Thursday , May 26 2022

I am in an abusive relationship myself- Indian Social Worker & Bully

I sat in Nita’s office for another session, waiting for her to finish a team meeting. The regular sessions had helped at first, just by giving me an outlet to talk about what was happening. But lately, our chats with each other had gotten contentious. Nita seemed to be losing patience, maybe because she personally cared about me, and was disappointed that I wasn’t following her advice.

I sat staring at the posters on the wall, which were the same as the ones that used to be in my office. Posters about self-respect, dignity, not taking Pervert Exploit, relying on the machinery in place to help, pitfalls of enabling abusive behavior, etc. I once used them extensively when counseling women. Now I still could not get used to being on the other side of the table. Finally she walked in and saw me. Sighing, she closed the door behind her and took her seat, giving me a questioning look. I couldn’t look her in the eye.

“You were with him again?”

I nodded. She took a pad and started making notes.

“It was supposed to be just once a month. Then it became once a week. And now multiple times a week?” she asked.

“Well, he says he is allowing me to go to the US and after that we won’t meet for months at end, so he wants to make this time count.”

“Allowing you to go? Oh lord, do you hear yourself talk? You now think you are beholden to him about how to live your life?” she sarcastically said.

“No. Of course not.” I protested. “He does have it in his power to disrupt my life. Even more. He isn’t doing that. He has been understanding about the situation. In general he has become more understanding.”

“Understanding!” she scoffed. “I can see that at least there are no bruises on your face this time. So I assume he was gentle.”

“He is never gentle.” I said wanly. “He just left my face alone this time, that’s all.”

“So what did he do?”

“I’d rather not go into the details.”

“Come on Shikha…you know how this works. You have to be honest and talk out loud about it or you won’t be able to come to terms with it. Don’t bottle it up.” she said impatiently.

“Maybe in a little while? Please?” I said.

She tapped her pen on the pad for a few seconds staring at me.

“Shikha, look at me.”

I did. The expression on her face was one of sadness and anger.

“Let’s go to the police.”

“This again!” I got angry. “You know very well why I cannot go to the police!”

“The pictures and videos?”

“Yes!!”

“How long are you going to keep fooling yourself with that excuse? This is textbook denial and hedging. There are ways to limit the damage from that. Besides, all the policemen know you and respect you. They will work extra hard…”

“I have heard all this before.” I snapped at her. “You don’t get it. It’s not that straightforward, Nita, it is…”

And I suddenly stopped mid-sentence. I had used the exact same words Parvati had used the first time we met and I was convincing her to go to the police. I bit my lips to fight back tears.

“Every woman in an abusive relationship thinks her case is special, and there is some reason or the other to keep taking the Pervert Exploit.”

“What do you mean relationship?” I angrily said. “It is not a damn relationship, Nita! The man Molestationd me and is now blackmailing me!”

“Shikha, stop being so blind. Of course it’s a relationship, whether you like the idea or not.”

“Nonsense!”

“How long has it been since that first night?”

“Four months.”

“And since then, how many times have you and he spent time together like that?”

I stopped and counted.

“Ten times.”

“And each time, approximately how many times do the two of you have sex?”

“Four or five times.”

“How long has it been since Anup came back to help with wrapping up things for the move to California?”

“Two weeks.”

“And how often have you and your husband had sex in the two weeks?”

I stayed silent and glared at her. She knew it was an unfair question. It’s not like I did not want to do it. I just could not willy-nilly have sex with Anup with all the tell-tale bruises on my body. It had to only be at night, in the darkness. Fortunately, Anup had always favored turning the lights off before sex at night. Besides, he was busy with work in addition to all the moving chores, so most nights, he had come home late and tired.

“Face it, Shikha. You and Lallan have an abusive relationship. By not going to the police, and by not telling your husband or anyone else except me, you are tacitly agreeing to be his mistress. It might have started off as just a forcible encounter and blackmailing. But now that Anup is in Delhi, you and Lallan are still spending time together behind his back. That is infidelity. That is a relationship.”

I knew on some level that she was right. But I was not yet ready to accept it.

“This time he did not drink because of his daughter’s birthday party. He gets the most violent and cruel when he is drunk. So this time, although there was a lot of the usual…you know, spanking, biting, and so on, it wasn’t like brutally bad.”

“Do you hear yourself? Again, textbook battered woman in denial. You are seeking relief in small mercies.”

I sighed and shook my head. Everything she was saying is what I would have said if I were in her position. And yet, I could not accept it.

“I was going to ask you about the party. I heard from Salma that you were there.”

Salma was the new case worker hired in my place and assigned to the Parvati case. Since Parvati had recanted her complaints and got back with her husband, her job was to keep tabs on their family life, make sure things were indeed normal like Parvati claimed. So she had been invited to the birthday party in their slum. She and I exchanged a few pleasantries, but mostly, we stayed away from each other. I could sense there was curiosity and suspicion in her gaze.

“Did she…does she…I mean…”

“Does she suspect there is something going on between you and that family going beyond just being a friendly ex-case-worker?”

“Yeah.”

“She didn’t explicitly say it to me.” Nita said. “But she was a little surprised that you were there at the party. How did you end up there, by the way?”

“Lallan insisted.” I shrugged. “He said he wanted me to see first hand the results of my “help” in dealing with his darkness. And how it had improved his family life.”

“Wasn’t Parvati surprised to see you there?”

“She was. Also, she was happy to see me. That led to an…odd encounter too.”

“Tell me about it”. Nita sat back as I narrated

—–

The party was being held in an open area in the corner of the slums. There were a bunch of kids, some neighbors and family friends and also relatives of the couple. There was a table with simple snacks like potato chips, samosas, chocolates, tea, soft drinks. A few balloons, as much as the family could afford. And a few simple gifts the other kids had brought.

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