Physical abuse against women has been happening for so many generations that one may even refer to it as a part of culture or tradition. The only reason it hasn’t been proudly acknowledged in public today is because of the progress that feminist movements have been able to achieve.
When a man abuses a woman, it is an act of power. Abusive men are quick to justify their actions by claiming that they lost control. A listener may infer this statement as- the abuser lost control over himself, but what he really means is that he lost control over the woman- his woman. His patriarchal (male) privilege of owning all the women in his family was lost, even if just for a minute.
The patriarchal society we find ourselves in today has dictated specific expectations with regard to the way a woman must act at all times. Take for example, how loud should a woman’s voice be? loud enough that she is heard by all household members when they are called for mealtime, soft enough to be ignored when they don’t want food yet. And never so loud that it can be heard outside the house. If you watch old Disney films like Bambi or Cinderella, listen to the voices of the female characters- it’s soft, reserved, and almost never angry unless she is chiding her children. An indoctrination of patriarchal expectations from a young age is what I find this to be.
When women don’t match the strictly prescribed code of conduct, i.e. if they are stubborn, arrogant, quick to anger, loud, or even physically consume a little more space than what is designated, they are met with backlash. If snarky comments don’t work, physical abuse is the next stop.
To accompany this male entitlement are those who support the men- who enable them. Together they attempt to justify the abuse, mostly done by blaming the survivor for not following patriarchal rules.
This support is further extended by encouraging the survivor of abuse to maintain silence and fall back into the patriarchal system- commonly done by outsiders and extended family. Or by their own silence- i.e. ignoring the issue- commonly done by the immediate family. They assume this silence to be a position of neutrality. It helps them gather favour in the eyes of the abuser who holds much power in society, while also enabling him- it is like the nod or wink that the protagonist’s best friend-turned-villain shows to the other villains while hugging or pretending to safeguard the protagonist. They are the Brutus, the Judas.
If the survivor resists and continues to fight, they try to discourage them by appealing to emotions, to spare a thought for the greater common good- “think of the family”, “think of the baby.” It seems babies are only meant for emotional blackmail. It is astonishing that we are more okay with the idea of a baby being raised by a patriarchal, abusive man, rather than trying to raise the baby in a more feminist world by:
1. Obtaining justice for the survivor,
2. Raising the baby in an environment where no patriarchal beliefs are tolerated.
The final blow is an expectation that the survivor will forgive the abuser with a compassion that was forgotten/ deemed unnecessary when the abuse was taking place. That forced forgiveness, contrary to all your “be the bigger person” nonsense, is a silent hand back of the power she had fought for. It is an even bigger slap.
If after all this the survivor persists in her aim for justice, she is met with hostility and banishment from her own family. With no support, she is forced to think twice- was it my fault? am I making a big deal?
Then, she has to fight herself and her family.