Jan 11, 2022

Counselling for Domestic Violence

Taking counselling does not mean the person is ‘mentally ill’ or has psychiatric problems.

Living in Kerala, it was very disturbing to read news paper reports in November, about the suicide of a law student who two weeks before that, had filed a complaint against her husband for domestic violence in the police station of her jurisdiction. No action was taken. Reason reported which led to suicide is harassment for Rs.40L. Reports mention this young girl was physically, mentally and sexually tortured.

May 2020, the Newspapers and TV Channels gave extensive coverage for the sensational Uthra murder where her husband used a cobra as the weapon to kill. It is said that the accused took training on how to handle venomous snakes before he put his plan into action. She had been bitten by a Russel’s viper two months prior to her death and was undergoing treatment. Husband was a bank employee. Nobody suspected anything was wrong.

June 2021, there was the report of another young woman in the final year of BAMS committed suicide unable to bear the physical, mental and emotional torture by her husband and mother-in-law. Husband worked for the State Government. She had earlier sent pictures of torture marks on her body to some of her family members. Could this suicide have been prevented?

October 2021, there was a report from Pune about a young Malayali girl who lived with her husband and in-laws, found dead in mysterious circumstances.

How many more such young promising lives will get snuffed out? The common factor in all the above cases is, all these girls were married off with a fat dowry in cash, gold and even cars. Their spouses and in-laws wanted more…

Domestic violence does not stem from dowry related issues alone. There are various reasons which give rise to domestic violence, some of them are: suspicion, infidelity, inferiority complex, alcoholism, job loss, anger management, incompatibility, sickness, etc. Counselling sessions can be a remedy and hope for such cases, by identifying the cause and a few therapy sessions could make a positive change.

Quoted below are some of the main points of the Domestic Violence Act:
Explanation 1 under Section 3:-
(i) “physical abuse” means any act or conduct which is of such a nature as to cause bodily pain, harm, or danger to life, limb, or health or impair the health or development of the aggrieved person and includes assault, criminal intimidation and criminal force;

(ii) “sexual abuse” includes any conduct of a sexual nature that abuses, humiliates, degrades or otherwise violates the dignity of woman;

(iii) “verbal and emotional abuse” includes—
(a) insults, ridicule, humiliation, name calling and insults or ridicule specially with regard to not having a child or a male child; and
(b) repeated threats to cause physical pain to any person in whom the aggrieved person is interested.

(iv) “economic abuse” includes¬—
(a) deprivation of all or any economic or financial resources to which the aggrieved person is entitled under any law or custom whether payable under an order of a court or otherwise or which the aggrieved person requires out of necessity including, but not limited to, household necessities for the aggrieved person and her children, if any, stridhan, property, jointly or separately owned by the aggrieved person, payment of rental related to the shared household and maintenance;

It would be useful if parents give a copy of the Domestic Violence Act to their children getting married, so that they are aware of their rights. In fact statutory warnings with regard to domestic violence along with helpline numbers should be put up in public places and public transport vehicles. Awareness of this Act should spread. This topic should be touched upon at the school level so that awareness of domestic violence begins with the young.

November 26th, is observed as anti-dowry day! Students are asked to mouth an oath that they will neither give nor take dowry. In the rituals of marriages in all religions the couple takes holy vows to protect and care for each other, if they followed these vows there would not be any dowry related or domestic violence deaths.

Respecting life, compassion, non-violence, non-aggression, respecting women, are all qualities which are to be inculcated into young minds. This can be achieved by introducing at school levels compulsory service in the NCC / Scouts / Social Service and self defense training.

Change has to begin at home. Welcome the boy child and girl child with equal enthusiasm, give them equal opportunities and treat them impartially. Educate and equip your children whether boy or girl to have a career and financial stability.

Dear parents, brothers and relatives, if and when you notice, that your daughter/sister is having difficulties in her married home, do not hesitate to interfere, take counseling sessions and, if the marriage cannot be saved and there is no hope of reconciliation, give your daughter the confidence to walk out with dignity from a bad marriage and not suffer in silence. Is saving your name in society more important than the life of your daughter? Please take help from professional counselors as soon as you notice cracks in the marriage. As this can help reconstruct the thought pattern which could save a person from committing a crime or taking one’s own life.

Counselling can play an important role in bringing down the rate in domestic violence. Most religions do have pre-marital counseling though not mandatory for some, but how far does this go? It would be preferable if all couples young and old attend group counseling sessions once in two years which can be conducted by religious institutions.

With regard to our police force, many of them are stressed and overworked. Some of them have several domestic problems. So, they have work stress and home stress. Targets and deadlines to be fulfilled. All this stress, frustration and anger is spilled on to people who go to file a complaint or who are apprehended for various small or big crimes even before the accused is proven guilty. They should be encouraged to take Counselling sessions to see things from a different perspective and reduce stress. It would help them, not to become overstressed or depressed, as they are able to open up and talk about their stress situations with somebody non-judgmental. This will help them to be more balanced and productive.

Taking counselling does not mean the person is ‘mentally ill’ or has psychiatric problems. This is the general attitude of the common man which is a total misconception. A counselor is confidential, non-judgmental , listens patiently, un-biased and kind. They will not impose their ideas on the person instead they help see the problem from other perspectives and how solutions can be found.

It is recommended, when there is a behavioural issue, an adjustment problem, domestic issues, depression, addictions or personality disorder consult a Counsellor / psychologist so that severity of the problem can be gauged and required therapy suggested. If in the initial stages, only therapy sessions can help the person normalize without medication.

Anyone can be a Counsellor, a family member or a friend but a professional counselor will be non-critical and can help heal relationships, improve academic/career performance and ensure mental wellness. “Psychotherapy is the art of finding the angel of hope in the midst of terror, despair and madness.”
– Cloe Madanes


Anly Chandy
Anly Chandy

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