Excuses are a sedative – they help us mask distressful moments in our lives. They are attempts to rationalize something irrational, like violence. Women have a hard time admitting, even to themselves, that they’re being abused by their partner, but why? Why do we believe the petty excuses given by our intimate partners when they maltreat us?
Maybe it’s because we’re looking for something – anything – to make sense of the way our significant other treats us. “He’s choleric,” “he’s possessive because he cares about me,” “I crossed a line which is why he lost his cool,” “he was raised with violence in his household, but I can change him,” “It was a one-time thing, and he’s a really nice guy,” They’re all excuses, attempts to rationalize abuse, because abuse is indeed pretty irrational.
Not so long ago, domestic violence was viewed as a way husbands could legitimately “correct” their wives, which is why almost no cases of wife-beating came to court before the 1970s as it was seen as a private family matter back then and not a serious crime. Mainstream media depicted male violence towards women as a norm. It asserted a simplistic gender-essentialist philosophy (which still exists to this day) that views people’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviours as biologically fixed and immutable. It assumes that all husbands should naturally have the upper word in all decisions made in the relationship and that all wives should be dependent, obedient and submissive just because he’s a man and she’s a woman (think Si Sayed and Amina). That amplified the already existent patriarchy and encouraged men to further oppress their wives with the knowledge that if they ever revolted, they deserved to be punished.
Today, things have thankfully improved, with more and more women standing up to their partners and demanding equality in the relationship; however, it’s not nearly as enough women as there should be. All over the world, domestic violence cases are becoming increasingly common. In the middle east alone, about 40% of women are subjected to violence from intimate partners. That’s more than 1 in every 3 women. However, despite the gravity of the situation and the alarming statistics, domestic violence is generally not given enough public attention.
Part of the reason is that domestic violence is always kept a secret. You never know whether a person is a victim of domestic abuse or not, and that’s sort of understandable – people can’t be expected to reveal their marital issues to strangers. Still, they should at least tell their loved ones about it.
The problem is that most women who experience violence in a relationship do not tell people who care for them about what goes on at home, and we’re all to blame at some level. Women do not file a lawsuit or tell their loved ones because they’re afraid they’ll be met with responses like “Do you want to wreck your own home?”, “suck it up for the kids’ sake,” or maybe the classic “do you want to experience a scandal? What would people think if you had a divorce!”
To add insult to the injury, some people disregard the victim’s cry for help entirely because they think she is “overreacting” and that she doesn’t fit the stereotype of a victim of domestic abuse. They assume that girls who are victims of intimate partner violence are shy girls who won’t stand up for themselves; however, in reality, those who are abused, and those
who abuse, come in all shapes, colours, economic classes, and personality types. Victims are not always acquiescent with low self-esteem, and abusers are not always tormenting or vile to their partner in front of others.
All in all, our culture has always looked down on women who demanded their rights; take molestation, for example. Whenever a victim comes forward, she’s the one disgraced and blamed for what happened to her – as if she wanted it! That is why this has to change. Victims of all kinds – whether it’s domestic abuse, sexual assault, or anything else- should not have to worry about being judged or reprimanded in any way shape or form. We have to make them feel comfortable about seeking help because if they don’t then they’ll be spending the rest of their lives miserable and we’ll have to spend the rest of our lives bearing the fact that some would rather commit suicide than live with their intimate partners for one more day.