Muffled Voices: Women Share Stories of Domestic Violence
Domestic violence: A crime we taught ourselves to forgive.
Producer: Hiba Beg
Interviews: Hiba Beg, Navleen Kaur Lakhi, Shreya Biswas
Cameraperson: Sanjoy Deb
Assistant Cameraperson: Gautam Sharma
Editor: Ashish Maccune
Graphics: Erum Gour, Ashish Maccune
(This was first published on 4 March 2020. It has been republished from The Quint’s archives after 22-year-old Vismaya, a victim of domestic violence, was found dead in her husband’s house in Kerala. )
(Trigger Warning: Descriptions of sexual assault and physical violence. Viewer caution is advised.)
When it comes to oppression, women have been taught to keep mum and “tolerate” things. 283 cases of cruelty towards the wife by the husband or his relatives are reported in India every day, on average, according to 2018 NCRB data. Domestic violence in India is a reality we have learnt to accept. We spoke to a few women who shared their stories of pain.
“I couldn't tell my brother anything because it was a part of our wedding vows to not tell anybody what goes on between the two of us. Within the first month of marriage, I became extremely suicidal because he used to control everything in my life – what time I wake up, what I eat, what I wear. I was without a phone for several months. He had made me chew up my sim-card. He also made me chew up my ATM card. He made me delete all my social media accounts, all my email IDs so that I couldn't communicate with anybody without him knowing. And then ultimately he convinced me that whatever he was making me do was for my own good.
I felt really guilty about bad-mouthing him to my brother. So I confessed to him that I had called him a monster. And he asked me what I want to do to make up for it, and I said, ‘Anything.’ So he asked me to take my clothes off, and after he stripped me, he made me do sit-ups. He asked me to do two-hundred of them but I could only do fifty and after that I begged for mercy. And while I was doing the sit-ups, he was recording me on a phone.
It was Diwali morning, and he decided that there is nothing better we can do right now, so he must impregnate me, and that's the only way to tame me. And so he raped me that morning.”
“The time I got married, I devoted myself to my husband. I started learning things which would make him and his family happy. And to make him happy means to take permission for every small and big thing.
There are still people in our society who cannot believe that a husband can rape his wife. There have been nights where I have been slapped, beaten up because I refused to have sex. And I don't know what people would like to call it when I am begging and crying that I am not ready for it, that I cannot have it, I don't want to do it and your husband is on top of you, he needs to do it.”
“Initially, I did not notice it but what he was doing was that he wasn't letting me spend time with my family and friends at all. I remember when he put me on the floor and he just kicked me in the stomach and it was just physically unbearable to take that. So humans have survival instinct, right? So my body wanted to stop him from hitting me, and that's why there was no other way other than hitting him back because I was trying to survive that situation.
This whole stigma of a woman should not be alone, girls should never be alone, so she can be with a monster, she can sleep with a monster every night and she can spend her entire life getting oppressed by a person sleeping right next to her, but she can't be alone. Like a middle-class person I can come here, I can talk about it, and I can go to a therapist after a break-up, I can heal myself which millions of women don't have the privilege to do. I mean I don't know we live in a society where if he talks about rape, everybody wants the blood of rapists - ‘Hang them, get them killed on the road, castrate them.’ Rape is the most heinous crime but domestic violence is okay. I mean both are non-consensual, all violence is non-consensual, so why is rape worthy of capital punishment and domestic violence of, ‘No, please stick with him. He'll be okay, he'll be fine, you'll be fine.’?
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