Home is supposed to be a safe space. It is supposed to be a space where one feels supported, encouraged, free to be oneself, and most importantly, safe in all its sense - physically, mentally, emotionally, socially and every other way. Thing is, not everyone of us is lucky enough to have such a safe space at home, especially in intimate relationships.
Intimate partner violence is a reality.
In India, the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act of 2005 calls out a comprehensive list of domestic violence that includes all forms of physical, emotional, verbal, sexual, and economic violence, and covers both actual acts of such violence and threats of violence. It even recognizes marital sexual violence, and other abusive situations. While cases reported to the police are about 120 or so per 100,000 people across these categories, surveys show close to one third of women have experienced such violence with a majority not reporting them at all. For other people in intimate relationships that do not have legal protections like this law, the vulnerability to domestic violence is even higher.
In ordinary circumstances, people vulnerable to such violence take measures to keep themselves safe when they cannot for whatever reason exit the relationship altogether. Much of these safety measures are about finding safe spaces outside the home such as work, shopping spaces or social spaces including neighbours. At home, these measures are about staying close to safer people such as children or elders in whose presence the violence may not happen or be muted. Escape, whether temporary or longer, is something one is always prepared for under these circumstances.
In these CoVid-19 days of lock down and social isolation, for people experiencing intimate partner violence or domestic violence, the situation can be quite dire. This includes students who were in hostels and now forced to be back home, people who would get away to an office for respite and now cannot, people who would express their gender and sexuality more freely outside home and are now forced to live in a hostile home, people married into a loveless relationship without much choice - the list goes on.
Even for others who don't routinely experience such violence, being locked-in can exacerbate existing cracks, rocking the little everyday truces and stormy, violent episodes might occur just because of the forced isolation and cohabiting. Tempers can fray easily.
Imagine being locked in with your abuser for days or even weeks on end! It is scary.
If you are experiencing such violence or run a risk of such violence, please try and prepare ahead. Keep friends informed so they can check in. Have escape plans if it gets too heated. Watch out for CoVid-19 being used to abuse such as being denied sanitizers, or being kept away from people. Keep phones fully charged and know that you can still get help. Forced social isolation doesn't mean compulsory or helpless.
If you know someone at risk, lookout for them. Practice physical distance and social care.
As written for The New Indian Express
Ajanta, Mahesh and other InnerSight counsellors and guest contributors are happy to share their thoughts here.