Domestic violence is one of the major human rights and public health concerns in India. A report reveals that domestic violence can adversely affect a person’s physical as well as psychological health. A survey has found that women are invariably the victims in the majority of domestic violence cases, especially in Indian society. According to the survey result, the perpetrators are mostly the husbands or the in-laws. Domestic violence is the most common form of crime against women in India, found the National Crime Records Bureau. The report shows that 18%-70% of women are victims of domestic violence in India. It also shows that 21%-48% of married women experience physical abuse by their husbands or in-laws every year.
Mrs. Priyanka Tendulkar, professor of human psychology and family studies, Scottish University, said, “The connection between mental health and domestic violence is usually bidirectional. Most women who experience domestic violence suffer from several mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicidal tendencies, and substance abuse.” She further added that the severity and frequency of the depression symptoms largely depend on the intensity and duration of the violence. For years, women have been taught to stay silent and tolerate things that provide men immense power and authority over women in our society.
We spoke with Ms. Pamela Bose, a 28-year-old corporate employee who bravely dealt with their mental health problems after suffering from domestic violence. While sharing her story, Pamela said, “I was born and brought up in a very conservative family. Within a month after my 12th board exams, my father arranged my marriage with a man almost ten years older than me.” Pamela further shared that she became suicidal within the first month of her marriage because of suffering extreme domestic violence. She couldn’t let her family know about her situation as her husband threatened her. He started to behave inappropriately and control everything in Pamela’s life. He used to decide when she would wake up, what she would eat, and even what she would wear. “I was surprised by seeing his changed behavior towards me after two days of my marriage. He snatched my phone so that I could not inform anyone about my situation. He made me delete all my social media accounts. Whenever I did anything without him knowing, he used to beat me up,” said Pamela.
When the abuse started to get worse, Pamela decided to leave her in-laws’ house. She further said, “I decided to file an FIR against my husband. He had abused me both physically and emotionally. Fortunately, my family supported me at that time after knowing everything. As I had a lot of proof against him, it was not difficult to get a divorce from him.” We asked her about her mental health condition after suffering in a toxic marriage. While answering, she said, “It was not at all easy for me. I was emotionally broken to the core. He was successful in breaking my self-esteem very easily. When I shifted with my family to Delhi, I started to have severe panic attacks at night. My mental health condition started to affect my physical health.”
Pamela was diagnosed with chronic depression and was suffering from suicidal tendencies. She suffered from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). After consulting with a psychologist, Pamela went for therapy treatment. She started to recover over time with regular counseling and therapy sessions. When her mental health condition had improved, she convinced her parents about applying for a graduation course. Later, she got a placement in a reputed organization. “I was only 18-years-old when I got married. The day I spent in that house haunted me for years. At a certain point, I wanted to end my life. Many people perceive that married women can’t be raped, but I was raped by my husband,” she added.
Pamela said that no one should consider domestic violence a normal or casual practice. No woman should tolerate such abuse only because they are taught to obey certain social rules. If such a situation happens, women should protest from the very beginning so that no one can cross the line. “Tolerating your husband’s abuse, torture, and disrespect is not acceptable simply because he is your husband. Stand up for yourself, protect yourself and set strong, healthy personal boundaries. Make yourself a priority in your life,” she added.
When asked about the reason behind such incidents in society, Pamela said, “There is a stigma that says girls should not be alone. She can spend her life suffering physical and emotional abuse, but she should never be unmarried. A wife should consider the fact that her husband has all the right to abuse or control her life. A girl should not complain about all these as she is born only to experience these things. Such stigmas have changed the mindset of our society. And due to this mindset, women experience abuse for many years.”
*(Name and place changed due to privacy concerns)