Beloved IHM does an awesome job of bringing up burning issues in the desi world on her blog and heavy discussion ensues on what ought to be and why things are the way they are. Two of her responses compelled Desi Girl to pen this post. I wish I could say the right words to the mother – to make her let her daughter come back home and start living again.
I did tell the mother about cases where if not intentionally the abuser has killed the victim accidentally or caused severe injury. She sounded worried but continued to say the girls doesn’t want to come back. In the beginning she had told me they did not want her to come back – but now she says it’s the girl who wants to make the marriage work.
We all know what is wrong and why it is wrong but we fail when it comes to how to address it. The best service we can do is to be informed about intimate partner abuse; what is IPV, nature of abuse, how abuse begins, what is a cycle of abuse and what an abused can do and how to help an abused.
When an ordinary fight with wife escalates into bloody nose it is no longer a fight but a law and order issue, a public health concern most of all it is a question of human dignity and it is your problem too even if it is not in your home.
Familial and intimate partner abuse is not accidental. Someone purposefully decided to hurt another person who they consider they have a legitimate right over. Abusers do not hurt strangers even when strangers step on their toes but they choose to hurt their partners and children because they know they can get away with it. The faceless strangers called “log” cross all boundaries of decency and hurt your sensibilities in all possible ways through their mean words and actions to ostracize you, still you do back flips to be in their good books. Aren’t you in an abusive relationship with these people? Have you thought how your daughter feels while living with an abuser?
Your initial reaction of distrust and reprimand of her choice to marry for love just closed the doors for her to come back to you. You judged her once, what are the chances you won’t judge her again. The “log” will say something and you’ll get into blaming and accusatory mode. Basically you cannot be trusted. You lost your trustworthiness, the minute you said “I told you so…” Your daughter has a hard time to believe that you will not judge her and even if you did trust her today what are the chances you’ll not throw it on her face in future. Now you want to help her and you do not know how because you closed the first door of communication with your judgment and now you do not know how to reopen it. Just saying, “Come back and everything will be fine, we’ll support you” is not enough, there is a way to open the door and keep it open. This is how it can be done:
Every time we open our mouth we sign an unspoken agreement/contract with the person we are interacting with that says “we are in a relationship I’ll not hurt you and you’ll not hurt me,” it is realized only when this contract is broken. When this contract is broken the first thing that goes out is respect for each other. This contract has three constituents:
1. I agree to be non judgmental, you can feel safe to tell me what is in your heart.
2. There will be no repercussions for what you disclose to me.
3. I’ll love you unconditionally.
Your daughter has broken this contract with herself. She lost respect for herself, is feeling guilty and bad about herself. You broke this contract with her when you judged her and it shut that door of communication on her. How do you feel about it? Do you respect yourself for that? Opening the door begins with reinstating this contract and this time make it spoken instead of unspoken. Create a safe space to communicate and invite her for a conversation and begin with:
“I understand you are going through a very tough time in your marriage. I want you to know I was wrong to judge you when you first reported abuse. I am truly sorry for what I said them. I want to assure you today, what ever you tell me I’ll not judge you. You are being abused it is not your fault. It is a choice your abuser is making. If you made a mistake of picking a wrong guy as a partner I too made a mistake of judging you. Today, we can look beyond our mistakes and explore what we can do together to keep you safe and happy.”
Does anyone know “judgmental” equivalent word in hindi? DG could find none, please help.
“First time when you reported abuse I blamed you for your choice that was wrong on my part. I promise you what ever you tell me today and now on will have no repercussions I will not throw it on your face ever. I want you to feel safe and be assured there will be no repercussions about any disclosure you make. I will never blame you for what happened and I will never hold it against you here on.”
(People complain all the time that their teens do not want to talk to them even when they have an open door policy. Who are they kidding, your children are of you so they know you inside out, and they know what you are capable of. They know you’ll blame them and punish them.)
You love her and you are concerned but are you sure your love is unconditional? Are you kidding, you already said, she made her bed… You meant had she had an arranged marriage she could have counted on your support. Unconditional love does not mean ignoring the behavior or not addressing the behavior, it means there will be consequences for your actions but my love for you will still be the same. In this particular case it would come out something like this:
“What ever you decide, to live with the abuser or walk out, I will support you 100%. I will not question your choices. I want you to understand my position as a parent, if you are hurt or are contemplating of hurting yourself; I will do everything in my power to protect you. As a parent I want to see you safe and happy nothing matters to me more.”
This is not unconditional love:
I love you BUT…
Once a “BUT” comes before or after LOVE it is no longer unconditional love.
For parents of teens:
“I see you did X and I want you to know I love you so I want you to be safe. In order to be safe we have to follow the rules. If we break rules then we face consequences. Your choices are no bike keys for next 8 weeks or no allowances for next 8 weeks.” Give them choices of picking up their consequences. Once your children are ready to step out of home without you chaperoning start laying ground rules and consequences for breaking the rules. The consequences have to be reasonable and consistent and equal for all kids irrespective of their gender and grades. “Promise me, you’ll not drive with a drunk driver, if you are in a situation where you do not feel safe, call mom or dad. We’ll be there and we’ll not ask you any questions. Just call us.” Once safely home you guys can decide the course of action and consequences. Remember children too have a social reputation to live up to just like you have one, they feel embarrassed when you throw a tantrum even if they are wrong. Do all the drama at home not in front of their friends. That helps build trust and begets you their respect that you care.
This same script can be used to open doors of communication with anyone just remember the steps, to be non judgmental, no repercussions and unconditional love.
PS: Learned this technique while working on a workshop with Ms Nichols of “The Secret.”