He would control every move of mine - what to do, who to see, what to wear. He hated it when I saw my family.

I am British my Indian husband used to thrash humiliate meImage for representation
Features Domestic Violence Saturday, March 21, 2015 - 05:30

"Domestic violence is demeaning and demoralizing. You live like you are walking on eggshells, waiting for the next volcanic eruption.

Avoiding eye contact, doing whatever is asked. Speaking softly, acting childish. Trying not to trigger anything that will cause an explosion. But you don’t know what that trigger is."

In a country where domestic violence in all its forms- physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal and emotional abuse and economic abuse- is rampant, a significant population of married women often find themselves at the receiving end. One common question that often seems to arise out of such discussions is why victims/survivors don’t quit such abusive relationships? The answers are many and complex, and perhaps there is no straight answer.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, and we bring to you a series of personal accounts of survivors of domestic violence who speak about their experiences and how they chose to react. 

Maria Anderson*  

I’m a British national who married an Indian man. We met when he was at university in the UK. A mutual friend introduced us and we were in a relationship for about two years before we got married. He was in India for one of those years. 

It began in the form of verbal abuse. About six months after we got together, he started indulging in name-calling. It was very upsetting for me. He would tell me that I’m beautiful on the inside but fat on the outside. He’d suddenly ignore me for days at a time.

It then became physical. He’d throw objects at me.

Once, he threw a microwave, that was boiling rice, at me. He ripped it from the wall and flung it at me. I was six months pregnant at that time.

I was in an emotionally vulnerable state in those days. I used to think I was not attractive to the outside world and that it was only my husband who loved me. I clung to that idea. Stupidly. 

He never apologized for what he did, not fully. When he was physically violent, he would apologize once in a while but he’d still make it seem as if the issue was my fault. I’d end up apologizing to him because he’d ignore me till I did so.

The verbal abuse was a constant feature. He’d talk to me like I was stupid and uneducated. He had a BE and an MBA but although I was in a well-paying job, I had no qualifications to match him.

He would control every move of mine - what to do, who to see, what to wear. He hated it when I saw my family. I stopped meeting my friends because he’d say that they were "using" me.

The first time he hit me was over the top of my son’s cot. It was dark and he claimed that he didn't know it was me. He knew exactly what he was doing but I believed him.

His family knew what was happening.

But I didn't tell mine. I was too ashamed to tell them. They did know how unhappy I was though. My sister once saw some bruises on my arm where he’d grabbed me so tightly and dug his nails in, cutting into my skin. I managed to cover up with a lie. I told my best friend towards the end but mostly, I kept silent. 

I decided to leave this man because of what he did to me in front of my son. One day, my son was happily playing in the garden, eating fruit. My husband was leaving to work and went to see him. In his excitement, my son dropped his fruit.

My husband flew into a rage because of this. He started swearing at the top of his voice in front of my son. He said I was a bad mother and that I was stupid. He used really filthy language. I kept calm and carried on with my chores. He went and got my son more fruit. He just wouldn't stop the verbal abuse though.

I told him that he was behaving like a child. For this, he picked up a wash basket and threw it at me. The basin knocked off my glasses and the pain was awful. I thought my nose was broken. My husband walked away, not looking back.

I couldn't believe that this was happening. I sat down and cried. About five minutes later, he came back. I told him to go away and that I wasn't interested in anything he had to say. He left for work.

When he came back later, he ignored me, not speaking a word to me directly. But he’d mutter to my son about what a bad mother I was.

He was drinking and smoking heavily in these days. So much so that I didn't understand how he could stand up.

I emailed his sister in India and told her that I wanted him to leave. She said she’d speak to him. Of course, my husband blamed me for the situation. He said I was a bad cook and that I drank too much (I didn't), I went out too much and so on. A big bunch of lies.

The truth was that he’d married me just to get a passport that would allow him to remain in the UK.

When his family started pestering him for a grandchild, he physically threatened me and forced me to get pregnant though I didn't want to.

He got his golden trophy– a son. Then I became excess baggage.

He started sleeping on the sofa soon after my son was born. He paid no household bills, offered no household help. He offered no financial support either. I was the breadwinner and was sound financially, so he leached off me for as long as I’d allow it to happen.

But after I spoke to his sister and found out the lies that he’d been telling them, I flipped. I yelled at him and told him what exactly I thought of him. I took off my thaali and gave it back to him. I was done.

I filed for divorce. He didn't contest it. He wasn't bothered about child custody either. He was never interested in spending time with my son or getting to know him. He’d say things like his son was the most important thing in his life but I think that’s a joke.

Last year, he wanted to take my son to India but I didn't allow that because I knew he’d never bring him back. I told him that I could arrange for a visitation through my solicitor if he wanted to see my son but he simply didn't respond. He has no interest in his welfare.

He turned up this June with his new wife and introduced her to my son as his new step-mom. The lady looked horrified when he did this.

My son lives with me and my new partner now and we offer him all the support that he needs. 

I believe domestic violence is about control. In my experience, he believed that he was superior to me and treated me really badly until I was so low and my self-esteem was broken.

I then ended up doing whatever he wanted me to do. It is demeaning and demoralizing.

You live like you are walking on eggshells, waiting for the next volcanic eruption. Avoiding eye contact, doing whatever is asked. Speaking softly, acting childish. Trying not to trigger anything that will cause an explosion. But you don’t know what that trigger is. 

Domestic violence can never be justified. It can happen to men, too. When someone speaks to another human being with the deliberate intention to make them feel useless and unloved and upset, it is cruel. Hitting someone to seem powerful is wrong and no matter what the situation, it cannot be justified.

We are human. We can converse and discuss. This is how we ought to solve disputes. Not with frightening tactics and abuse. 

(*Name changed to protect privacy)

Also read: My husband threw a chair at me when I was pregnant: Domestic violence survivors speak out

'My spouse hits me, I will still never leave him': Domestic violence survivors speak out

She bit my face, hit me on the head with a plate: Male domestic violence survivor speaks out

(This piece was first published on TNM on October 23, 2014.)

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