Myths of Domestic Violence

Myth: Everything will become fine when you give him a baby.
This is one of the most alarming myths used to give women a false sense of hope. Domestic violence often starts or worsens during pregnancy and can put a woman’s health at serious risk. Men who abuse their partners will not change their behaviour towards the woman because of pregnancy. It is likely to make things worse and more complicated for the woman. Citation: Saikh, M.A. (2003). Is Domestic Violence Endemic in Pakistan: Perspective From Pakistani Wives. Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences, 19(1), 23-28.

Myth:Pray to Allah and ‘Sab theek ho jaeyga’.
Women often spend years silently suffering un-Islamic domestic violence because they are told by their family, friends and Islamic scholars to pray. There is ample evidence to suggest that the crime of domestic violence is a solid ground for divorce in Islam. To read more about this, go to the menu: Am I Being Abused? –> Religion and Abuse –> Islam.

Myth: It is alcohol and drugs that make men violent.
If this were the case, Muslim countries would not have high rates of domestic violence, as most men in Muslim countries do not drink. Blaming alcohol or drugs is often used as a way of not accepting the fact that they have control over their behaviour. While drugs and alcohol may exacerbate emotions, they do not cause domestic violence. The choice to act in a violent and abusive manner remains with the man. Full stop. Note: This applies to alcohol abuse within your own family and in-laws as well.

Myth: It only happens in poor and uneducated families in villages.
Abuse     can happen to any woman, irrespective of whether they belong to a         rich family or a poor family. Many women are trapped into violent relationships because their father is a prominent religious leader, or their husband is a rich businessman who could track her down. Men who abuse women can be religious, non-religious, lawyers, Maulvis, accountants and judges, just as they can be milkmen, truck drivers, cleaners or unemployed.

Myth: If the abuse is THAT BAD, why doesn’t she leave?
This is a common excuse women hear from in-laws defending their son when someone finds out. Considering the pressure society places on women to stay with their husband, demonising women and mothers who ask for divorce, the family expectation to see the marriage through, lack of support and resources – it is completely understandable why it can be difficult to leave an abusive husband/in-laws. Some reasons why a woman might feel unable to leave an abusive relationship might be: – She is scared that her husband will kill her or her family – She might not want to feel like it is her fault if her husband threatens to kill himself – Her family and friends may have refused to help her – She may believe she won’t be able to be with her children if she leaves – As most women in Pakistan are financially dependent on their husbands, she may feel she has no way of fending for herself – She may not want to bring shame on herself and her family because of the culture – She may not feel confident enough to make something of herself on her own due to the effect of abuse on her self-esteem – She may think her husband will change and doesn’t want to attach the taboo of divorce Remember, it is never the fault of the victim for not taking action. No woman deserves abuse, and blaming the victim only perpetrates attitudes that promote violence against women.

Myth: His father was abusive to his mother, so that is why he is like this. It’s not his fault.
While growing up in a violent household may influence a child’s personality, remember that it is ultimately a choice to whether abuse or not. Blaming childhood experiences for violence is, once again, making an excuse and avoiding shouldering the responsibility for their actions. Evidence suggests that though abusive patterns do run in families, it doesn’t necessarily always lead to domestic violence, because it is a choice.

Myth: She doesn’t keep the house clean or make good food. She deserves it.
Women are verbally and physically ‘punished’ by their husbands and in-laws for mundane reasons or no reason at all. Abusers take advantage of their victims because they like to feel in control and cause misery – not because the food didn’t taste nice. No one deserves to be abused. Healthy relationships are built on mutual respect and love, not violence.

Myth: Men who are abusive must have a mental illness.
This is a commonly held belief which has no basis in reality. Studies have shown that the majority of abusers are not mentally ill. For example, most rapists were found to be repeat offenders rather than mentally ill in a study done by Cehat in India. If a mental illness is indeed present, then they need to get professional help and they should not be in a relationship. (Source: Centre for Enquiry into Health and Allied Themes or Cehat).

Myth: He may be a bad husband, but he is a good father. She should stay because who will accept her with kids?
Witnessing violence towards their mother by their father can have serious negative effects on children. As children get older, the scars from childhood can get deeper and cause a rift between the father-child relationship. Good fathers do not hurt the mothers of their children.

Myth: It’s no-one’s business, it’s a ‘ghar ka maamla’ It’s no one’s business. Family matters should stay inside the house.
When human dignity and rights are being violated, when individual(s) are getting hurt, it is not just the family’s business; it’s everyone’s problem. Everyone has to care about people suffering unjustly and ideally, help and contribute positively toward solving the issue(s). Should people just consider a ‘ghar ka mamla’ and let women keep getting hurt and harmed? One’s got to care about others and, preferably, do something to alleviate their suffering without worsening the problem or becoming nosy. Advocating for what’s right is always justified. The personal is political.     Martin Luther King Jr. said: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. Domestic violence is one of the worst kinds of injustice there is. Sure enough, people should care about justice as well as the well-being of people, and they ought to take action.

Myth: Initially, things go wrong in all marriages. Arguments, disagreements, clashes and fights are inevitable. So it’s okay. This will happen. Just find a way to deal with it and stick together and everything will be okay once this initial period is over.
Firstly, things do not necessarily go wrong in every marriage. Even if they did, it would not justify condoning domestic violence or advising to endure it – preserving human dignity and well-being is more important than just sustaining a marriage simply because it is socially frowned upon. Secondly, an abusive partner is unlikely to change his temperament because abusive behaviour is in the control of the abuser. The clashes could carry on for the entire duration of the marriage, even if they vary in intensity and frequency over time.

Myth: Women have to make compromises and sacrifices at every step of their lives. So you must learn to compromise to save your relationship.
Why should a woman feel the need to save a relationship that’s not fulfilling for her? It’s a downright unfair notion that only women must compromise and she must always compromise for the sake of the relationship; relationship requires both husband and wife to legitimately sacrifice and compromise so long as it is worth it. Ideally a marriage being sustained just for the sake of it, and with the woman making huge compromises with no support and maturity from the husband, is not worth it. In this case, the woman must think about it and take action, including divorce if need be. A woman is not a slave- she is a human and deserves just and respectful treatment from her husband and in-laws, as well as from everyone else. Compromise should not be a one-way street.

Myth: Be submissive to your husband and in-laws. Do what they like. Don’t do what they dislike. This way you will win their hearts and they will start treating you better.
While arguably it may be alright to compromise and be flexible in adjusting to a new family and relationship, being ‘submissive’ should not be part of the equation. The burden of adjustment is on both parties. A wife is not a slave; she is a human with free will and an independent mind and must not succumb to her in-laws and change herself completely at the expense of her happiness and self-respect, just to please them and her husband. Women in Pakistan go to lengths to satisfy their in-laws. This should not define one’s life. Getting along with the husband and in-laws must not bring so much trauma onto a woman that it defines her life!

Myth: Bachon ki khaatir to sabr karna paray ga, sehna paray ga…You’ve to suffer this and be patient, at least for your children.
She doesn’t. Single parents can raise children – albeit often with some difficulty – but it’s possible. Did you know Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, among many other brilliant, inspirational global figures were raised by single mothers? The parent (mother) can actually set a heroic example for her children by taking the decision if it is required to protect human dignity, health, psychological well-being and peace. Furthermore, seeing so much hurt being inflicted upon their mother by their father is, as proven by numerous researches, extremely detrimental to a child’s mental health and personality development. These traumatizing experiences have long-term consequences and can totally jeopardize not only a child’s health –along with the mother’s, of course- but also their performance in school and later success in life. Children need a peaceful, violence-free environment to fully grow and to become good adults themselves, way more than they need a mere father. They’re better off without such a father and so much torture to their innocent years.

Myth: Every woman has to struggle/work hard to achieve her place in her husband’s home.
She doesn’t need a place in her husband’s home just for the sake of it. She needs a home of her own. Most of all, she needs peace and love – if she is so deprived of it that she would rather receive the exact opposite from her life-partner and in-laws, it’s time she rethought her stay there.

Myth: Does he beat you? So what? You’re his wife. He owns you.
No one owns you; you are a human being. You are not a slave. You own yourself! Preserve your rights and dignity, please! According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Article 1. “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one     another in a spirit of brotherhood.” How come, then, a husband dominates and –much worse- hurts his wife without any accountability? How can an individual let another do this to herself? You are his wife, but he can’t punish you for anything, however and whenever he pleases. Stand up for yourself!

Myth: Khuda ne aurat ko admi k liye banaya hay. Admi ka haq hay k wo jab chahey – usay sex milay/ God created woman for man. Men have divine right to get sex whenever they please.
Shohar ko ikhtiar hai. biwi ko nahi.. ? why this inequality when Islam says all humans are equal in the eyes of God? Islam treats women as equal to men. Only rapists are not used to the idea of content. A wife is not a sex-slave! If a woman doesn’t want to have sex at a certain time for whatever reason, then forcefully having sex with her is nothing short of rape. Women need to realise that they are not sex objects, they are humans with likes and dislikes, and their libido can vary, like that of a man. According to Islam, in fact, it’s a husband’s responsibility to keep his wife happy and content. The Holy Prophet said “The best amongst you is he who is best to his wife”.

Myth: if the victim sides with their abuser, then it’s okay to leave them to their circumstances.
Abusers tend to brainwash their victims into a sense of worthlessness which makes them think that the abuse is their fault and their abusers are innocent. Additionally, it takes time to break through that brainwashing and to help the person realise that the abuse isn’t their fault. They may stay and live there with their husband if they please “darwaza khula hai. Jab wapis aana hai a jao. Ghar tumhara hai.” Now while this doesn’t stop men from doing as they please, their women have the option to just get out or throw him out, knowing their families will support them. Power dynamics shift, and that makes a huge difference. Besides, there are other options available as Chayn will help you become aware of.

Myth: bachon pe baray un ki bhalai kay liye haath uthatay hain. / Elders ‘discipline’ their children for their own well-being and excess loving can spoil children, optimum upbringing will always involve spanking and verbal disciplining.
While it might be okay – depending on context – to mildly scold a child without hurting him emotionally or physically if he is being too ill-mannered, inflicting physical pain on a child for “his own good” is a plain myth. Besides, how can a child’s own parents inflict so much pain on their own child? Often what happens is that innocent children become punch bags for their parents via whom they vent out their life frustrations and angers- this is extremely sad and unjust. Physically hurting another human is unethical, wrong by all credible standards, and even punishable in some countries. Research has shown that being beaten or otherwise physically hurt leaves an indelible negative mark on a child’s person psychologically and emotionally, which continues to pain him and negatively affect him – often very profoundly – for a very long time, potentially even for his entire life. The effect is often passed onto HIS children as he (most likely) will grow up to be a negative and/or abusive person towards his children. Parents should express their love positively and not pamper the child so much that he becomes spoilt and arrogant, but hurting him cannot be justified. Remember, you can catch more bees with honey than with vinegar. In other words, you will get the best results in your child’s upbringing by rewarding his good behaviour, than by punishing his bad ones. Instead, try to ignore his bad behaviours and if you need to react to them, do it by having him go through some “time out” sitting in a corner without his toys (a good rule is to have him sit there for as many minutes as his age in years is), not by physically hurting him. Always remind him at the end of the “time out” that you love him, and explain that you put him in “time out” because his behaviour was not nice so that he knows what you expect of him. You want your children to respect and obey you out of love, not out of fear.

In Pakistan:

In Pakistan, domestic violence is not seen as a crime. The problem is often overlooked, excused, or denied in Pakistani culture because it is socially acceptable in Pakistani society. But whether or not there are laws to protect people from domestic violence, it is still an offence and as such it should be condemned.

Identifying abuse is the first step to getting help for yourself or someone you know. Even if at times it seems like no one can help you, there is some help available. Use this website to learn more about the options available.

Click here if you think someone else is suffering with domestic violence.