07 Why do Women remain in Abusive Marriages? - Fr. Joshan Rodrigues

posted Oct 3, 2018, 10:06 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Oct 3, 2018, 10:07 AM ]
I've been doing some catching up lately, watching some of the more interesting Bollywood flicks that I've missed in the last three years. Three of these which caught my attention were Aamir Khan's 'Secret Superstar', 'Two States' and 'Half Girlfriend'; the latter two being based on Chetan Bhagat's best-selling books with the same titles. The reason why these films caught my attention is because all three showcase marital violence, abuse and wife-beating. And in all three films, the spouse meekly endures the violence at the hands of her husband, instead of fighting back and maybe even separating herself from her husband. They do this for various reasons, including protecting their children and the family name, and because they are financially dependent on their husbands. What's interesting is that in two of these films, the son/daughter is shown, time and again, pleading with their mother to leave her husband and get a divorce. One minor child actually goes to the length of approaching a lawyer all by herself, and requesting her help to initiate divorce proceedings on behalf of her mother, only to be scolded by her mother when she hears what her daughter has done.

Marital violence baffles me. It baffles me to think that a man can raise his hand on his wife (or any woman for that matter), whom he promised to love and protect on the day of his marriage under a divine oath in God's house. There can be no more 'lowly' man than one who abuses and violates his own family. And I'm sure there's a special place reserved in the darkest corners of hell for people like these. I use strong words here, because the home is supposed to be a sanctuary where people feel protected, loved, and encouraged to realise their most perfect selves. Let me clarify that marital violence is not only physical, but more prominently, emotional and verbal. One spouse suffers silently for the sake of her marriage and family, while the other vitiates the trust and bond that brought them together in Holy Matrimony.

The second reason why this is baffling is the reaction/attitude of the wife in these situations. The logical thing to do in situations where one is exposed to regular and sustained abuse would be to fight back or leave (the fight or flight response). However, I must confess that these laws don't always apply to relationships. I would never be able to fully understand what a person in this situation has to go through, and their reasons for staying. I guess that she understands her marital vows and her commitment far more profoundly than the spouse who is inflicting violence. I personally do not agree with women enduring physical violence for the sake of their marriage and kids, but in situations when they are free to make choices, it should be their decision to make.

So why do women stay in abusive relationships?

1. Fear - Women in violent relationships can be traumatised by the fear of emotional and bodily harm that they may have to face, if they decide to leave. The abuser keeps her trapped in a cycle of violence, all the time threatening that it will get worse, if she leaves or decides to stand up to him. Women fear that their life will become a living nightmare if they decide to leave. They choose the lesser evil.