When will the evil that is domestic violence be stopped?
For the past six months, the coronavirus has stolen the spotlight from almost every pressing issue in society, and unfortunately, an offense that usually remains hidden is now left unseen more than ever. That offense is domestic violence.
There is a global misconception that only being physically assaulted and abused by one’s partner amounts to domestic violence. After asking a good number of people as to what people consider as violence against them, it has been corroborated by Catalyse (Singapore) that domestic violence is any violent, threatening, or coercive and controlling behaviour that occurs in current or former family, domestic, or intimate relationships. It encompasses physical, sexual, emotional, and psychological abuse, economic control, social isolation, and any other behaviour that may cause a person to live in fear.
With regards to this definition, it is not necessarily true that victims of such violence are always women -- men and children could also be sufferers of toxic relationships (present or former) and be severely impacted. Illnesses such as depression and anxiety are amongst the myriad of problems experienced by the victims and are enumerated in a non-exhaustive list. However, when compared to women, men do not experience violence to the same extent, primarily because men have more resources to walk out of an abusive relationship.
Plausibly the biggest reason for greater numbers of women suffering domestic violence is limited resources and financial dependability. This could be because of smaller jobs or lesser wages, resulting in no alternate means of accommodation. According to the American Psychological Association, “frustration, poverty, exposure to violent media, violence in the home or neighbourhood” could be some of the reasons for domestic violence.
Apposite several surveys, a huge number of the world’s population witnessed some form of domestic violence at least once in their life. In India, the numbers are as high as 70% while developed countries like Switzerland and Canada reported figures like 21% and 29% respectively. A joint research conducted by ActionAid Bangladesh and Jatiyo Nari Nirjaton Protirodh Forum reported that around 66% of women are facing domestic violence yearly in Bangladesh.
The current pandemic has only worsened this crisis, and domestic abuse followed by death has only risen. This is primarily due to the restrictions on movement and as per Marianne Hester (Bristol University sociologist), domestic abuse rises when families come together for a long time. Secretary General of the UN, António Guterres took to Twitter urging “all governments to put women’s safety first as they respond to the pandemic.”
From a legal point of view, there are laws in every country that detest domestic violence or “intimate terrorism” (a phrase that has been coined during the lockdown). In the US, Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act in 1994 and its 1996 amendments recognize domestic violence as a national crime. Recently, Bangladesh established the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act under s.10 of which, the victim has every right to reside in the shared family home while s.14 states that courts may “issue a protection order in favour of the victim and issue order restraining the respondent” from committing certain crimes including domestic violence.
Support at work
Employers and supervisors can play a vital role in the protection of their employees/colleagues who are facing domestic violence by a simple step of paying attention. Often, people who are facing violence end up working long hours because home seems like the deadliest place to them.
On the face of it, it seems beneficial to the company, since the victim is working more hours than they normally would. However, it is crucial to note that their mental status will only cause their work to be inefficient. This will not only harm the firm they work at, but also the entire economy as a whole.
Hence, counselling and advising them about their first step and supporting them throughout would be the best course of action. Awareness campaigns can be carried out through advertisements to let the victims know about their rights and not to hide, which they usually do for the sake of their family’s honour. Furthermore, medication and accommodation providers alongside free counselling and psychiatric therapy can be set up for the victims in order to help them understand that it is not the end of the world, and they can get freedom and peace.
Two things should be done simultaneously without delay. At the present time, the law must be enforced appropriately to ensure abusers’ punishment. As for the future generation, it is important that we educate them properly.
We should enrich our children with necessary social knowledge, teach them to remain calm and positive in negative situations, and find decent options to deal with adverse situations.
It is evident that victims of domestic violence are desperately crying out for help without being heard, and it is high time that the sincerest of us take charge and root out domestic violence from society.
Anusha Islam Raha is a graduate of LLB (Hons) from BPP University, UK. She is currently studying LLM and pursuing her career as a teacher.