Domestic violence

What do you do, when the world’s best relationship turns into the worst?

Suddenly, I feel impelled to write on this topic.

As I write, the Mohsin Abbas Haider and Fatima Sohail case is blazing on our screens.  Yes, this is the ugly side of a toxic relationship. You are getting a demo of how it can end up.

So, how does such toxic situation happen? What could have been done to prevent it? (Believe me, it is very easy to tell others what to do, till one is oneself in such a situation.)

So, we are not being judgmental here. – Just using it as a learning experience, for all those who are in a similar crisis. Many couples are  going through similar situations.  So, this blog post is for them.

Preventive steps:

Your best bet is to keep your relationship as good as it can be for as long as possible. Do all you can to keep it great. However, when a violent act takes place, know that this is the ‘cut-off’ point in the relationship. In Fatima Sohail’s  case, she had been beaten previously too. That is when she should have walked out. Because when a partner hits you – this is the point of no return.

Your smartness lies, in not allowing a relationship to come to that head; if you can help it. The fact is that domestic physical violence always begins with verbal abuse.

Supposing a man is being verbally abusive. So, what you can do is,

  1. Let him know (later on when his mood is better.) Tell him, that you found it hurtful. Give him a chance to apologize. These days the Hum channel. play ‘Khaas’is highlighting this. His constant ‘shaming remarks in front of everyone,’
  2. Successful examples:
  • Jokes at her expense: I personally know a friend whose husband makes jokes at her expense. She always smiles and takes it. (I’d think I’d hate it!) However, her patience is rewarded by the fact that she lives like a queen in her home. He is a loving and giving husband. So, in certain cases, you can let it go, and laugh it off too, if otherwise, he is a good husband.
  • Verbally abusive husband: It is possible, that what you consider verbal abuse may be ‘normal’ in your husband’s family. Yes, I’ve got another friend, whose husband has always used abusive language. He also kept her short on cash all her life. So, when you think about it, the abusive language is ‘normal’ in his family, so he doesn’t mean it badly, just that he is angry, and keeping short in finances is because he has a lot of responsibilities and cannot afford. Understanding this, she chose to ignore this and contributed to her family by her jobs. He was a good father to their children. He was good to her friends and relatives too. She valued his good qualities. In the end, she won by having a loving home for her children, and they all have lived successful lives.
  • Counting his good points: If his good points are more, perhaps you can live with a few bad ones. If he is able to give you what is important for you, then you can overlook. Supposing you’ve invested too much showing patience now, will help you reap the harvest.
  • Have faith. Allah is always there, and something will come out of it. You’ve got to be clear. Whether to stay or to leave should be a well thought out decision on your part. So that you won’t regret walking out on him, later on. (Remember, it won’t be easy out there either.)

Different Types and phases of Domestic violence:

You can get information about these types of domestic violence; check which one you are facing right now:

  1. Passive aggressive behavior: He doesn’t hit you, he doesn’t say anything bad. It is just that he makes sure your life is hell with him. So, there is nothing you can tell others. Hidden agendas here.
  2. Stonewalling: When he treats you as if you don’t exist. He literally looks through you, behaves as if you haven’t spoken or he hasn’t heard you.
  3. Gaslighting: Playing mind games. He is making you believe you are at fault.  It is your fault that he is having to beat you, or be nasty. This is a carefully planned mind game.
  4. Verbal abuse: when he constantly insults you, and your family.
  5. Physical abuse: Yes, and beating too!
  6. Torture: Mental and physical torture. Actually, this is the extreme case!

Know your own threshold:

Each human being is different. While physical domestic violence is unforgivable, the other types depend on you. Can you laugh it off in your own life? Your best bet is when you make it clear to him by your behavior that he isn’t succeeding in what he is trying on you. Let him try. I’ve known women just laughing it off, and managing to find ways to avoid such situations. They are smart. To remain unhurt and pretending to be blind to it all; Till he realizes you aren’t affected, so he stops trying.

There is hope that with time he realizes. Perhaps it is influence of some individual in his life. But he is to blame even then.  You need to be vigilant and aware.

Sometimes, it works to call his bluff, let him know that you are aware of what he is trying to do. You are the best judge of your situation. Please take care of yourself.

What you can do:

  • Carefully, analyze the situation. Keep a journal, so that it can help you keep your sanity. Know what it is first. Only then you will know how to deal with it.
  • Have one confidante or two. Go to a counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist or spiritual guide. At least he or she can help you analyze the situation properly. Do not go to a person of opposite gender.
  • Concept of communication doesn’t work: Know that the concept of ‘dialog’ or ‘communication’ has been disproven. It invariably takes things totally out of context and on to a different path. Adding more problems. Honestly speaking – do you think a passive aggressive person will accept that he is being that? Or that he is stonewalling you? No! By the way, there are sites online which can regularly send you emails helping you to deal with a passive aggressive partner.
  • Use spiritual strength: Prayers, Tahajjad prayers, ask Him for help and guidance. Mostly, ask for patience and inner strength.
  • See your situation from all aspects: which family member can be of help? What will happen if you take any of the options that you want to take. Can you take the consequences? Are you financially and emotionally strong enough?
  • Carefully check out your situation in both cases, whether you decide to stay or if you leave.
  • Speak to someone your husband respects a lot: He may heed to someone he holds in great regard.
  • If you have children, then know how your decisions will affect your children, in the near and distant future also.
  • Youtube videos on relationships by BK Shivani are amazing. See if they help.

You both can go for counseling together:

  • Though the success rate from counseling alone is not very encouraging. Yet it is worth trying.
  • The fact that you both are going together for it, itself would make a difference.
  • Ask someone to intervene and help.

Never forget the third element- your children:

How will they take it, and how will they be affected? Right now, our society doesn’t help the children cope. In the West, they are way ahead in this. You can have stable children even outside a marriage.

Ask your children and yourself:

Can your children live in this bad marriage?

Would it be better, if you walked out?

Be clear, what you can do, if you walk out?

So, you decided to bail out!

Once decided, be cool and plan well. Involve a few people who are wise, preferably not from either families, or one each from both families. Take things into control. Do, not let domestic violence become the norm by taking it. Move away first. I’ve written about divorce in this blog post here.

Have faith in all situations:

Whether you choose to stay inside or outside the relationship, know that Islam has no problem with divorce. Except that it advises you avoid it, if possible.

Have faith in Allah whether you choose to stay inside or outside the relationship.

I believe very strongly that whatever course you choose to take. Do it with mutual grace, dignity and respect. Remember at all times, that you are talking about the child’s father, or the child’s mother.

Just remember that.

All this media hype will die down. But one fine day, this child will search and find all this information online on YouTube or whatever ‘system’ there is then. How will this child feel about his mother and father?

Just calmly think about it from that silent baby’s point of view. The worst thing is that everyone will be knowing about it too.

Walk away with grace, and take up your life. Some things do not have to be said, they are a silent statement. Yet, they keep a pardah or veil.

As the verse in Quran about marriage partners is: They are a raiment unto each other.

Be that raiment, and protect the other from the public eyes. Whatever happens, forgive, and move on. Do not take domestic violence. Walk out or do whatever you decided.  Let things happen in a way that is respectful and condones towards a peaceful future for both of you.

As far as I can see, a divorce is like a ‘hijrat’ or migration. It is necessary when your functioning as a human being becomes distorted. Therefore, move on with dignity and get to the next step ASAP.

As Dr. Phil says in his book Family First, ask yourself this: is the pain of staying more than the pain of moving away?

Know that in both cases, it is a painful journey. (No, I cannot say ‘Stay blessed’ here!)  But if you aren’t in this situation, You are blessed!

Note: All photographs are courtesy of Waliya Najib Khan.

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  1. Rubina says:

    Well written article. Domestic violence has affected a lot of women who suffer in silence because of family pressure or economic reasons. Look around almost everyone in our circle of friends and family, know of one woman who is a victim. But thanks to social media and more support groups that help such victims walk out of these damaging relationships, there is awareness. We need to listen and believe in these women who take a stand against abuse, knowing full well how the patriarchal society will question her credibility and character. As for the children they are the most affected especially if they are too young to comprehend the situation. I know a close friend whose kids were the ones who helped her leave the husband, move out and file for divorce, now she is happily settled with her second husband.

    1. Shireen Gheba Najib says:

      This is a topic that few talk about, though most are aware of such incidents. Your observations, always mean a lot to me. Your back ground of having first hand experience of living in both Pakistan and USA, means, that you’ve seen this issue in both countries. We all have to give strength to those who are going through it. It is important to support the victims and help them get out of the situation. Thank you so much for your input.

  2. Tabinda says:

    What a beautifully written post! Besides the fact that it dissects the topic thoroughly what really stood out for me was the element of balance in the post. Having been in an out of an abusive marriage myself, I must have read hundreds of articles(and a couple of books) on the issue in an attempt to make sense out of what was happening in my life back then. Almost all of the articles/advice that I read were written by western authors, and while they did provide some useful insight, living in Pakistan I did not find them very relatable or practical for e,g I could not escape to a woman’s shelter or get a restraining order as advised in those. I was also confused whether certain things really came under abuse or were they cultural and societal norms in some Pakistani households like you mentioned about the husband who used profane language. I know it’s not normal but is it really something at which a woman should walk out of a marriage, walk out into a society which is very hostile to single, unaccompanied women? So thank you for addressing situations like these in this wonderful post. I wish no woman has to ever deal with abuse and in case she does she gets all the support she deserves to get out of this extremely difficult situation.

    1. Shireen Gheba Najib says:

      Dear Tabinda,
      Writing a blog post on such a subject was rather tough. I’m so glad you found it to be balanced. Thank you so much for sharing your own experiences. It is true, we get a lot of information from Western sources, most of these do not fit into our lives and back grounds. That is why I’ve written it.
      Stay blessed lovely one. Really appreciate your input. 🙂

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