Emotional Violence in Intimate Relationships: A Survivor’s Stories of Pain, Resistance and Hope

WARNING: This post might be triggering for survivors of intimate partner violence.

Emotional abuse in intimate relationships is among the most common, yet most under-reported forms of gender-based violence. The World Health Organisation (2002) defines emotional abuse and controlling behaviour as including insults, belittling comments, constant humiliation, intimidation, threats, monitoring a partner’s movements, isolating a partner from others close to them and restricting a partner’s access to money, employment, education or medical care. In India, the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 provides recognition to verbal, emotional and economic violence in intimate relationships, while the National Family Health Survey has been consistently collecting large-scale statistics on its occurrence. Yet, despite these measures, emotional abuse continues to be relatively poorly-understood.

In this context, an anonymous blog known as ‘Chrysalis – a survivor’s blog’, written by a survivor of emotional abuse, sheds light on the trauma that accompanies such acts of violence. The author of the blog describes herself as someone with ‘a normal life, a career, and a job I love’. In detailing the worst days of her abuse, and how she managed to ‘rebuild her life as a survivor’, this courageous writer presents valuable insights into the insidiousness of emotional violence. Here are some excerpts from a recent post:

‘When living with emotional abuse, psychological violence is your life […] Violence migrates from a sporadic episode (and even that is obviously not ok ) to your everyday, your normal, the daily reality to which you wake up and live. Well, in my case it was really waking up with it – his abusive text messages were the first thing I saw every day. But in an abuse context, violence becomes the norm and non-violence the safe haven – the island of peace you crave and want, and that shows up so, so much more sporadically over time.

[…]

But it also is the case that deconstruction of normalisation – and transition from victimhood to survival – is the first step to rebuilding your life.’

We hope that this blog will serve as a source of support and solidarity for others who are facing, or have faced, emotional abuse, while also creating awareness more generally on the lived realities of survivors.

References:

End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists

Recently, a journalist in Karnataka received rape threats online, reportedly after she wrote about allegations against a godman. Chetana Thirthahalli was sent lewd messages and threats, and those targeting her demanded that she stop ‘writing critically on Hindu issues’.

Sadly, this is not an isolated incident. With the relative anonymity that the Internet provides, rape threats are becoming increasingly common on social media sites. The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe says, it’s alarmed by how women journalists are singled out and attacked more than anyone else.

OSCE Representative of the Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatovic says, “The female journalists targeted most report on crime, politics and sensitive – and sometimes painful – issues, including taboos and dogmas in our societies. These online attacks tend not to address the content of the articles but instead degrade the journalist as a woman. For some female journalists, online threats of rape and sexual violence have become part of everyday life; others experience severe sexual harassment and intimidation. Misogynist speech is flourishing.”

In a report on mxm India, Ranjona Banerjee says, “Women remain easy targets on social media and women in journalism even easier. The easiest way to attack is of course by sexual innuendo because then it reduces women to one aspect of their existence: their genitalia and/or their reproductive uses.”

(Read CPJ’s detailed Journalist Security Guide.)

The online attacks are an addition to the threats to safety that women journalists face. They are stalked, raped and murdered while doing their jobs. (Read: Violence and Harassment Against Women in News Media by IWMF). In an interview to The Quint, NDTV Senior Editor Maya Mirchandani said, “A protest at India Gate can be more dangerous than a war zone. Honestly, in a war zone, gender is less of a handicap, it is harder to protect yourself in a civilian environment.”

Meanwhile, the media also needs to introspect on the sexism and sexual violence within the industry. The Tehelka case opened a can of worms, but the issue has been forgotten since. The International Federation of Journalists ‘media and gender’ country report says, “In India, the well-established and strong media landscape is full of women journalists. Yet while the advantage of class, caste and higher education has seen some women climb to the top rungs of the profession, the majority of women journalists today are still concentrated on the middle and lower rungs of the profession. Sexual harassment remains a critical issue for the industry. So too, while more men are found in full-time contract roles, large numbers of women in the country are moving or being pushed into freelance roles.”

(Read: Best Practices to Prevent Sexual Harassment at the Workplace by Vibhuti Patel)