Be Safe, Be Fearless

Beating is usually considered as violence. But there are other forms like insulting you, or neglecting you which are also called violence. You are not one of the few, but one of the many women who are battered. It is hard for us to accept that violence can happen within the family. We tend to go by common sayings. If violence is repetitive, you will need to help yourself. There are many options. You can use the law or go to the police.

What is it

What is Domestic Violence?

“I could not understand what was happening to me. I was married into a decent family and everything was fine for a year. Then there was occasional shouting from my husband and his family said nothing. It became worse and he hit me several times. When I told my sister, she said he was an educated, nice man and I had to find out what I was doing wrong. I tried very hard to please everyone but the slaps continued followed by insults and jokes. Perhaps this is my fate. I do not know what to do or how to stop this”.

Your first reaction is shock along with feeling hurt and upset. Why me? What have I done wrong? You will feel confused and as a way to set things right, you will try to appease people. It might disappear or get resolved but it might also continue.

You may notice that you are constantly on guard. Will I be beaten again? You are looking for signs which might lead to violence. You find yourself constantly afraid.
Gradually you might notice that you are loosing self confidence, becoming timid, withdrawn and perhaps loosing weight.

This section will answer your questions – what is violence? Why is there a confusion and apathy towards it? Why is it called “violence with no name?“

A Violence With No Name:

Domestic violence is defined as abuse that occurs within the four walls of a home or within a nuclear or extended family. The abuse includes physical, sexual, verbal, emotional and economic violence through cruelty, ill-treatment or exploitation by one or more members of a household towards another member.
It is a hidden violence, one with no name. We know it exists but deny it, shrug it off or in some cases even justify it. Violence in the family, it is said, usually takes place because the wife must have provoked it, or because the man was drunk or wanted to teach the woman a lesson.

Women do not mention it and men pass it off as a personal incident or as part of their right over women and children. Society as a whole sees it as anomaly that happens sometimes in some families. By giving it a name, studying it and raising it in public, this form of violence had to be accepted and steps taken to prevent it.

The first step in doing something about Domestic Violence is first recognising it, accepting it that it is done by someone we love within the family and then speaking about it.

The United Nations Development Fund for Women estimates that …“One in three women throughout the world will suffer violence in her lifetime; she will be beaten, raped, assaulted, trafficked, harassed or forced to submit to harmful practices such as female genital mutilation. In the majority of cases, the abuser will be a member of the woman’s own family or someone known to her”

Forms

Forms of Domestic Violence

“It’s okay, it’s only a slap!”

“A father has the right to beat his daughter. Is it not for her own good?”

“He puts me in a depressed state. What is that called?”

“I am constantly made fun of, now I have no confidence in myself”

“He takes away my salary, checks every paisa I spend; sometimes I have to plead for money”

Beating is one part of domestic violence. Has any of the following happened to you?

Does someone in the family make you feel bad without even raising his hand? Do you think, “It must be my fault”, or that you are not good enough or you need to learn much more? Do they keep you away from your friends and relatives; are you made to feel bad in front of guests?; are you humiliated or scolded for small things like less salt in the food; is anyone softly or harshly threatening you; are the threats followed by ‘making up’ or giving gifts? Does anyone use degrading words or swear words at you?

Then you might be facing mental or emotional violence.

Many a times, we find it difficult to define what constitutes violence and what is ‘okay’. If we look at the different ways domestic violence takes place, we can understand the subtler forms from the more gross ones.

You can run down the list to see what you or someone you know may have undergone but not recognised as violence.

“As someone who suffered abuse throughout a 15-year marriage and beyond, I would like to share what I believe to be some sure signs of emotional abuse. My partner attacked my very soul using words and mannerisms that caused much pain and suffering. Over time, he systematically eroded my self-confidence and self-worth and created hurt so deep I could no longer bear his presence in my life. [The Hindu/ mag/30-03-2008]”
Tick what may be happening to you. Maybe only one or two of the following is applicable to you. This list is meant to give you an indication of what constitutes emotional violence on women.

  • Controlling your behaviour by deciding who you can meet and when
  • Not allowing you to meet your family and friends
  • Not wanting you to go outside the house
  • Not allowing you to pursue an education, a job or a career
  • Exhibiting jealousy and suspicions
  • Accusing you of flirting or of having affairs
  • Constantly doubting your ‘character’
  • Cross-questioning you and keeping tabs on your movements and time, checking up on you
  • Having other people (in-laws, friends) keeping tabs on your movements
  • Monitoring your telephone calls or mobile usage, reading smses sent on your mobile without your knowledge or permission; searching your bag or purse
  • Being constantly critical of your actions, words and behaviour.
  • Disrespecting you, humiliating you, calling you names, putting you down, dismissing your views and opinions both in private and in front of other people including your children
  • Coercing or threatening you into doing things you do not want to do
  • Threatening to harm himself or using emotional blackmail
  • Threatening to beat you, harm you or kill you
  • Threatening to beat, harm or kill your children
  • Threatening to beat, harm or kill your loved ones
  • Threatening to take your children away from you
  • Threatening to throw you out of your home
  • Keeping your children away from you
  • Harming, or threatening to harm, your pet/s
  • Taunting you for having female children
  • Taunting you for being childless
  • Threatening to divorce you
  • Threatening to desert you
  • Having sexual liaisons with other women
  • Having sexual relationships within the family (including with your sister or other female relatives)
  • Asking for dowry, or gifts or other material things
  • Taking away or stealing your streedhan or wedding gifts
  • Giving you inadequate amount of food or lesser quality food than given to other members of the family
  • Denying you your personal choice in dress, speech or behaviour

The first time he slapped her was on Valentine’s Day, two months after their marriage. It can’t happen to me, Shruti kept telling herself, till it became routine. Shruti and Vikas, both IIM graduates are senior executives with a leading multinational corporation and their’s was an office romance. After six years, it transformed her from a spirited girl to a psychological wreck.

Physical violence constitutes acts intended to cause harm, injury or pain to women by any member of the family, the husband, brother in law, mother/sister in law, father or uncle or cousin.

Sunita Rajput, 27, has alleged she was forced by her husband to have six abortions in nine years of marriage because each time she had conceived a girl. [The Telegraph, 28-7-09]

“He is going around with a bar girl. When I questioned him about it, I was beaten.”

“My father has a vile temper. If I spoke to protect my mother, he would beat me and my brothers.”

It is not just one beating but might be a mix of several forms to scare you into doing what the abuser wants. Violence is used by men to control women.

Physical abuse can be:

  • Slapping, hitting, kicking, pinching or punching you
  • Shoving or pushing you about
  • Biting you, pulling your hair, tearing your clothes, twisting your arm
  • Attempting to choke or strangulate you
  • Throwing things at you
  • Assaulting you with objects like a knife, whip, stick, iron bar, belt, rope, etc
  • Throwing things around, smashing or breaking objects
  • Using fire or hot objects upon you
  • Not allowing you to get medical help (whether first aid, medicines or hospitalisation)
  • Poisoning you, forcing you to drink or eat anything injurious to your health (kerosene, naphthalene balls)
  • Pushing you into a well
  • Depriving you of food or water
  • Giving you less food or water
  • Forcing you to take drugs or sleeping pills
  • Preventing you from entering or living in your natal or marital home

Sexual abuse can be any sexual act by a husband or other male members of the family which is without a woman’s consent.

A study by the Indian Institute of Population Studies and the Population Council [2009] states that 18 to 30 per cent of women reported a lifetime experience of physical violence and between a third and half of them spoke of forced sex including on their wedding night.

Sexual abuse can be physical as well as emotional. You may be insulted or be called a “whore”, a “loose woman” or useless in bed. You may be shown pornography.

You can go through this list of different ways on indulging in sexual abuse to see if it’s happening to you.

If any of the things mentioned below is happening to you, then you are being sexually abused:

  • Feeling you up, touching you sexually, even when you say no
  • Sexual intercourse against your will
  • Physical assaults during sexual intercourse, including on your private parts like anus, vagina, breasts.
  • Assaulting you on or inserting objects into your private parts like anus, vagina, breasts
  • Using sexually degrading language
  • Denying you reproductive freedom (hiding contraceptive pills, forcing you to abort, or insisting on a pregnancy unwanted by you)
  • Refusal to use a condom during sexual intercourse
  • Taking photographs of you or filming you in the nude or semi nude without your consent or knowledge,
  • Showing other people nude, semi-nude or otherwise sexually explicit images of you, whether in print, the mobile, TV, video or internet.
  • Forcing you to have sex with a third person against your will.

Statistics

Statistics

“None of the other women I know have this problem! Why did this happen to me?”
Why me? How can this possibly happen to me? It often appears that you and not others are victims of violence. No, it is not that you are the unfortunate one. You feel so because the majority of women are silent about domestic violence.

They are scared to speak because people will not believe them. Or that if they spoke it will look bad for the family.

“They were the proverbial made for each other couple, seen hand in hand at page three parties. She, a high-profile bureaucrat, he, a Cambridge-educated owner of a software firm. A good looker, glib talker, he was the soul of any party and she’d laugh the loudest at his jokes. No one would ever believe that he had been beating her for 16 years.”

“This is just the tip of the iceberg.” For every Rinki Bhattacharya (Basu Bhattacharya’s wife) and Luku Sanyal (DD newsreader) — women who went public about the violence they faced — there are thousands who prefer to be silent victims,” says Flavia Agnes, a women’s rights lawyer. [TOI, 16-2-03]

It is important that you listen to that small voice which tells you that something in not quite right. You may have to sort out your confusion about feeling upset and your fear by trying to identify what is happening to you.
Most women, after the initial shock of violence and confusion, begin to realise that the violence they are going through is not about to disappear on its own. This realisation and acceptance helps them to move to the next step of taking steps to protect themselves and to prevent further violence.

The National Family Health Survey (NFHS- 2, 1998-99) for the first time attempted to measure the prevalence of violence against women including domestic violence. The all India figures showed that

  • 21 percent of ever married women in India have experienced violence since the age of 15 years.
  • 19 percent have been beaten or physically mistreated by husbands
  • 2 percent by in-laws and 3 percent by other persons.

The Level of violence was reported to be higher in rural areas than in urban areas, nuclear households than in non-nuclear households, working women than in non working woman, non-educated than in educated and in low standard of living category women than in higher ones.

Another survey by the International Centre for Research on Women (1997) estimated that 60 per cent women face violence at some point in their marriage. The reason we seldom hear of domestic violence is because it happens in the privacy of the home.

“If you thought that Generation Y Indian men considered women equal, think again. A six-state study conducted by the Population Council and the International Institute for Population Sciences found that:”

  • 18 to 30% of married women aged 15 to 24 reported physical abuse by their husbands at least once.
  • 14% of the women said they had been abused in the first year of marriage [HT, 24-2-09]

According to the World Health Organization data, the most devastating effect of gender violence worldwide is that violence against women claims almost 1.6 million lives each year – about 3% of deaths of all causes. [March 07, 2009 Middle East Times International]

Our Beliefs

Your Questions, Their Beliefs

When we go through a trauma, we are shocked and a host of questions, which we may have not considered before, appear. You may have asked yourself some of these questions. You may have heard some of these arguments, you may believe them yourself. Are they true? Possibly so, you argue with yourself, if so many people believe them. But on the other hand, maybe not, these are common sayings and beliefs which are not necessarily true.

“It’s my ghar ka mamla, I was scared to speak about it. Will it not bring disgrace to the family?”

Nobody likes to air one’s family problems in public. You are conscious that people will talk behind your back. Gossip will go back and forth. It is not surprising that most women, who are being abused by their family members, shy away from speaking about it. The abusers are aware of these reasons and continue as they are sure they will not be reported. Women have borne the violence for years.

Our silence is connected to our feelings of shame. It is not your fault if a man chooses to be violent. It should be shameful for a man to be violent. Instead it is shameful for a battered woman to speak about violence! But women see it as a personal tragedy and not as a crime against women.

‘Only one in four abused women have ever sought help to try to end the violence they have experienced. Two out of three women have not sought help, nor have ever told anyone about the violence’. (The National Family Health Survey-3, 2005-06).

Why do women not seek help?

  • Most women want to stop the violence and continue their lives in the same home. They are afraid that the abuser might increase the violence if he hears that other people know.
  • Women fear social disgrace and gossip. People will speak badly of her family and pity her.
  • They often feel that telling somebody about the abuse will be ineffective as nobody will believe them. “It cannot be true, he is such a nice man and so polite”. He may be so but he can also be violent.
  • Women are also afraid of being blamed. “You must have done something to provoke him”.

Unless you talk to someone, seek help and counselling and practical support, the violence is not going to stop or go away.

By not keeping silent about it, you, as a woman, are protesting the violence done to you.
Keeping it private, means accepting life-long abuse.

1. “I had always thought that domestic violence happens only among poor or uneducated people”.

It is a common middle class perception that violence takes place more in poor people’s homes. Their houses in bastis are open so the violence can be heard whilst middle class violence takes place in the privacy of apartment houses.

The poor and working class people live in small huts or tenements which are open. Everyone can hear loud voices or fights. They also speak about it openly. Where as, middle class families, especially the women, hide it as a matter of honour and social stigma. There have been a number of famous cases in the film industry. Wives of directors and actors have after years of abuse spoken about domestic violence. Rinki Bhattacharya spoke about her beating by Basu Bhattacharya. Aishwariya Rai spoke about Salman Khan. Niddhi accused her IPS husband of wife beating.

2. “Men are like that only!” Or it is part of men’s mental and physical make up. Or “uskaa svabhaav hi aisaa hai.”

Violence is not part of a man’s genes or nature!

Violence is a learnt behaviour. Remember, the same man who is violent towards the women in his family can be, and often is, perfectly reasonable in his behaviour at office, with his friends or in other public places. Which means that this man’s ‘nature’ (svabhaav) is capable of judging between situations where he can or cannot get away with abusing another human being? It is only when he knows that he has some power over the victim or his wife, sister, mother, daughter, etc. that the assault starts.

3.“It’s women’s lot to bear with violence”. “Meraa naseeb hi aisaa hai …”

Resignation, recourse to Fate or destiny is a sign of helplessness. When women do not know what to do, or what is possible to do, they take refuge in Fate so it becomes easy to bear violence.

These are value systems that are ingrained within many of us, especially women.
A study interviewed those women who were facing physical violence and not seeking help. The most common reason reported by 58 percent of women for staying with their husbands was the perception that violent behaviour is ‘normal’ in a marital relationship. Economic situation and issues related to family honour were some of the other issues, which restrained the woman from seeking help (Ahuja et al, 2000).

Things change only when we decide. If we fall ill, do we not try and get medical aid? Or if the roof is leaking do we not try to repair the damage? So why should we put up with an abusive family member? We can, and should, try and resolve an abusive situation in all possible ways. To put up with injustice is equal to permitting it.

4.“Domestic violence is not correct except when ….” the dowry is inadequate; or there is a suspicion of sexual infidelity; or if a woman neglects her household duties; she disobeys her husband; or if she fails to give birth to a male child; refuses to have Sex, etc.

If there is a reason, then violence on women is okay. Can men, on the basis of suspicion or not liking a meal etc, beat up women? The statement – she has to learn to obey or adjust actually means she has to be controlled.

Violence cannot be done for ‘your own good’ or ‘to educate’ or ‘to teach a lesson’. It is a proven fact that no one, be it a child or a woman, learns or accepts something because of violence. Violence in the name of love is also resented. Violence only breeds resentment and fear.

Domestic violence is recognised by the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women. India is signatory to it and has ratified it in 1993. It means that we recognise it has a crime.

5.‘Real’ men are leaders, and so are by Nature aggressive and controlling.

Violence and aggression are seen as signs of masculinity like moustaches, chest hair and bulging muscles. Does that make men who do not have these signs less male?

Mahatma Gandhi was not an aggressive man but was a leader of the masses. A man does not have to be aggressive or controlling to be a man. These are learnt by men through socialisation by the family and society. Who is a ‘real man’ or a ‘real woman’ is decided not by Nature but our society’s values. It is yet another way for men to control women by declaring that it is ‘natural’. A civilised society goes beyond towards a belief in equality. The Constitution of India like many other countries recognises gender equality as a fundamental right.

6.“Men beat up women only when they are under the influence of alcohol.”

It is true that alcohol contributes to violent behaviour. But it is also true that the majority of men who drink do not beat their wives or other women members of the family.

The National Family Health Survey – 3, 2005-06 says,
‘Women whose husbands drink alcohol have significantly higher rates of violence than women whose husbands do not drink at all; emotional violence is three times as high, physical violence is more than two times as high, and sexual violence is four times as high for women whose husbands are frequently drunk, compared with women whose husbands do not drink’

Drinking usually reduces social inhibitions. Importantly, men inclined to domestic violence may drink to provide an excuse for such behaviour. Drinking may also be a cause for conflict which increases the chances of domestic violence.

7.“The home belongs to my husband, and my father’s home belongs to my brother”…

The home belongs equally and jointly to all members of the home including women and children. It does not matter whether a person makes a financial contribution to the buying or construction of the house.

It may be that the house legally belongs to some member of the family. But all the women living in a home have the right to reside in the house, without fear of being made homeless. Nobody can ask you to leave the house.

If a man in the home is violent to women, he can be, under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (2005), asked by the Court to leave the house.

Help Yourself

Help Yourself

“As someone who suffered abuse throughout a 15-year marriage and beyond, I would like to share ……. At his hands, I was subjected to insults, put-downs, shouting, threats and sarcasm…… I developed high B.P., thyroid problems and peptic ulcer. I knew something in me was dying.….. I want to warn all women who face emotional abuse, please don’t go through it silently. Confrontation is a must to solve this problem. Don’t hesitate and hide your emotions under the traditional household mask….” [30/03/2008 The Hindu]

Most women refuse to admit that there is a problem. This is the silence of socialisation. It is the reaction of vulnerability. One study [Ahuja et al, 2000] reported that 58 percent of interviewed women saw violent behaviour as ‘normal’ in a marital relationship.

Every human being has a right to live in dignity and peace. If you are being beaten or abused in any manner, it is your right and duty to yourself to do something about it.

Speaking is most important. It will help you to move from the initial phase of confusion and shock to naming the violence. You may not want to take drastic steps like going to the police or a lawyer. Below are some basic Do-it-Yourself steps.

Consider these questions

You have done everything, plead, talk, sulk and ‘adjust’. Still the violence continues. Why is this so? You know it is not your fault? You have sacrificed, changed your life and yet you are a victim. You might need to ask yourself some questions and try to give yourself some answers.

  • You have borne violence for years, nothing has changed. But you have changed. You might have become resigned, without any interest in life, afraid and even health wise a wreck. How long will you be able to bear the abuse from your father/ husband/brother?
  • Have you ever thought of ending your life? Have you tried other ways to reduce the violence? Taking your own life is not a way out.
  • You may have lost your confidence. How are you going to get it back? Have you thought to taking some steps to retrieve your confidence and self worth?
    If the man is the abuser, then why is it that you as the wife/mother/daughter are stigmatised by society?

Speak about it

“What is the point in speaking to any one? My family will get a bad name”.

“It’s my fate. There is nothing I can do which will change it”.

You may fear further abuse or social stigma or are afraid because you and your children are financially dependent on the abusers. But bottling it up is going to do you no good.

Women do not speak about violence done on them as they believe that it is okay for men to show aggression and secondly as they do not have any other recourse or independent alternatives.
Yet they need to speak of it.

Domestic violence breeds on the silence and resignation of the victims. Your abuser will take advantage of your silence. He will feel encouraged to continue mistreating you and even increase the level of violence.

By talking to a relative, friend or neighbour, by approaching an organisation or meeting a counsellor, you are taking the first step to try and find a way out.

Look after Yourself

Women who are abused tend to not look after themselves and soon become mental and physical wrecks.

Any form of abuse will impact on your mental and physical being. Take some easy steps to look after yourself even as you are battling to come to grips with violence.

  • You need to eat well. Do not neglect your nutrition as it will bring down your energy levels and become an obstacle to thinking and acting.
  • Exercise. Go for a walk everyday or do yoga.
  • Distract yourself. If you are a homemaker or an office goer, take some time off to join some hobbies like music, art etc even if it is once a week.

Be in contact with others

When you remain inside the four walls of the home, you have far less of a choice about what possible routes to take to end the violence.

Be in contact with the world outside.

Isolation gives the abuser greater power because he knows that you are not in contact with family, friends and other women who can offer help.

Contact the family

Is it possible for you to contact your maternal family? Women hesitate to contact their parents because it is believed that once married they have lost their right to their earlier home. When you do so, be prepared to face mixed reactions.

  • You might be advised to be tolerant in the hope that things will improve. The key word used is ‘adjust’. You will have to explain that you have done everything in your power to stop the violence.
  • Do not leave your home and rush to your mother’s home without speaking to them. They may send you back and that will be more difficult to handle.
  • Brothers and sisters in law are most reluctant to be helpful as they think you will come back home and they do not want an additional burden.
  • They, either with hope or indifference, send the battered women back to the matrimonial home. Sometimes both families might blame the woman saying it is her fault or that it is fate.

By contacting members of the natal home, time and again, women establish the fact that there is a serious problem. And usually a brother, or uncle or grandparent, who feels the daughter’s pain steps in to help. Sometimes, a sister-in-law can empathise with the victim of domestic violence.

Locate a Counsellor

Seeking professional help is not a sign of ‘madness’ or a stigma. Psychiatrists are medical practitioners who give drugs for serious mental problems. Psychotherapists take you through a process of looking at your own life. Counsellors and therapists take one to one or group sessions.

  • You may try to convince your partner or abuser to go together to a counsellor who might be able to help both of you
  • Ask your friends or locate a therapist by using the Internet. A therapist or counsellor can relax you and ask questions.
  • These professionally-trained people can give women the strength to act. They can also help you to look at yourself and think positively, to counter guilt, depression and worthlessness that the domestic violence has created.

Do continue/start some form of employment

If you are a homemaker or housewife, domestic abuse will bring you down. It will eat away at your confidence and feelings of self worth. By getting out of the house, trying to locate some work and by keeping yourself busy, you are diverting your mind.

Working women tend to report less domestic violence than non-working women (TISS, 2001:53).

The workplace also gives you access to different sorts of people, who you can talk to and ask for advise.

Women with some means of income are in a greater position of strength. They have an independent source of income and can practically plan a course of action (housing, children’s education, and daily expenses).

Protect your children

According to a UNICEF report, 275 million children worldwide are currently exposed to domestic violence. Children who live with domestic violence not only endure the stress of a violence filled atmosphere but are more likely to become victims of abuse themselves.

Children are witness to domestic violence done by their fathers, brothers or other male members of the family. They feel helpless and afraid. Sometimes the abuser may be violent towards them.

You will then need to protect them as well as defend yourself against abuse. Often the child may not be able to express the abuse that s/he is going through or the emotional trauma that s/he undergoes. Make sure that you take your children to a doctor or a medical officer, and to a counsellor trained to handle children’s psychological problems. Ask for a copy of the medical report.

It is estimated that 40% of child-abuse victims also have reported domestic violence at home. In addition, children who are exposed to domestic violence are at greater risk for substance abuse, teenage pregnancy and delinquent behaviour.

Contacting Social Workers or Women’s Groups

Ahuja et al (2000) reported in their study that only about 2 percent of women seek help from social organisations. This is indeed a pity because many of them have experience in handling abuse cases. Unlike lawyers and the police, they are not interested in seeing legal procedures but will try reconciliation, advise family and point out the limitations and expenses of legal means.

Usually talking to social workers will be a middle step before you decide to take more radical decisions.

You might want to try and contact some people or organisations which can help get relief from the abuse. For example, the Special Cell for Women and Children in some cities, calls the abuser for a discussion. Sometimes, going to a police station itself is enough for the abuser to stop his actions.

They also direct you to counselling services, legal aid, healthcare and safe shelter.

Some women’s groups have cells or centres which listen to women, counsel them about the options available to them. They can answer your questions, clarify your doubts like should you try for reconciliation, should you try out a counsellor, or whether you should go to the police. What will it mean to go to the police, what will you have to do and how will it affect your life.

You can look up a list of Helplines for your area. Some cities have a Special Cell for Women and Children located within the police station. They are staffed by trained social workers who have the experience of guiding you. If your area is not mentioned, then do contact any women’s group and find out more information.

Going to the Police

Going to the Police

Going to the police is a scary option but one that may be necessary. You have to be clear about what you want done and then have the tenacity to follow it up with the police, which like all large institutes will give you the pillar to post treatment.

There are two ways of going to the police. You can call the police to your house by dialling 100 or 103 [in Mumbai]?

You can call the police to your house when you are being abused, usually, when there is physical violence. By calling them, what would you like them to do? Stop the attack? Argue with the abuser and persuade him to quit beating? Arrest him?

Alternatively, you can go to the police station and report the abuse.

The following are some points that you can keep in mind.

  • You can go to the police station in the area you are currently living or the one where your marital or natal home is
  • Most people are intimidated on going to a police station. It is good to have a relative or friend accompany you
  • Be clear in your mind about what you want the police to do:
  1. Do you want to file a Domestic Incident Report and a Petition to the Court with them?
  2. Do you want a list of counsellors/women’s groups from the Police to help save the relationship?
  3. Do you want the police to stop the violence with a strong warning to the abuser/s? They can also visit the abusers or call them to the police station.
  4. Do you want them to arrest your husband (under Section 498A, assault of wife, or under the PWDVA, non-bailable)?
  5. Do you want them to arrest your husband (under Section 498A, assault of wife, or under the PWDVA, non-bailable)?
  6. Do you need continued and immediate rights of residence because you have been thrown out or are being threatened with eviction from your marital or natal home?
  • Carefully prepare a written or mental note on the type of violence, the last incident and names of witnesses
  • Sometimes the police officer on duty will laugh at you or tell you to ‘adjust’ and not file a complain. Be brave and insist on filing it
  • you can choose to file a civil complaint under The Protection of Women against Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (PWDVA) or a criminal complaint under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, depending on the circumstances of the case and what you want done about your situation.
  • Show the Police Officer any physical injuries. Give the Police Officer a copy of the medical report, if you have it. If you want you can also ask the Police Officer to arrange for a medical examination for you.
  • Give the police the names and addresses or witnesses to the assault, if any
  • Make sure your complaint is registered in writing and a copy is given to you free of cost.

At the same time, you need to know some of the problems about going to the police. They have not been known to be enthusiastic about booking violence cases. Women’s groups which have worked with violence victims for many years have noted some of the problem areas. This is not to say that you should not register your complaint. Rather, by being for-warned, you are ready for it.

  • There are legal provisions for the police to intervene in cases of violence but refuse to do so saying that the victim has to complain. This means that if a neighbour complains of screams and battering, the police will not intervene. You can call the police and insist that they come and stop violence.
  • Often the police advise battered women to return to their homes or go to counselling centres instead of taking down their complaints. If you are sure, please persuade and be firm that you want them to write down your complaint.
  • When complaints are taken down they can be shoddy and most often copies are not given to the complainant. Insist on your complaint being written in the local language and use a translator if necessary. Insist on a copy.
  • Police might ask you to implicate other members of the family besides the abuser supposedly for collecting bribes to let them off. There have been some instances in lodging cases under the Section 498A. It is always good to stick to the facts of the case.

Using the Law

Using the Law

India has some of the most favourable laws for women. That does not necessarily mean that those women who go to court will get what they want. The rate of conviction of those who are violent is low. The legal system is tedious, lengthy, expensive and full of prejudice towards women.

However in case of extreme violence, legal action might be necessary. So it is necessary to be prepared for it.

Problems with the Legal System

The problems are enormous but the system has to be used. Here are some of the problems you might face with lawyers and the courts.

  • Lawyers sometimes get over enthusiastic and ask their clients to put in half true information. Like they may ask you to mention the names of your abuser and also include others like the father and mother in law. It would be good to stick to the facts as unsubstantiated statements might make you look manipulative in the eyes of the judge.
  • Lawyers may ask to put small children up for questioning. You should be firm about what you want to do.
  • You might be asked to press a dowry case instead of a domestic violence one as it is most commonly accepted by the police and the court. You must insist on the facts and persuade the lawyer to find the legal arguments for it.
  • Court proceedings are expensive. This includes stamp paper, court fees, and lawyer’s fees besides your own time and effort.
  • Cases take anytime from a year to 8 years to be decided on. Your case may get delayed by lawyers asking for more time or because the court has a heavy backlog.
  • In spite of the law, it is still very difficult to convince the court that domestic violence victims have a right to the matrimonial home.

How do you locate a lawyer?

You need a lawyer, not one who is known to your family or is expensive or well known but one who understands domestic violence and has dealt with such cases. Find a sympathetic one who is willing to give time to your case.

There are plenty of issues besides the violence that come up in domestic violence cases. You may not even be aware that they constitute issues for legal action.

Some of the issues that come up in domestic violence cases are:

  • Landlord/tenant issues for example, if your abuser has forced you out of the shared rented home or rent payment or instalment payment problems.
  • If you have joint accounts from which all money has been withdrawn
  • dowry-related harassment
  • fraud and cheating by the husband
  • sexual liaisons by the husband
  • laws related to an injunction order, custody, divorce, maintenance

Free Legal Services

There is a provision for free legal aid under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (2005) Form No. III needs to be filled with your name, the abuser’s name, his home and work address, etc. It should be attached to a copy of the Domestic Incident Report and submitted to the Magistrate.

Laws to be used

The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (2005) or the PWDV is a civil law to stop all forms of domestic violence against women. Sisters, daughters, mothers, wives, widows, victims of bigamous marriages and women in a live-in relationship can file a report and ask for help under this Act.

Important Features of the law

You can initiate proceedings under the Act, even though you may be using other legal remedies –

  • It includes forcible sexual intercourse in a shared household as sexual domestic violence.
  • There are definitions of ‘economic, verbal and emotional abuse’ of women
  • Every woman in a domestic relationship, irrespective of whether she is the legal owner or not, has the right to reside in the shared household.
  • The rights under the Act are not confined to a couple or a husband-wife relationship but are available to women in any shared household like live in relationships, sisters, elderly mothers and daughters.

Who can file a complaint?

Anyone who is being subjected to abuse or violence from any male member of the family can file.

Depending on the nature of the abuse, whether it is sporadic, intense and/or ongoing, you will need to take action. You can take action to immediately prevent abuse whilst retaining your residency in the house.

How can you complain?

You can take three actions

1. File a Report
2. Go to a Protection Officer
3. Petition a Magistrate

Filing a Report

Step One:

You or a friend, relative or social worker acting on your behalf can write the details of the domestic abuse in as much detail as possible.

  • – your name and address, the name and address of the abuser (husband, brother, father, son, live-in-partner, or any male member of your home who is abusing you)
  • – and the abuse you are suffering from. It will be helpful if you can remember and write the dates and the exact forms of violence you are facing: verbal (gaalis, threats…), physical (hitting…., etc.), sexual (marital rape, sexual perversion etc.) or financial abuse (taking away of jewellery, income, etc.); for a detailed list see the Forms of Domestic Violence.
  • – Make sure to explain the context and circumstance of the abuse as this forms evidence of abuse. There is no need for eyewitnesses or proof of abuse as evidence- your statement is considered enough under this Law.

Step Two:

You should attach these details to Form No. I and fill in this Form. These two together now become the Domestic Incident Report.

Note that you should sign the form or mark your thumb impression. The Service Provider or The Protection Officer of your area should sign below your signature or thumb impression. This means s/he has accepted the complaint. The Domestic Incident Report should be given by you or the Service Provider to either the Protection Officer or to the Police Officer of your area.

Step Three:

The Domestic Incident Report of your abuse has now been submitted. The Protection Officer’s duty is to forward one copy to the Police Officer, one to the Magistrate and one to you free of cost.

Go to a Protection Officer

The Protection Officer has a duty to:

1. provide you with a list of Service Providers or welfare institutions in your area and coordinate with them for the medical aid, legal aid, counselling services and shelter homes that you may want.
2. to arrange for a free medical examination
3. to accompany you to your home, help you to get the items required as immediate personal needs like clothes and arrange to take you to a place of safety
4. explain to you your rights under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (2005).
explain to you your rights to file a complaint under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code and help you 5. to also file a First Information Report (FIR) at the police station.
6. maintain copies and a record of all Forms and documents submitted by you or on your behalf
7. make all efforts to see that you and your children are safe and do not suffer further abuse and that your friends or relatives are not victimised or intimidated by the abuser.
8. coordinate between you, the police, the Court and the abuser.

Petition a Magistrate

A Petition to the Magistrate is an application to the Court to prevent any further abuse to you and your children and that you have a home and the money to continue with your routine lives without fear of abuse. We can go through 7 steps of this Petition.

Step One:

You or someone acting on your behalf should write in a letter the kind of assistance you want from the Court to prevent further domestic violence upon you.

The details and effects of all and any domestic violence on you and on your children must be clear in this letter as this is the evidence to the Court. Your letter should give details with time, dates and incidents.

  • Your letter should clearly state the incidents of violence. For example, if your arm was broken due to domestic violence on so-and-so date, write it and then explain the severe physical pain it caused you, the medical assistance sought, the doctor’s opinion, the medical costs incurred. Then there is the mental and emotional trauma you went through, your children’s mental and emotional states like frequent illness, bad behaviour, bed-wetting, etc. It could be that you could not perform the personal chores like bathing your self, tying a sari, etc and household chores you could not perform. The amount of time it took to heal, whether it has healed fully or partly, the further medical assistance you may need for your arm to heal fully. Your inability to attend work and the loss of pay it has caused you, the inconvenience your broken arm has caused your colleagues and to the progress of your work, etc.

Step 2:

According to the law, in your letter, you can ask for one or all four Orders from the Court:

  • A Protection Order requests the Court to make sure that future abuse does not happen and pass an Order. It requests the Court to:
    • prevent any further abuse by the abuser (husband, brother, father, son, live-in-partner, or any male member of your home who is abusing you)
    • prevent the abuser from contacting or threatening you or your friends, work colleagues and/or relatives in any way or manner (whether personally, via mobile or email, telephone or written, or through his friends or relatives).
    • prevent the abuser from stopping your continued use of commonly used assets (house, rental monies, telephone, etc.),
    • prevent the abuser from selling off any items of the house, jewellery or your streedhan, selling off any property, and from operating bank accounts or bank lockers (whether held singly by him or jointly), without the Magistrate’s specific permission.
  • A Residence Order requests the Court to make sure that you and your children continue to have a roof over your heads. Regardless of whether the ownership papers have your name or not.
    The Residence Order the Court attempts to prevent this violence by:
    • make temporary and immediate monetary arrangements to take care of your daily expenses (rent, groceries, school fees, medical expenses, etc.). This can be asked as either monthly payments or as a lump sum payment.
    • make monetary compensation for the abuse you have suffered, or for your property that has been damaged during the abuse and for the medical aid or hospitalisation you or your children may need.
  • A Custody Order requesting the Court to make sure that the abuser cannot take away your children from you or prevent you from being with them and thus prevent further emotional abuse on your children.
    This Order from the Court can:
    • give you full temporary custody over your children so that you can continue to care for them without fear of further domestic violence.
    • fix the number of times the abuser can visit the children and specify that he cannot visit them in your absence.

Step Three:

Fill in Form II of the Schedule. Both you and the Protection officer should sign Form II.

The letter and the signed Form II together becomes the Petition to be submitted to the Magistrate along with a copy of the Domestic Incident Report. Remember to also keep your copy of this Petition (the signed Form II and the attached letter).

Step Four:

Within three days of receipt of this Petition the Court i.e. the Magistrate will fix a date for a Hearing.

The Magistrate will then send a Notice to the Protection Officer to inform your abuser within two days of receipt of Notice that he is ordered to be present in Court for a Hearing.

Step Five:

At the Hearing, the two sides, the abused and abuser will appear before the Magistrate who will consider the details of the Domestic Incident Report and the requests in your Petition.

The Magistrate will pass Interim Orders for Protection, Residence, Monetary and Custody upon the abuser. The Magistrate may also ask the abuser to give bond (with or without financial deposit) as surety against future domestic violence against you. S/he may also direct the Police Officer of your area to make sure that these orders are carried out.

Step Six:

The Protection Officer will have to, if required by the Magistrate’s written orders, follow up your case.

1. The Officer will have to visit your home and make preliminary inquiries with the abuser and other members of the home.
2. file a report on income, salary and other assets within the home that the Court may ask for.
3. make sure that your personal possessions are returned to you.
4. make sure that you get monetary relief/compensation according to the Magistrate’s order

Step Seven:

You can present more evidence and arguments to the Magistrate. He will have to pass the Final Order within 60 days of your filing the Petition.

Further, inform your family, friends and your neighbours about these Orders so that all are aware of the legal restraints placed on your abuser. Notify the Police and your Protection Officer immediately if any of these Orders are broken. Keep a detailed account or diary of the dates the Orders were broken by your abuser. If you have been injured take photographs of the injuries and have a medical examination done. If you have been sexually assaulted, do not have a bath or change your clothes- go directly to the medical examiner or doctor so that your injuries and clothes form part of the evidence.

Punishment

  • It is a cognizable and non-bailable offence if the husband or abuser were to violate the protection order or interim protection order, which can be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with fine which may extend to twenty thousand rupees or with both.
  • Breach of Residence Order: can also lead to the abuser’s arrest under Chapter VIII of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Contact the Police and your Protection Officer immediately.
  • Breach of Financial Order: A copy of this order is sent by the Magistrate to the Police. If the Financial Order issued by the Court is still not paid by your abuser, the Court may initiate criminal proceedings under Section 125 (3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure and order a warrant for his arrest, or direct his employer to pay you directly, or attach the abuser’s property.
  • Similarly, non-compliance or discharge of duties by the Protection Officer is also sought to be made an offence under the Act with similar punishment.

Section 498 A became part of the Criminal Law Act in 1983 to prevent matrimonial cruelty. It covers married women who face harassment in their marital homes.

Important Features

This Section defines ‘cruelty’ as –

  • Any conduct that is likely to drive a woman to suicide or which is likely to cause grave injury to the life, limb or health (whether mental or physical) of the woman
  • Harassment with the purpose of forcing the woman or her relatives to give property, or
    Harassment because the woman or her relatives are unable to yield to the demand for money or property.

Who can file a complaint?

An aggrieved woman along with a member of her family can lodge a complaint first with the police and then in Court.

How can you complain?

You need to go to the police station and inform them about the harassment and cruelty to you.
Under this Section, it is mandatory for the police to take action when a complaint is filed by a woman or her relatives.

The complaint is cognisable, which means that a First Information Report needs not be filed for the police to take action. –

  • investigate, and, if evidence is found, to file a charge sheet and arrest the accused; filing a complaint requires proof of abuse.
  • The complaint is non-bailable, which means that the accused will not be free by giving a bail amount. –

  • unlike in many other criminal laws, and because victims of dowry/cruelty can be easily intimidated by the accused husband or his relatives there is no provision for police bail, but bail can be obtained from a Magistrate if s/he feels that the accused is sufficiently warned against such intimidation.
  • The complaint is non-compoundable, i.e. once the wife or some one from her family files a complaint under Section 498a they cannot withdraw it. –

  • An important aspect of this Section is that it recognises that many married women are pressurised by their natal or marital families and by social opinion, in general, to withdraw a complaint of Cruelty.
  • Punishment

    If a husband or his relatives subject a woman to cruelty, they can face imprisonment for up to three years and also be fined.

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