Shouldn’t this be considered violence too?
“I make sure his meals are ready on time. His clothes are washed and ironed. His children are taken care of and happy. His living space is clean and comfortable. I even had another child because he wanted one more. I work so that he can continue to send money home to his parents in the village. What more does he want from me? Why does he still doubt me? Why is he still annoyed with me?” wailed my young housekeeper on my return from KL.
On further inquiry I learnt that apparently her husband had started passing snide remarks about knowing what she was up to all day in the house while he was at work. He said he could see how happy she was while he was away. He apparently resents the fact that she indulges in idle chit-chat with the chauffeur (who takes care of my father during the day). It is interesting to note that the driver is a friend of her husband’s. They are on family terms and have known each other for years.
She tried to explain to him that she has to go inside the house to give my father his meals, to do the cleaning and ironing, and the driver is there because my father now needs help with everything. What is she supposed to do? Not talk to him? When people work together, she said, they talk and sometimes they laugh. Is there something wrong with that? It is all quite innocent.
She was very upset that he had insinuated that she was flirting with the driver. She said “How can he even think that? He knows what kind of a woman I am. Why are my morals suspect all of a sudden?” He said she could go home to her mother if she wished.
Peace-loving as I am, I lost my cool completely. First of all, I have known this young woman for 7 years. She is a happy-go-lucky person who loves her husband and children and who has shown a lot of compassion to my father during his illness. She has never given her husband any reason to doubt her moral character. How dare he insult her like this? And did he think that if he sent her away, he would continue to avail the accommodation that we had provided them?
I was really upset. I could see what his annoyance had done to her. For several days she didn’t smile. Her eyes looked sad. He had robbed her of her dignity and her confidence in their marriage. She felt he had taken something very important away from her. I wanted to talk to him and yet I didn’t want to make things worse for her. This was between them and although I could offer her support, I did not want to interfere in her marriage.
But this did make me think about how “violence” can be more than just physical, how one person can cause such mental anguish in another. I remember another case where a man kept telling his newly married wife (who was a bright and confident young woman) how stupid she was, how incapable she was of doing the simplest things – to the extent that she began to rely on him for everything and became totally dysfunctional without him. She lost all confidence in her abilities and when he eventually left her, she was a shadow of a person who could neither function professionally, nor socially. Physical violence is something we recognize and talk about a great deal but what about this invisible thrashing that totally kills a person from the inside? Isn’t that an even worse kind of violence?