FACING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE DURING PREGNANCY

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Domestic Violence during Pregnancy

Domestic Violence during Pregnancy 

“Women have a predestination to suffering”- Bela Lugosi

(Two women are chatting, Place: Office canteen)

Renu-OMG! (Scrolling over the phone screen) Have you checked the WHO data?

Rekha-  About what?

Renu- Recent global prevalence figures indicate that about 1 in 3 (35%) women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime. (Reading aloud from the screen).

Rekha- Hmm (sighs).

Renu- I am sure your hubby is changed now. I knew pregnancy sorts out things between couples.

Rekha- No. Pregnancy can’t save your marriage; neither can it save you from domestic violence. A batterer remains a batterer.

The statistics is horrifying, isn’t it? But, the prevalence of domestic violence is even higher especially in developing countries like India. What is even more concerning is the issue of domestic violence during pregnancy!

Are you a victim?

One out of three women is vulnerable to domestic violence. Yes, you read that figure correctly! The prevalence of this social evil is really that lofty. Although, generally, people consider torture as domestic violence only when it causes bleeding and bruises, only when it leaves physical scars behind but domestic violence can be non-physical in nature as well. There are four main types of domestic violence:

  • Physical – It includes kicking, shaking, throwing objects, pushing, hitting with belt, punching, biting, whipping, scratching. It can lead to injuries, for example, WHO found 42% of women who experience intimate partner violence, reports an injury as a consequence of this violence.
  • Sexual abuse – It includes behaviours like putting objects inside genitalia, forced prostitution, cutting pubic hair, mutilating genitals etc. Sexual violence can lead to unintended pregnancies, induced abortions, gynaecological problems, and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. Sexual abuse actually increases the chance of sexual transmission 1.5 times.
  • Psychological abuse – It includes stealing possessions, taking wallets, locking inside room, locking out of the house, harassment over phone, following etc.
  • Verbal abuse – It includes behaviours like verbal threatening to kill one and her children, telling that one is ugly, or calling one demeaning and abusive words such as cunt, slut, whore etc.

Violence during pregnancy

Generally people think about pregnancy as a time for weaving new dreams, gleeful waiting for the new life, lots of care and love from relatives, visiting doctors regularly, all positive and good; isn’t it? But even during that fragile phase of life women face the anger outbursts, kicking, and all bad behaviours from their spouse. You might be thinking it is the rarest thing that can happen. But nope! The prevalence of violence from partner is quite high. The range of prevalence of violence during pregnancy found in developing countries is much wider (3.8% to 31.7%) than that of industrialized countries (3.4% to 11%). In the IndiaSAFE study in 2004 it was found that during pregnancy 16% of the women were slapped, 10% were hit, 10% were beaten, 9% were kicked, and usages of weapon in 5% cases and 6% were harmed in some other way. 18% percent of women experienced at least one of these behaviours and 3% experienced all six. The overall prevalence of moderate to severe violence during pregnancy was 13%.

Risk factors of violence during pregnancy

IndiaSAFE research team found four main risk factors responsible for domestic violence during pregnancy,

  • Suspicion of infidelity
  • Dowry harassment
  • Husband being regularly drunk
  • Lack of education

Upshots of Violence during pregnancy

 Physical-

Physical symptoms that are frequent among battered pregnant women are,

  1. Kidney infections.
  2. Premature labour.
  3. Trauma due to falls.
  4. Blows to the abdomen.
  5. Fainting.
  6. Digestive problems: diarrhoea, spastic colon, constipation, nausea.

Obstetric complications that are quite customary are,

  1. Abdominal pain.
  2. Bleeding before 37 weeks.
  3. Premature rupture of membranes.
  4. Diminished foetal movements or growth retardation.
  5. Significant backache, headache or hyperemesis (severe and prolonged vomiting).

Effects on foetus

Don’t allow yourself to be abused day- to –day; it’s not only important for you but also for the foetus inside your womb. Commonly found impacts of violence on the foetus are,

  1. Premature birth
  2. Foetal distress (Mostly related to foetus has not been receiving enough oxygen).
  3. Low birth weight

Mental health outcomes

Domestic violence is no less than a trauma to the victims, especially when she is expecting a baby. Therefore, it’s very obvious to have negative mental health consequences as well.

  1. Depression is one unavoidable consequence of domestic violence. Although, it is found that depression is common during the initial time of violence, it lessens gradually with time (Women accept the violence as a part of their lives).
  2. Post-traumatic stress disorder has also been extensively studied as a sequence of intimate partner violence. Severities of torture, type of abuse are important determinants in development of PTSD.
  3. Anxiety.
  4. Suicidal ideation and attempts.
  5. Emotional distress.

Ways to deal with it:

Needless to mention that a woman facing the hardness of violence during pregnancy, finds the situation absolutely bewildering. Therefore, most of the time women do not go against it and think things will be resolved by its own.  Factors like

  1. Hope that the partner will change,
  2. Lack of economic security,
  3. Lack of support from relatives.
  4. Stigma.
  5. Societal compulsion for the woman to stay with her abusive partner.

It is also often seen that women take pregnancy as a solution or a remedy to mend their broken marital lives. It is indeed an impractical expectation that a wife-abuser will turn into a saint after becoming father. Actually things can go worse. Then the foetus will be affected badly before birth. What about after birth? If the husband continues such barbaric behaviours in front your kids, the fearful memories of violence will haunt them the entire life. Needless to say, the entire personality development of the child will be affected. He/she may also learn to imitate or repeat such behaviours in their lives. Who knows?

Therefore,

  1. It is suggested to plan for a baby only when a couple is prepared to provide the newborn a peaceful life.
  2. Waiting for things to change is nothing but waiting for one to learn to accept. It’s human nature to continue behaviour if it is reinforced or if it is not punished. If you don’t punish the abusive behaviour it’s almost sure to come again. Therefore protest any abusive behaviour towards you.
  3. Behaviour is difficult to change once it becomes a habit. If it is unexpected behaviour, change it the first day it happens.
  4. Go for legal advice without any hesitation if things are not being possible to be sorted by you.
  5. Try to empower yourself. Be financially independent, no matter how small you earn, you will feel more confident to protest.

Women often live a life they are expected to live. Lives are sacrificed in the path of compromise, tears, acceptance of violence and so on. But, one should remember, women are not born to be ruled.

 

Read More: Can India be Safe of it’s Women?

 

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Sucharita Maji
Sucharita is a Research Scholar in Department of Psychology at IIT Kanpur. Her research interest lies in the field of Social & Health Psychology; with focus on gender issues, women & mental health. She enjoys Ravindrasangeet, cappuccino and a good read in her leisure time.

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