Stop asking ‘Why didn’t she leave?’ says Kiran Manral on Silicon Valley Domestic Violence Case
The wife of a Silicon Valley CEO reported long term domestic violence and abuse. Her husband, a software engineer who had emigrated to California in 2005 from India, and currently the CEO of Cuberon, got just two weeks in jail for the long term domestic violence he subjected his wife to.
The couple had had an arranged marriage, a concept both of them were comfortable with, given their roots in India. The trouble in their marriage cropped up a few months into their marriage and in 2013, he was arrested for assaulting her outside their home. She stayed on in the marriage. The violence in their marriage was so horrific, he has been recorded saying he would like to stab her 45 times, to see her murdered. He hit her multiple times, on her face, arms, stomach, pulled her by the hair, abused her with the filthiest abuses. Their daughter speaks on camera stating she is terrified of her father. He brainwashed her into believing she was a disgrace to the family and that she should commit suicide. It took years of video documentation of evidence of abuse before she gathered the courage to file a complaint against him. And then, did she get the justice she deserved?
There are the other voices that keep asking, with the nonchalance of those not in the same situation, “Why did she wait so long.?” Their implication, that the delay in complaining against the perpetrator puts the blame back on her, the victim. After the sentencing, she told the court, “I cannot articulate my despair at this treatment of his crimes. It’s as if we are giving him a slap on his wrist because he got caught,” she told the court, “I believe you have the power to restore some faith in my heart that I wasn’t completely made a fool of, by this criminal and the judicial system.” Her helplessness and despair is what many victims of domestic violence have to combat.
A hashtag on Twitter #WhyIStayed is a revelation about why many women feel unable to escape a domestic violence situation, even though they may be educated and financially independent. There are blocks to them leaving which aren’t always physical, which isn’t to discount the very physical threat to their well being and often their lives that domestic violence victims have to constantly battle. Often there is a gradual process of undermining their self confidence that makes them believe they are incapable of living alone, or without their abuser. They may have been consistently isolated from friends and family, and feel they have nowhere to go, no one to turn to. Often they might actually have no safe place to go to. In the course of an emotionally and/or physically abusive marriage, financial security is often an issue, most victims have no control over their finances and are dependent on the man for basic expenses, even those who might be earning enough and more.
According to some statistics, one in four women will experience domestic abuse in their marriage. Domestic violence is under reported. Victims are often isolated from anyone who could possibly help them, often victims who do leave are stalked by their former partners and spouses, some of them could be killed. Some may have internalized the negative talk they have been subjected to by their partners, making them believe they deserve the abuse they get. They tend to convince themselves that their behavior is what triggers the abuse. They pick up little positive incidents, few moments of tenderness and hold onto those as evidence that perhaps there is more to the relationship than only abuse and violence. Over time, their tolerance threshold increases. This rationalization of the abuse by the victim is what will give the perpetrator the backing to continue with and perhaps intensify the abuse, the victim and the perpetrator are now in situation which feeds off itself.
Physical abuse might not always begin with intense violence, it might begin with just a push or a shove or a restraining action and might escalate with time. Leaving is dangerous. It requires courage to actually up and leave. It is knowing that no one might take your accusations seriously, and despite video evidence, what your abuser might get would be the equivalent of a rap on his knuckles.
Asking a woman why she didn’t speak up before, why she didn’t leave, ignores the fact that domestic violence is not just physical abuse, but also psychological and emotional abuse. A woman in this situation has to not just plan her exit so she cannot be tracked down (incidentally 70 per cent of murders due to domestic violence happen when a woman leaves or tries to leave the relationship), but she also has to build herself emotionally and mentally as well as financially, to the level of strength that allows her to do so. Many domestic violence victims might try to speak up, complain, leave many times over before they finally are able to succeed. At the very least, as a society we can stop asking them these ridiculous questions when they finally do manage to do so.