When husbands are victims of domestic violence
By Dhwani Desai
Dec 8, 2013
Sat in a chair and beaten by his wife as their help watched — this is what former James Bond stuntman Eddie Kidd endured for years at the hands of his wife Samantha.
After his wife was jailed, he told a British newspaper, “She had started drinking heavily and would slap me, punch me, strangle me and say horrible things. As a man, to be beaten by your wife is desperately humiliating and, in a way, shameful.” Eddie was left unable to walk after suffering injuries from a bike stunt gone wrong, and his wife called him a “f****** spastic” in fits of drunken rage.
Spousal abuse is a serious problem that is not just faced by women. While news of dowry-related harassment and crimes against women are reported extensively in the media, there are a growing number of men who are at the receiving end of harassment, and face physical and psychological abuse at the hands of their wives. What’s worse, the humiliation and shame of this act going public forces them to keep mum. Eddie found justice when his wife was arrested on charges of domestic abuse, but men in India are not as lucky, says Rukma Chary, general secretary, Save Indian Family Foundation.
“Domestic violence against men in India is not recognized by the law. The general perception is that men cannot be victims of violence. This helps women get away scot-free,” says Rukma, who has been accused of domestic violence and dowry harassment, among other offences, by his estranged wife. Terming this ‘legal terrorism’, as the judiciary almost always favours the woman, he adds, “Domestic violence cases are supposed to be resolved in six months, but this never happens. Once a case is filed, the husband has to attend every hearing — which takes place once every 10 days — otherwise he is viewed as the wrongdoer in the court’s eyes. Mind you, there are no questions raised if the woman doesn’t attend hearings.”
In recent years, there has been a spurt in the number of men who have been physically abused by their wives. Although the trauma may be the same, the methods of inflicting abuse vary. “Men are stronger and hit their wives, but women, in many cases, ask another man — their brother, father, friend or hired goons — to assault their husbands,” explains Anil Kumar, a social researcher. Society isn’t sympathetic to harassed men; being beaten up by one’s wife invites mockery and jokes, and men who speak out about their woes are considered ‘unmanly’.
Like women, men also find it hard to get out of abusive relationships, but Anil feels that the situation is worse for men, as they not only fear being away from their children, but are also worried about a false dowry case being filed against them. Men who are accused of domestic violence get marginalized by society and even friends and family turn their backs on them. Rukma believes that for men, it is huge emotional battle, one which proved to be too much for one Bangalore resident. Manoj Kumar approached the police after he was assaulted by his wife, and the cops not only ridiculed him, but said that they will call his wife and ask her to file a case against him. Manoj took his own life.
Thirty three-year-old Santosh Raj was faced with a similar predicament, but chose to fight instead. His world came crashing down when three months into his marriage, his wife hired goons, who not only attacked him, but also beat up his parents, brothers and sister. “My wife accused me of impotency and demanded money. If I was impotent, then she would have come to know on the first night itself; why did she have to wait for three months? She demanded 1 crore for a divorce. My father somehow brought this amount down to 35 lakh. As per the arrangement, 15 lakh was paid and the remaining amount was to be paid after the divorce was finalized. But they soon started asking for the remaining amount. I knew that they wouldn’t stop harassing me if I gave them 20 lakh, so I went underground for some time,” says Santosh.
Abuse against men is no laughing matter. The Save Indian Family Foundation meets once a week and every week, 4-5 new people attend these meetings. The demands of all harassed men are simply this: There must be a misuse clause added to the Domestic Violence Act and the law must be genderneutral, so that women can’t falsely accuse their husbands.
Why men suffer in silence
- Protect children: Just like women, men worry that leaving their spouses will harm their children or prevent them from having access to them. Obtaining custody of children is always challenging for fathers, as is the prospect of raising them alone.
- Feel ashamed: Many men feel ashamed at being beaten by a woman, or feel that they have failed in their role as a protector and provider for the family.
- Fear of cases: The biggest fear in Indian men is being slapped with a dowry harassment case. Not only is it hard to shake off the social stigma that comes with being charged with such an act, but the cases also tend to drag on for years and are almost always in the woman’s favour.
- Parental pressure: Even today, most men continue to live with their parents even after getting married. When differences arise, parents generally step in and can sometimes make matters worse with their own demands.
- Denial: Just as with female domestic violence victims, denying that there is a problem only prolongs the abuse. Men believe that they can help or change their abuser, but change can only happen once the abuser takes full responsibility for her behaviour and seeks professional treatment.
*Names changed on request
Source: Times of India