A former vice-chairperson of the state women commission had once commented that most crimes against women in Arunachal Pradesh go unreported. This should unfortunately come as little surprise to most people. Like everywhere else in the country, crimes of any kind committed against women fail to find anything besides public sympathy. Sometimes, at least in Arunachal Pradesh, even sympathy is difficult to find as victims of crimes such as rape, domestic violence and molestation are often thought of as someone who “probably gave the man/men some reason to behave as such.” It is not the crime per se that haunts a woman as much as the social stigmatization that follows after having suffered and endured such crimes that compel women to keep quiet about their ordeals and suffer in silence. And while much is frequently discussed about the survivors of rape and molestation in the media, the victims of domestic violence do not get the attention that they deserve. Their issues remain at the back of parking space unattended by any valet.
What is it about the act of domestic violence that makes women endure so much while remaining so silent? What is it that makes a woman stay with her abuser suffering for decades, sometimes till the remaining of her days?
There are several reasons for such behaviour. Very often the victim loves the abusers and the abuser is not always violent. Sometimes the victim fears the abusers, believing the abuser to be almost “godlike.” Often threats are made against the victim, for example, the abuser will kill the victim if the beatings are reported to anyone. Police, in the victim’s eyes, offer no long-term protection from the abuser. Even if it is a neighbour who reports such incidences, the abuser may take it out on the victim later. Often when the police come, the victim will not admit to the battering. The victim may be economically dependent on the abuser and, not having a marketable job skill, the victim has no realistic alternative to the abuser’s financial support. Sometimes, as is often the case in our society, socialization and/or religious or cultural beliefs demand that the victim maintain the facade of a good marriage. Even if the victim were to leave the abuser and seek separation or divorce, in our state, it is always the woman who is viewed as being morally lose and not caring enough for the family. More often than not it is to avoid this stigmatization that victims tend to stay on with the abuser, living in quiet desperation. Only when society is willing and open enough to change its ways of how it views a victim can incidences of domestic violence stop. Until then all we can do is hope that these women find the courage to report such incidences in future.