By Dr. Rishi Gautam
The gruesomeness of the recent murder of a young woman in Delhi has completely captured our imagination leaving us feeling confused, angry, sad, and scared, all at the same time. This maybe a moment to pause and ponder on the unfortunate realities that went into making this situation what it is.
Adolescence or young adulthood, by definition, is a stage of our lives characterized by a rapid evolution in how we perceive ourselves, our relationships, our families, and our place in this world. These changes are attributed to physical and mental maturation leading to need for autonomy, individuation, a more equal or egalitarian relationship with our guardians. This leads to conflicts and power struggles. A young mind has limited ability to appreciate the risks and consequences of their actions and this mixed with almost instant connectivity through social media forms what is a “perfect storm”. It is reported Shraddha and Aftab befriended each other on a dating app. It is also reported that, several other women who Aftab had connected through one of these apps visited the apartment after the murder. They were obviously completely unaware of what had transpired in that very place a few days ago or what still lay in the freezer.
Family systems have played a big role to play in various cultures over millennia to temper these impulses in their young and prevent many unintended consequences. As our world evolves, we will need to evolve with it. There is a need for a more open dialogue between parents and children, a space to express disagreement and dissent and to develop an environment that allows for young adults to express vulnerability in a safe manner. Parents often think they should suppress the negative emotions of their adolescent children and encourage their positive emotions, or they should avoid expressing their own negative emotions during conflicts. Instead, adaptive interactions during adolescence seem to be characterized by a range of emotions. Parents should learn to guide adolescents to express, share, and regulate a range of positive and negative emotions.
Shraddha and Aftab’s story could have been a very different one. There is information in public domain highlighting how both attempted to have conversations about their relationship with their families, friends, colleagues etc. with seemingly limited response, leaving them quite vulnerable in their own space. The young brains had limited ability to manage this distress on their own leading to what we now know to be a violent, unfortunate, tragic and a completely unnecessary outcome. As families and society, we need to create spaces where our young people can express their fears, anger, wishes and vulnerabilities in a safe way that helps them grow into healthy adults.
The ability to love and be loved is what makes us human. Being angry, disappointed, upset towards our partner is as much part of human emotionality as is being happy, caring, loving and joyful. We need to be aware of such complexities of human relationships and learn from them to avoid intimate partner or domestic violence.
Perpetrators of domestic violence have certain consistent traits which are “red flags” or sociopathic tendencies such as: they feel limited remorse for their actions, they can be manipulative and controlling, have poor boundaries, are often very possessive, experience extreme jealousy, are often unpredictable and have very rigid paternalistic worldview. Seems like the relationship between Shraddha and Aftab looked like this at times.
It can be extremely challenging for the victim in such situations to “just leave”. Marriage or live-in or romantic relationships also serve many functions, some of which include companionship, safety from the outside world, a dwelling, monetary support, child support, the fear of being stigmatized or shunned by their families if they were to divorce or separate. Sadly, the most recent data from NFHS-5 in May 2022 demonstrates that 30% of Indian women face domestic violence in some form.
It is vital for us to be able to talk about these things in society, with our families and friends without the fear of retribution if we are to avoid another unfortunate incident like we all have witnessed recently.
Some Tips for Victims of Domestic Violence:
- Draw clear boundaries of expected behaviors and norms
- Develop a safety plan to be used in case of violence. Make an emergency bag which includes some spare money, clothes, nonperishable food, names/numbers of a contact, means of escape from the house
- Avoid confronting your partner in places such as a kitchen/bathroom which has objects that can be used as weapons
- Avoid any tense conversations if any one of the partners is intoxicated
- Identify abusive red flags such as- calls you names, insults you or puts you down, prevents or discourages you from going to work or school or seeing family members or friends, tries to control how you spend money, where you go, what medicines you take or what you wear, acts jealous or possessive or constantly accuses you of being unfaithful, gets angry when drinking alcohol or using drugs, threatens you with violence or a weapon, hits, kicks, shoves, slaps, chokes or otherwise hurts you, your children or your pets, forces you to have sex or engage in sexual acts against your will, blames you for his or her violent behavior or tells you that you deserve it.
- Emergency Resources- 112 or Domestic Violence Helpline: 1800 212 9131.
(The author is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, The GW School of Medicine & Health Sciences in Washington DC, USA. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the FinancialExpress.com.)