Do you tolerate abuse?


NOT JUST IN INDIA, NOT JUST AMONGST THE WORKING CLASS  Women in India suffer horrific abuse – physical and sexual abuse that is so violent we cringe when we read it. Urban Indian women can’t imagine that level of aggression in their own lives. What they don’t know is that psychological abuse is just as common and much harder to recognize. And yes, domestic violence happens outside India too. Even a woman as successful and confident as Nigella Lawson isn’t safe from abuse.

Violence and abuse affect women from all kinds of backgrounds every day. Sometimes, women are attacked by strangers, but most often they are hurt by people who are close to them. Violence and abuse can cause terrible physical and emotional pain.” This quote is from a US website. Aishwarya Rai having her arm broken by her boyfriend of the time, Salman Khan, was a shocking instance of high profile abuse here in India. It seems that neither education, nor money make a difference. Women are abused across borders. How does this happen?

SUDDENLY AN ABUSER isn’t as though a man turns abuser overnight. Women who are abused have been laying the foundations for the man to get away with it from the beginning of the relationship. If you lose yourself in the relationship, if you say YES, when you mean no, and if your man becomes more important to you than anything else on earth, you’re paving the way for him to turn abusive. And it will kill your relationship. He may not put his hands around your neck and try to choke you, but he will choke your spirit. He will do this by passing unflattering comments about your appearance or your work, or your attitude to life.

NOT FEEDBACK   I’m not talking about feedback. Friends give each other feedback. Siblings give each other feedback. It’s given with sensitivity, being careful not to hurt the other person’s feelings. If you hurt someone’s feelings and refuse to see it or to apologise you’re being abusive. If you hurt their feelings and then tell them they’re oversensitive, you’re being abusive.

JUSTIFYING NOT TAKING A STAND  Educated Indian women are so used to being treated like this that they accept it as the norm. They justify spouse and boyfriend behavior that is unacceptable – saying  “They’re like this only.” They’re not like this only. We let them be like this only. Urban Indian women only accept that something is wrong when the abuse turns physical. That’s when they put their foot down. Sometimes.

WOMEN WHO LOVE TOO MUCH We don’t need to let it go that far. When the emotional abuse starts – being unavailable, being inconsiderate, being dismissive – that’s when we can tackle it. Say you’re not going to put up with it. Be prepared to leave the relationship if need be. Because you’re worth it ! (to paraphrase the sickening L’Oreal ad for hair colour). Read Women who love too much – check if you have relationship addiction. And follow the 12 step program out of it. Because you’re worth it 😉

THE MAJORITY OF INDIAN WOMEN What about women who can’t read? Who haven’t been educated? Look around you, you’ll find many women in abusive relationships if you open your eyes.  I have given more than one woman the courage and self confidence to change her life.

A young 20 year old housekeeper who worked for me began to show unmistakable signs of being pregnant. Friends and neighbours said –

“ Sack her. How dare she.”

Instead I talked to her, she told me who the father was.

“A policeman I met at church. “

“Will your parents organize a wedding? “

(Having a baby out of wedlock in India is unheard of, specially in the villages where she would be ostracized and driven out.)

From her scared look it was clear that she didn’t dare broach the subject to them. My doctor said she was 8 months pregnant.

We asked her to bring the young man to meet us. He was reluctant. It took her three weeks to persuade him, but she finally managed. Between us my husband and I played good cop, bad cop. I wasn’t the bad cop. The boyfriend was Hindu – so I don’t know how he’d met her at church – but they agreed on Hindu nuptials. We found a priest and organized the wedding the next day in our home. She called her friends and cooked the wedding feast all day before changing into her finery.

The baby was born the week after the wedding.

And they lived happily ever after. Honest. They visit often – she stopped working as they moved to police accommodation and she didn’t want to commute.

You may not be able to rush into the villages of India to bring about change but you can look around and initiate change in the lives of people you meet every day. The most important thing to do is to take a long hard look at yourself and ensure that you aren’t tolerating an abusive relationship believing you’re more mature, more spiritual and more understanding than your guy. Real spirituality means taking care of yourself. It means not tolerating abuse in any form in your life, or the lives of anyone you are in contact with.

It isn’t just men who have to make a promise to treat women with respect. Women have to treat themselves with respect. Women have to treat other women with respect. That’s how we can ring in the change together.

I pledge to treat every woman I meet with respect and to ensure I am respected in my own interactions. I will not tolerate or justify disrespect.

How about you? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments section.

This has been written as a part of  the Bell Bajao initiative Ring the Change at



About Kalpana

Trying to change the world one blog post at a time. I write. It's the best thing I can do. I am the Hanged Man, the Fool, the sometime Magician. Whether I travel in my imagination or in real life I write about it and show you pictures either through my photography or through the pictures I paint with my words. I read books and write fiction. During working hours I teach English as an Additional Language. I edit.

Posted on June 18, 2013, in abuse and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Nice post and you are right, it happens to women everywhere.

  2. Thank you so much for this! It really touched me right at home especially since I have been in a pattern of being stuck in relationships where I always held up my part of the relationship so much more than the men I was with. Thank you and keep up the great work by spreading so much knowledge!

  3. I also shared this, on Twitter and Facebook. I am saddened that this is a reality for so many Indian women, but I am glad to be educated. Thank you for raising this issue.

  4. I am sharing this, more people, specially women should read this.

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