The Hidden Violence

Every woman has some power if not more in the relation-ship. Use it to shut down the abuse the first time it starts.

Domestic violence is a common social issue that has been prevalent in all societies irrespective of social or cultural class, or economic viability. There are many precipitating factors identified that lead to domestic violence like the influence of alcohol or drugs, mental illness of one partner, illiteracy and lack of socializa­tion, intergenerational violence, and experience of child abuse in the violent partner. The list is indef­inite and spread across different groups of peo­ple with some definite and common variables and some not so much. For example, the patriarchy in Pakistan breeds men who misuse the power granted to them and a few slaps here and there or verbal abuse is a norm, especially in the illiterate and poor class.

My intention is not to discuss the factors that cause do­mestic violence but more importantly the element of shame and secrecy around it and how it is seen as a social stigma by both the perpetrators and more importantly by the victim.

I have worked with many clients over the years where the victim of the abuse keeps the domestic abuse a ‘se­cret’ for years before they decide to disclose it to family or friends or bring it to therapy. Nine out of ten times, it is the man who inflicts domestic violence on the woman espe­cially when it comes to physical form of abuse. That should not come as a surprise as men are physically stronger than women and I think that because of the deep-rooted sense of disempowerment that the woman experiences because of physique as well as societal discrimination, it is not a woman’s natural impulse to physically hit a man. There is an instinct of survival that gives the cue that if she raises her hand on the man, it will get ugly.

Violence is a show of power and bullying the weaker and the act of hiding enables the bully to continue to control the abused partner. The cycle of fear and shame keeps the vic­tim trapped in domestic abuse for years. There is fear of ‘it will get worse if I tell anyone’ and there is shame around, ‘people will judge our relationship or I am not the strong woman they think I am.’

We all have a presenting self and most of us would go to any length to maintain that and let people believe what we want to present. The strong educated woman who has worked very hard to become one, when she loses that in her intimate relationship in the name of love, can tolerate the hurt and hitting but wants to step out of her home with her head held high. Again, the challenge of leaving a marriage for example where children are involved or there is financial in­security, creates an impulse to hide the bruises.

In many relationships, men are quite dependent on women too but somehow women miss that fact. A woman will most­ly believe that she needs the relationship or marriage more than the man and this idea again stems from insecurity so she will not expose a man’s behaviour or keep it a secret because of fear of being abandoned. And then there is the relentless hope thrown in the mixer of, ‘This will be the last time.’

Every woman who is unfortunately a victim of domestic vi­olence needs to create noise the first time it happens. Protest. Scream. Tell the family. Most importantly, do not keep a bully’s secret. Do not hope that it is the last time. Set the boundary the first time it happens, create loud noise, and exercise any pow­er that belongs to you. Domestic abuse or violence is a show of power and control. So, think about your unique situation and what power lies with you. There is always some power that belongs to a woman. It can be family or friends’ support. A woman in some cases has more money than a man has or the kids are pro-mom and become the support system of the mother. Or if a man has a profession like being an army man, threatening to report him could negatively impact his career.

Every woman has some power if not more in the relation­ship. Use it to shut down the abuse the first time it starts. The bully can be bullied and keeping the violence a secret will enable the abuser. A man who has displayed the tendency of physical abuse will always show it again so don’t fool your­self into believing that it’s an isolated behaviour and a mere apology will stop it. Abuse is an attitude and not a behaviour.

Stop hiding. Stop protecting. Stop being the secret keeper of violence and look for the window of power that belongs to you and exercise it. Violence needs to be exposed and not hidden and locked away.

Zara Maqbool
The writer is a BACP (British Association for Counselling and Psycho-therapy) accredited individual and couple psycho-therapist based in Islamabad. She can be reached at

The writer is a BACP (British Association For Counselling and Psychotherapy) accredited individual and couple psychotherapist based in Islamabad. She can be reached at or her official website.

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