Why do smart, successful women tolerate abuse? As featured in the Times of India

July 1, 2013  |  Uncategorized


, TNN | Jul 1, 2013, 12.00 AM IST


1st person account 
“The mind becomes weak, I couldn’t walk out!” 

“It took me 23 years to walk out from an abusive marriage. I have suffered every day of my life, emotionally and physically, but I didn’t have the confidence or the self-esteem to walk out. I felt isolated. Most abusers have a pattern. They isolate you and then begin the abuse, when you feel totally disarmed. In my case, my husband would always say terrible things about my friendsand family. So, I was even cut off from my parents. I didn’t have anyone to rely on. I used to wonder, even after continuous abuse, how I can live without this man because no matter how successful women may be, they question their capability if their man criticises them continuously. They never have the confidence to walk out. The mind becomes weak. Even though women may appear to be super successful to the outside world, they are helpless to act in such situations.” — Jaya Khanna, victim of domestic abuse

She is known as the domestic goddess with an estimated worth of £23 million. But the picture of TV cook and author Nigella Lawson’s (53) distraught face as her husband, art collector and advertising guruCharles Saatchi (70), held her by her throat during an argument a fortnight ago would leave you with an awful, but familiar, pit in the stomach. Too many women — no matter how smart, educated, powerful or emancipated — tolerate abusive relationships for far too long. But why? We ask experts, who deal with abusive relationships in their chosen fields of work, to tell us about the reasons given by most women…

“Good or bad, most women allow relationships to define them” 

“Good or bad, most women allow relationships to define them. A lot of women are scared of being alone. Some even get their sense of worth from being in a relationship and being viewed by society as so-and-so’s partner/wife/girlfriend. Outwardly, women may appear to be confident and smart, but inside, they only get their confidence and sense of value from being in a relationship. That’s why they find it hard to let go of a relationship even if it’s abusive.” — Gopika Kapoor, author

“Women don’t want to let go of the security the man provides” 

“A woman in an abusive relationship will never admit to the world that she’s under emotional or physical duress at home and that her success hasn’t really empowered her. She does not want to tell the world that her man treats her badly. She likes the security of a husband because we live in a world where the image of a married woman, no matter how battered, is better than a single woman!” — Rekha Aggarwal, High Court lawyer

“Sometimes, women confuse violence for love” 

“Nigella Lawson is the domestic goddess. She has a lot of brands riding on her, and one reason for not walking out could be that her £23 million empire is based on this image — the woman who has everything! A rich husband, a wonderful career, a fabulous face… and now even a slimmer figure. But there could be something deeper. Apparently, she had an abusive mother, who used to threaten to beat her till she cried when she was a child. Nigella now says she learnt not to cry. So whilst there are no economic reasons for someone like her to remain in an abusive relationship, sometimes women do get caught up — for all kinds of psychological reasons — in a violent relationship. They confuse violence and abuse for love, especially, if there was a childhood history of violence. And many women, even those who are rich and famous all over the world, may have faced some kind of violence in their life, sadly.” — Kishwar Desai, author

“Fear of uncertainty keeps women from walking out” 

“In a bad relationship, there is loss of self-worth. Women need to live and rotate on their own axis, but they don’t. When one revolves her life, and bases her happiness solely on one man, she loses herself. Women tend to become dependent on the man to make them feel good. So, anything he says and does has an impact on them. Even in an abusive relationship, women lose the concept of reality. Any small act of kindness from this man is all they live for. They are willing victims of abuse because they prefer any attention from him than none. The fear of losing him is worse than death. Anyone who stays in an unhealthy, abusive relationship needs medical help because it is clearly not love. You can only love another person when you love yourself. And a person who loves herself would protect her life and safety first. This dependency is an unhealthy obsession. There is also the fear of uncertainty for the future which keeps women from walking out of bad relationships.” — Malti Bhojwani, life coach

“Most victims feel disempowered to walk out” 

“I think physical abuse does not exist in isolation, it comes with emotional and psychological abuse as well. Most women in such situations suffer not only from physical scars but a depleted sense of self-esteem. They feel disempowered. When someone is in that frame of mind, it is very difficult for them to extract themselves from the situation.” — Advaita Kala, author

“Women who find themselves weak have had dominating fathers” 

“Helplessness to act against abuse has its roots in childhood conditioning. If someone chooses to stay in a violent relationship, it shows that her defence mechanism is weak. As a child, these women probably never rebelled or spoke their minds. Now, they see their father’s image in their partner and don’t want to rebel. Women, who find themselves weak, almost always have had dominating fathers. And the best part is that most of them don’t even realise that they had one controlling parent, if not both. So they let their partner dominate them, unknowingly, right from the beginning of the relationship. Another reason is the fear of losing their sense of security. That fear is much higher than the pain of abuse. This makes them suffer just how an addict suffers. An addict fears the dreadful condition much more than the probability of his death because of the drug or alcohol abuse. But the most important reason is the innate fear of abandonment in a woman. Today’s educated woman has made herself powerful enough to deal with this fear, but somehow, it still prevails in the subconscious mind.” — Kamal Khurana, marriage counsellor

“A woman will go to any extreme to preserve a relationship, however abusive” 

“The internalisation of patriarchal violence for centuries — where women have been told they were responsible for men hitting them — is the reason why most of us still find excuses to condone it. ‘He was stressed, I should have understood better’, ‘He has not seen a better role model, I should give him time’, ‘This is the last time’… there are reasons galore why women think they are far better off with these men rather than leaving them. Another major reason is that women equate the end of a relationship with a failed life. So they will go to any extreme to preserve it. For a few, it is that misguided sense of destiny. We are a country of so many cultures and yet one thing that strings us together is that we all feel that the sole proof of ‘having a life’ is either being in a relationship or being married!” — Raksha Bharadia, author

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