In Focus 21st December, 2018

A Conversation on Emotional Violence: Can We Move Beyond Whataboutery?.

Physical violence is not the only form of domestic violence. When we say domestic violence, we immediately picture a woman covered with cuts and bruises all over her body, as an outcome of her husband’s abuse. We assume that domestic violence only involves physical violence. But what we don’t realize is the emotional trauma the woman is subjected to. Domestic violence includes emotional violence as well. A video on domestic violence by Breakthrough India highlights how a husband’s behaviour is violent towards his wife even though it never takes a physical form.

The video highlights the various ways in which the man induces fear in his wife, by assuming aggressive superiority over her through threatening gestures and intimidating advances. The husband takes advantage of the woman’s fear and uses it to exercise power and control over her. The aim of this video is to understand how emotional violence can be as harmful as physical violence and has an impact on the survivor’s well-being.

After this video was released on Twitter, it received mixed responses from people. Some people claimed the video to be a misandric move, a man-hating contempt by feminists, whereas others commented about men being victims of domestic violence. While the video highlighted the wife’s torment, a majority of the audience chose to not focus on this particular message. The message was not to emphasize that only women are victims of domestic abuse, rather how emotional violence is perpetrated through threats and intimidation and should be considered domestic violence.

The pattern of comments made by viewers attacking the video’ agenda is an important issue to discuss. It is important because the subject and direction of the conversations today have changed from addressing the issue at hand to whataboutery. Especially, when it comes to issues like domestic violence. It is true that men too are victims of domestic violence and that it’s important to acknowledge that. However, it is essential that we understand that we live in a patriarchal society, where women are structurally more vulnerable to discrimination and violence. Within the current context, it’s largely women who are on the receiving end of domestic violence.

We address the social problems of women more than men because it is women who are subjected to violence and discrimination more than men in our society. This is how patriarchy works. Since the social status of women is not at par with men, it leads to discrimination in terms of opportunities and life choices and violence. Talking about women’s rights and welfare does not mean that men’s welfare should not be considered. They are not mutually exclusive.

The fact that every issue today is addressed using counter accusations is a problem that we have to critically look at. How can we arrive at solutions when the conversation is diverted away from the problem?

My answer is that we need to look beyond ‘what ifs’ and pay attention to ‘what is’. Should women be convicted of domestic violence if the roles were reversed? Absolutely! Domestic violence of any sort is intolerable regardless of the gender of the perpetrator. It’s time we recognise emotional violence. The torture of living in constant fear is extremely traumatic and impacts a person’s well-being. And, yet we continue to reduce violence to its physical manifestations.

However, despite the radical views expressed against the video in the comments section, there were people who understood and supported the cause that the video had to convey. It is important to identify the consequences of domestic violence and address the various forms of violence.

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