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Why Are We So Afraid?

by Sabrin

Through my work in gender abuse issues, I’ve noticed people responding in very different ways whenever I bring up my work or talk about domestic violence.  Some people change the topic and get uncomfortable, while others talk about it sarcastically, at times even jokingly.  Which brings me to my main question:  Why are people so uncomfortable about asking questions or speaking out about domestic violence issues? And why especially in the South Asian community does it remain such a taboo topic?


PriyobhashiniFeb 20 2008 - -

South Asian people generally emphasis a lot on reputation. A man's reputation and name usually is one of the most important things in his life. And he will hang on to it with the last thread of his life. For South Asian women the need for this good reputation is even more important (due to the way society abuses the self worth of women). On those lines, people are very reluctant to reveal anything in public that might tarnish that name of theirs. You will now ask why someone else abusing one, would give the victim a bad name? It works this way: Women are reluctant to give that bad name to their abusers who are usually close relatives. Also invariably in a closed society, dominated by men...the meanings of actions are often distorted, hence a guy will love to say that if a woman is beaten (for eg) then there MUST be a reason for that to happen (there is no fire without a smoke) ...thus very cleverly reversing the tables on the victim. If this word gets around this woman will face more hell and hence the reluctance to even trigger such a stupid cycle of events that hurts no one more but the victim. And no victim wants to hurt twice. Generally speaking that's why many women avoid even talking about it. Besides women in south asia are groomed to deny themselves their self worth, hence they are themselves constantly fighting about their own worth within themselves and so has little confidence to be able to accuse the real perpetrator/ abuser. Also in this culture men and women aloud are groomed to not ask questions. Blind faith in matters is what sustains this kind of a society. Hence the reluctance and discomfort in speaking about such topics that generally come to be realised as "taboo". (Perhaps) in western societies people generally have an attitude now to care for themselves before others (a crude reality). They don't mind revealing themselves as victims and facing the consequences if the family denies them or it becomes impossible to live in that same enclosure because they are used to living separately, by themselves. In Asia people generally sustain for a bigger picture - the family name and reputation. People tend to sacrifice caring for themselves to care for parents, families etc. This attitude also generally leads to them caring more for the "reputation" of the family that could effect others rather than thinking of themselves. So all in all, we deny ourselves that these things matter by not talking about it for the above, and many other reasons. Ofcourse lastly and most importantly we must not forget that talking about the truth and facing the enemy requires a lot of inner strength. We are not always taught to use our strength in that day. Well, that's what I think generally.

Neeraj SatyanarayanaFeb 20 2008 - -

I completely agree with Priyobhashini. The combination of the importance of reputation with the domination of men in south asian society leads to the avoidance of the subject of domestic violence. Even in America where these two qualities are somewhat subdued in the younger generations of south asians, the subject of domestic violence still causes alot of discomfort. I think this is due in large part to denial. Many people think that domestic violence does not exist in our generation or is not as bad as some people claim it is. Adding to this haze is the fact that most victims avoid discussing their problem with friends and family. I think the only way to push past this taboo is with continuous inundation of the issue. Only when people as forced to realize that this is a problem and exists in our culture even overseas will they come to take it seriously.

MehvashFeb 20 2008 - -

i absolutely agree. in our culture these things are not spoken about and since there is still a very old world way of thinking women somehow think that the abuse is their fault. they were asking for it. they were somehow in the wrong. it's all backed up by a very paternalistc social circle we live in. look at our gatherings, the women and the men automatically separate themselves, they never discuss amongst each other. that itself is a problem. when it's taboo for men and women to talk to each other about mundane things how do families discuss such a difficult topic? it's barriers like these that we continually have to break down.

SabrinFeb 21 2008 - -

I think another reason such issues preside in the South Asian community is because people are afraid to even ask questions because of gossiping. In my experience, a lot of times when women want to attend outreach seminars or just learn more about the issue, they are afraid their neighbors will automatically assume that they are having problems at home. Which goes back to the whole "keeping the honor" idea that prevails in South Asian homes. It seems that keeping silent is the honorable thing to do for a woman. Well is it honorable for a man to abuse a woman in the first place?

HimaunshuFeb 22 2008 - -

I agree with the Priyobhashini in that “Blind faith in matters is what sustains this kind of a society.” Since the abuser is usually a husband or father or some other older family member it is hard to say anything. In a society where the blind acceptance of what is told to you and the inability to question authority it is hard for the abused to stand up and say “this is wrong” because no one will listen. More than the abused it is the fault of others who know it is going on and not do anything about it. “All it takes for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” - Edmund Burke

yellowFeb 24 2008 - -

It's not always easy to understand why victims remain in abusive relationships, especially from the outside. It's incomprehensible for others that the victim even be with someone who abuses her, let alone love someone who abuses her. Some point to the dependency that the victim feels, thanks to the abuser's convinction that she is worthless to everyone but him as a reason (which is interpreted as love by the victim). Others suggest that the victim has been brainwashed into thinking that the abuse is deserved and thus they stay, hoping that some day she'd be 'good enough' for him to stop beating her. Sometimes, the alternative may be far worse. If she leaves, perhaps the repercussions would be grave and would involve defamation tactics implemented by the abuser as punishment for leaving him. In many cases, the 'abuse' results from what the abuser calls 'love'. Hence, the abuser does not let the victim leave. If she wants to, the abuser would almost definitely threaten her with dire repercussions. All of these would contribute to her shutting up about the abuse. But what about others? Those who are not victims. Why do they shy away from talking about DV? Culture? Maybe. Or maybe because they don't realize that it still happens in this day and age among the educated elites of our society. It is seen as something that happens in the slums of Kamlapur Station. Not among the people they hob nob with. Or maybe because they don't want to know. They don't want to take responsibility. If someone says, 'my husband slapped me', it's easier for the response to be 'sometimes we all get a slap or two' than to find out what happened because it would mean that if it's serious, they'd have to do soemthing about it. Often, people don't want to get into such 'messy situations'. At the end of the day, many believe, that victims cannot be helped unless they want to be helped. But what about the situation where the victim doesn't even realize that she is a victim? What about the ones who don't know who to turn to? What about the ones who are always in the presence of the abuser/his family? Aren't those instances where others should intervene?

help meFeb 26 2008 - -

I am a victim of violence. My husband was arrested and now he is out on bail. The court date is a few days later. Many people know and he is now angry because I told on him. I am scared and I want to save my marriage. I need to know if he can file a defamation case against me for being honest. The hearing is in a family court and I will tell the judge that I don't want to proceed with the case. I need to know whether he would be able to file a defamation case against me if I tell the judge that I don't want to press charges. I have a baby. I can't raise him on my own.

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