Sunday, April 15, 2012

Verbal/Emotional Abuse in the Pashtun Society - Part III: What to do

Part 3 of the discussion on verbal/emotional domestic abuse. (Part I: Signs of verbal/emotional abuse; Part II:  Important pointers about abuse)

What to do if you’re in a verbally/emotionally abusive relationship:
  •  Recognize that it is abuse.
    As I've said, just because he doesn't hurt you physically doesn't mean he's not abusing you or that you are being abused. The Pashtun society like almost all others programs girls and women to think that only physical abuse, like having a black eye or a broken rib, is abuse. In my first post on abuse, I talked about signs of verbal/emotional domestic abuse, so please refer to them in case you've forgotten. So, if you realize that your husband or partner is abusing you (emotionally or mentally or verbally) and you are unhappy that way and want to do something about it, please consider your options. Sometimes we do have more options than we think we do. But you have to first recognize your abuse.
  • Talk to your partner.
    Chances are, he doesn't realize he's hurting or abusing you. If that's the case, which one would hope and pray it is, you don't want to live your life thinking you have an enemy when you really don't. Remember that he's a product of a system that sees nothing wrong with a man's yelling at his wife or hurting her otherwise. That doesn't mean what he's doing is okay, no. But if you talk to him and he still continues being abusive, he IS completely at fault. It's not your job to train him to be a better person. His parents were supposed to have done that by the time he married you. So talk to him before you talk to anyone else. Let him know that the things he does and says to you or about you hurt you. If he is a good person and he respects you, he'll try to improve himself. If he's a horrible person and has no respect you, he won't care.
  • Talk to someone you can trust, someone who will HELP you get out of your situation (not necessarily the marriage, if you don't want that).
    It’s good to talk to someone just to get it out of your system, just so you feel better (because it does make you feel better to talk about it, to tell someone how you’re really feeling), but you need to turn to someone who can help you either to leave (if that’s the best option) or to help you improve your situation. For instance, perhaps just sharing your feelings with your partner might be a good idea. If he gets even more abusive, then that tells you you need to get away from him. [[It’s a pity that our society doesn’t respect divorced women and thinks it’s always the woman’s fault when she’s divorced. And it’s a pity that re-marriage for divorced women isn’t common. This makes me wish I had gone into counseling to help divorced women and victims of abuse, including rape. Or maybe I’ll work with some women’s shelters at some point in my life and help give hope to women who think they have no hope.]] 
  • If you are engaged but not yet married, make it clear to your parents that you are not going ahead with the marriage.
    Our parents are often more supportive than we give them credit for. They ultimately want the best for us, and if you show them how miserable you are, they will actually support you -- and may ignore what the social ramifications might be. They'll still worry about their reputation, but their daughter's health and well-being and happiness are really more important to them deep inside than what someone else might think or say or spread about them. So be strong and be insistent and stand your ground.
  • If you have no one to turn to, you have to be strong. You have to help your own self. If you feel like you need to get out of the relationship, then do so -- and be strong about it. Be confident. Constantly remind yourself that you deserve better, that you will not let this break you, that you will not let anyone have any power over you. Patience is great, yes, but do understand that in much of our society, patience is taught mostly to the woman, not to the woman. That is, women will often tell themselves that "God loves people who are patient" but not expect their husbands to be patient as well. Why don't we teach our sons to be just as patient as we teach our girls to be? If YOU, the girl/woman, have to sacrifice your every thing to please other people and you find yourself being told that you must be patient at all times but your husband/partner is never told such a thing, something is wrong. I'm not saying be competitive and be stubborn and don't cooperate with your husband. No. But I AM saying that you shouldn't be the only one making every effort to maintain the relationship; your partner needs to be at least as much cooperative.
  • If you have kids, stop fooling yourself into thinking they're better off in your abusive marriage than without a father.
    I'm not suggesting get a divorce. I don't support divorce very much (only and only in extreme cases, and abuse (verbal, emotional, physical, other) is one instance during which I am okay with it), and I think it's taken very lightly in much of the West, which I find unfortunate. However, there are many times when divorce is really necessary, but a couple, especially the woman, will not go through with it because, she tells herself, "I have kids, and the kids need a father."
    But contrary to what many people think—which is that if you have kids, it’s better to stay in a bad marriage rather than leave it—your kids are actually suffering more than you when you’re in abusive marriage/relationship. This is because children are far more observant than we think they are. They notice everything. They realize what’s going on sometimes even before we do. They watch you being sad and hurt and abused all the time, and they wonder what caused it. It’s worse especially when your husband hurts you in front of your kids. So remember that your kids watch you being hurt, and they think it’s natural and okay. But it’s not, as I discuss below. They’re going to grow up and either be victims of abuse or be the abusers themselves. And that’s how this violent cycle of violence continues with every generation: we go through it, we watch it happen, and we sit there in silence thinking it’s supposed to be like that.
So, children who are living with an abusive parent/abusive parents, who witness their mothers being hit or yelled at or insulted or criticized unnecessarily are more likely to grow up to be abusive or victims of abuse  than kids who grow up in a household of one parent. To think that having two parents automatically and necessarily means good children is wrong, incorrect, false, a big fat lie you’re told just so that you continue never experiencing peace, respect, happiness, and/or love in your life.
  • Women's support groups
    Unfortunately, in all of Pashtunkhwa with very few exceptions, there are almost no women's support groups that you can turn to. However, that doesn't mean they're completely nonexistent. Gather a group of good friends/relatives whom you can trust, especially those who are in your situation, and help each other out. And these support groups don't have to be necessarily counseling services dedicated only to abuse or women who are in miserable marriages. Something like the Roshni Centre (in Swat), founded by someone I know and can trust, is one group where you can turn to for support.

    I also understand that, unfortunately, the Pashtun society doesn't think much of things like being actively involved in your community, and volunteering is not a respected activity, so I wish I could suggest that you find something to do around your neighborhood/community to keep yourself busy, such as with teaching poor kids how to read and write. But whatever the case, you definitely need a community, even if it's just to gossip with them, vent with them about everything wrong with the Pashtun society or the world. There's nothing wrong with that if that's going to help you feel better :)
What I’m not saying:
Since I know that I’m often misunderstood, let me clarify a few things.
- I’m not saying leave your husband and go get a divorce.
- I’m not saying all men are abusive, all men are bad.
- I'm not saying Pashtuns are stupid and backward people (we are not stupid or backward).  I focus on Pashtuns here because of the little focus domestic abuse is given. Every single thing I have said here applies to ALL groups of people, not just the Pashtuns.
- I'm not saying all domestic abuse is perpetrated by men and that everything that's wrong in the world is men's fault. Not at all. But I focus on men's abuse of women (wives) because that's more common than the other way around, and I personally don't know of any men abused by their wives.
- I’m not saying be sensitive to everything; in fact, I believe there’s a fine line between being sensitive, letting everything bother or hurt you, and knowing when you are being disrespected, violated, stepped on. Sometimes (but not always), if something that your partner does to you or around you offends you, hurts you, upsets you, insults you, humiliates you—then there’s a problem, and you should know what to do about it if you want to be in a healthier marriage/relationship. 

May we all be blessed with happiness, peace, and love all our lives! Aameen.

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