Shouldn’t this be considered violence too?

August 15, 2009 at 9:03 am 7 comments

“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?

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7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Sawant Shah  |  August 15, 2009 at 11:58 am

    In my observation, men (and even women – in the case of a mother-in-law demoting and insinuating her d-i-l, etc) do such things when they are either indulging in the same thing themselves, or if they have in the past. All one needs to do in such a scenario is to show that person a mirror!

    It also occurs due to their own low self-esteem. They can’t see their better half being better than them. It’s a kind of jealousy. “How come she be happier than me? There must be something fishy!” … “How can she be more intelligent or professional than me? That would so devalue my own dignity!” Basically, we humans tend to be insecure, be it in professional life or in personal relationships! And if one lets this insecurity take root in a person’s heart … it could destroy the best of relationships! It could be devastating to both, the person himself and the one he/she is feeling insecure from.

    I feel the best thing to do in such situations is to talk to the person. Let them know that they ‘are’ important … that they don’t need to be afraid of someone else being happier; someone else getting the promotion/pay raise; someone else being socially/professionally more successful.

    A little love, a little compassion and a little talk, can do wonders in soothing hurt egos, in mending broken relationships.


    Clearly, the husband is at fault here. Jealousy (and insecurity) has the tendency to destroy a person, the relationship, the home! But to keep the relationship going, someone has to got to talk to him. And I feel your maid (his wife) is the best person to do that. She is the only one who can make him feel secure, or may be someone else who is close to them.

  • 2. Shouldn’t this be considered violence too? | Tea Break  |  August 15, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    […] This cup of tea was served by: In the Line of Wire […]

  • 3. mirpuri  |  August 15, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    i hope you had her permission to write this here, i suppose not every one would want to let the whole world know about their personal matters……………… just a thought.

  • 4. Fariha Akhtar  |  August 15, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    Sigh..this is one of the worst forms of mental abuse and a very common one. What is even worse is that it’s not that only married women who get subjected to it. For men, it’s the most convenient form of slow poisoning any woman they have differences with.

  • 5. Fariha Akhtar  |  August 15, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    Reading Sawant’s comment makes me rephrase my own a little – it’s NOT only men who subject women to such abuse but also other women. It can be a result of their own insecurities as Sawant points out! The least we can do in this regard is to avoid spreading gossip that can lead to finger pointing on someone’s moral character.

  • 6. Jehan  |  August 15, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    @Sawant you are right. And you know I don’t want it to seem that I am targeting men. It’s just that in a male dominated society, women usually are at the receiving end – from husbands, mothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, sometimes their own family.

    As I said, I didn’t interfere and fortunately her husband is not a bad sort. She was able to talk to him and reassure him and they are now back to being on good terms. However, the last couple of weeks were tough for her.

    @mirpuri Thank you for pointing that out. That is why I haven’t used their names or their photos. Very few people know where I live so are unlikely to know her. I did mention to her that I was going to use her story as a case study. I don’t think she understood but she smiled. I don’t think she cares because no-one she knows can read or has a computer.

  • 7. Jehan  |  August 15, 2009 at 4:54 pm

    @Fariha yes that is true. Some people use it as a weapon unfortunately to ruin a woman’s reputation or just to harrass her. Possibly it is insecurity or perhaps it is simple nastiness.


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