Defining Domestic Violence

Violence against women is a prevalent problem in our society that persists in our society. The World Health Organization defines violence against women as violent actions based on gender perspectives that are either in the form of, threatening to or lead to physical, sexual, mental harm or suffering in women. These acts also include coercion and deprivation of liberty in both public and private life in a systematic manner for the abuser to have his way.

Today, however, we focus on a much more niche segment of the problem that is intimate partner violence which is behaviour on the lines of domestic violence that causes the partner to face physical, sexual and psychological harm through controlling the behaviour of the dominating partner. As per WHO in a 2013 report which collected data over 80 countries about 35% of all women have gone through the painful experience of sexual, mental or physical violence by an intimate partner or a non-partner. This practice of gendered violence imposes a huge mental and economic toll on the victims and can permanently scar them.

In India, the phenomenon of violence against women within a family or a relationship is very complex and very deeply rooted within the entrails of the society itself as it is prevalent in all levels, regions and religious groups of urban and rural society. Girls and women continue to have a low status in the family compared to the males which in turn affects their access to resources and infrastructure such as education. Marriage is considered as essential for a girl or woman and the husbands in these relationships are automatically assumed to “own” their wives. What is even more alarming is that women believe routine beatings and abuse is the right of the husband and only feel like reporting the issue when these beatings become serious and inflict severe injuries.

As per the NFHS-4 which aimed to obtain information on domestic violence experienced by non-married and married women for physical, sexual and emotional spousal violence revealed that about 30% of women aged between 15-49 have been subjected to physical violence before the survey. The physical violence category included pointers as shaking, throwing something at the victim, slapping, twisting wrists, kicking etc. The survey also states that 21% of husbands from rural areas and 15% of husbands from urban areas subject their spouses to marital control. This refers to a situation where the husband becomes jealous when the spouse talks to other men, prevents the woman to meet her female friends, limits her contact with her family, does not trust the spouse with any money and insists in knowing her location at all times. Moreover, the survey also states that about 1/3rd of all married women have experienced spousal violence 12 months before the survey.

It should be kept in mind that this survey carried out by the Ministry of Family and Welfare was in the year 2015-16 showing the data and paradigm on Indian married women and how they are battered while their spouses puppeteered their activities through coercive action. Referring to fresher data in 2019 as per the National Crime Records Bureau, about 4,05,861 cases were registered under the category of “crimes against women” which reflected 7.3% increase since 2018 (3,78,236 cases). The key category to keep an eye on was the category of cases registered for ‘Cruelty by Husband or his Relatives’ amounting to a surprising 30.9%  which suggests roughly 1,25,411 women. Scrutinising these statistics should be sufficient to suggest that domestic violence is still a very prevalent issue in society bungled up with ancient societal notions of gender superiority.

Battered Woman Syndrome

Battered woman syndrome is a result of Lenore Walker’s research on the testimonies of battered women in abusive relationships. She explains that women continue to stay in these abusive relationships as they are scared. They inhibit fear for the future as they estimate that the violence or beatings could get severe, this fear is further aggravated if the woman is financially dependent on the abuser. This cycle of abuse has three phases-

Tension building phase: As the words suggest, this phrase describes the rising tension level in the relationship over some time-spanning days, weeks, months or even years as there is no defined duration. In this phase, there are incidents of jealousy, shouting and small fights. The abuser as a result experiences outburst of anger and sudden mood swings at small irrelevant details frequently, The victim then tries to calm the abuser down thinking that the problem is solved and eventually ends up blaming themself by justifying the behaviours of the abuser. This tension keeps on building where the victim continues to attempt soothing down the abuser who keeps on with his erratic bursts of angry and irrational behaviour.

Acute violence: Also recognised as the shortest stage in this cycle, this stage speaks of the actual violence that takes place in the relationship. The violence might be physical, emotional, psychological or even economical which occurs due to lack of control on the behaviour of the abuser. The victim becomes highly anxious and isolates themselves since they feel frightened, trapped, helpless and numb. Within the relationship, the abuser would use this stage to assert dominance and use a variety of tactics such as threat, intimidation and isolation to do so.

Reconciliation phase: Also known as the honeymoon stage is the stage where the abuser asks for forgiveness through manipulative tactics such as denial and blame to shift the wheel of power and control back in his favour. Within this stage, the abuser tries to be on his best behaviour to make the victim feel apologetic, remorseful and the cause of the problem. This makes the victim feel that the violence was a one-time event and the abuser would not attempt to repeat such an incident considering that the behaviour of the abuser is proof of that. This period, however, ends when the small incidents in the tension building stage begin again.

Seeking Help

It is of paramount importance that women in abusive relationships and households should seek help and come out of these relationships since continuing to stay and being a part of such relationships is a hazard to both the physical and mental wellbeing of these women. Intimate physical violence tends to have fatal outcomes such as homicide and suicide, fatal injuries, unintended injuries and serious mental problems such as depression, PTSD, anxiety issues, sleep issues and even suicide attempts

The first step to tackle this problem is to make the victim aware of the situation and make her understand that she is in an abusive relationship where she is physically, mentally and emotionally being exploited. The next step is to maintain her security. This is because most of these cases are not reported due to concern over the security of the woman. Women usually are more likely to approach their friends and maternal home for guidance and thus, it is their duty to accommodate them and give them a safe space. After this, the victim should be shown that she is reassured that the abuse she suffered was the sole fault of her abuser and not her. Lastly, the woman is to be shown all options available to her including legal options or escort options to the police for reporting the offence.


1. Violence against women,

2. WHO | Global and regional estimates of violence against women WHO,

3. Lalita Parihar, Review of CRIME AGAINST WOMEN, 31 Journal of the Indian Law Institute 111–113 (1989),

4. National Family Health Survey,

5. Crime in India 2019 | National Crime Records Bureau,

6. Lenore Walker’s Cycle of Abuse Exploring your mind,

7. Victims of Domestic Violence in India Rarely Come Forward or Seek Help The Wire,

8. Victim/survivor-centred approach,


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