women in India: "Becoming an abuse statistic in patriarchal India".