Your body your rights

Published On: June 8, 2018 07:25 AM NPT By: KEYUR B

My mind often wanders back to that one ex-boyfriend that had the gall to hit me. It’s been more than eight years now but I sometimes still find myself thinking about how I let it happen in the first place. No matter how hard I try, I can never seem to recall how it started and how it escalated. All I remember is feeling really bad about myself after each episode. 

My skin would feel like it was crawling with ants every time he hit me but I was unable to stop it. A single word – sorry – would quickly erase all the hurt and I’d tell myself that that was the last time it happened, and he, the one I loved and the one who claimed to love me too, would never do it again. But he did, again and again, till I eventually walked away. 

And walking away was hard. It was the toughest thing I’d done till that point in my life. I knew a part of my life was over and to come to terms with it required immense strength, strength that I didn’t know I had in me. I sometimes still shudder when I think of it, and then, in the next instant, I get angry at myself for having let it go on for as long as it did. Six months, to be exact. 

I don’t know what made me put up with it all – his sarcastic remarks and comments, the constant rage, and the mania that followed. Maybe it was the belief (or hope) that things would change. They couldn’t (and wouldn’t) continue like that for too long. And it’s also extremely difficult to end a relationship. It’s no wonder many people choose to stay married for years even when things are clearly not how they want it to be. It will definitely be hard to call it quits with someone you vowed to spend the rest of your life with. 

When this guy first hit me, it was very difficult for me to wrap my head around it. I didn’t understand what was happening and why. And the first time I thought it would be a one off thing. What I didn’t realize until much later was that if someone flies into rage and has the tendency to use his hands and fists then it’s never going to be a one off incident. Just like saying ‘thank you’ and ‘please’ over time becomes a subconscious habit, so does hitting. Someone who does it once will do it again. It’s just the excuses that will be different. 

But what’s alarming is that it’s often the woman’s families who tell her to compromise or to silently put up with it. When I first started talking about being abused by a man I had been dating for almost five years, it was my family who told me to keep quiet about it, lest I tarnish their reputation. Even now when I sometimes choose to speak about my experiences there will be someone or the other telling me to forget the past and pretend like it never happened. 

It’s this mindset that largely dominates our societies. I know many girls who are told not to wear short clothes by their mothers, and their fathers and brothers tell them to act like a girl (whatever that means) and not be so feisty and opinionated. Hardly are the boys, the sons, told to behave well or taught to treat women with respect. And, sadly, oftentimes kids also grow up seeing their fathers ill-treat their mothers and their mothers silently putting up with it. So, for them, it becomes a norm. And it is this thought process that becomes the basis of their relationships later on as well. One can imagine how things will turn out to be. 

But, despite being told to keep quite and let bygones be bygones, I choose to talk about it, to make it more socially acceptable to do so. And I believe the more women choose to do that, the easier it’s going to be to fight what goes on behind closed doors. Because abuse and violence aren’t things that can be done away with just awareness and stronger reinforcement of laws, though these things would definitely help. It will only be curbed when the women themselves take the matter into their hands. 

I know that’s easier said than done but I also know that we have to start somewhere. If one person talking about it can lead to a conversation, then imagine what can be accomplished when one person in each family starts talking about it. And it’s not like everyone who talks about it needs to have gone through it herself either. If you think about it, everyone knows someone who has been through some sort of abuse, mental, physical or both. It’s time we started treating these cases as crimes and not as something that’s a part and parcel of life in a patriarchal society.

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