Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Domestic Violence and the Bharatiya Nari
A woman patient was referred this morning from the casualty/emergency department for pain on the face and jaws. Before speaking to the patient it is customary to read up on the name, age and other details from the case notes written by the emergency doctor who had checked her in. There was a small red marking on her case notes, in the top left corner, a question mark with the words “MLC” written beside it. Which meant in doc-speak – “Be Alert” possible medico-legal case, with all the attendant complications to follow. And no wonder the others had deftly passed on this patient to me to deal with. A medico-legal case for your information involves any injury to a patient obtained through violence and the doctor attending should be ready to go to a court and give evidence of the actual injuries and sufferings of the patient. As we are all aware, this evidence business is not a one-time only thing in Indian courts, every time the case gets called to the court but also gets postponed the doctor has to be at the court again and again, neglecting all his other work. Now for a dozen medico-legal patients, think about how much time the doctor has to spend in court every month. Hence most doctors try to avoid getting involved in such patients.
Anyway this patient had ended up in front of me and I had to get on with it. So as I examined her and asked her what happened she told me the pain in the cheeks and jaws, especially around her jaw joint (the tempro-mandibular joint which connects the lower jaw to the upper jaw in front of the ears) was there ever since her husband had slapped her last night. And there I had my cue. So I asked her, if she was planning to give a police complaint against her husband for hitting her, under the domestic violence act. She shook her head and said vehemently and with noticeable pride that she had no intention of blaming her husband for anything and there was no chance of getting the police involved in what was now amicably settled between them. But it was my duty to have asked for the clarification and I had done my duty.
So having got that statement from her, I went on to examine her and found that she had no fracture of the jaw bones or joint but on the contrary her ear drum had burst on that side. When I mentioned this fact to her she said so proudly (and with a laugh) that her husband was so strong he had burst her ear with just one blow. So then I asked her why? Why he had struck her? Was it a regular thing? For this time she had been lucky, there was no major damage to her but the next time she could even end up dead if struck with such force in the wrong area of the face or head. But she didn’t answer my questions then, so I went on to order investigations and talk about treatment options. And finally when she was leaving with the prescription she volunteered the information that she was already taking medicines for infertility and she wanted to know if any of these medicines will interfere with those other drugs. When I asked her how long she was being treated for infertility she said five years and that’s the reason this quarrel happened. Her husband had said something about her not having a child all these years and she had retorted that the fault might not be on her side and she if he really wanted a child that bad, she would go sleep with someone, get pregnant and give her husband that child. And that’s when he had slapped her. After saying this, she took her prescription and left.
Later, when I was in the canteen and had some free time to think over the day’s events, I pondered over this strange drama. Why was that woman so proud of him, of his strength and of his violent behavior? Do some women get their kicks from being punched and thrown around? Is that at all possible? Or was she acting before me? The woman had looked educated and was probably financially independent and could support herself without her husband. But she still hung on to him despite getting blows for her patience. This was contrary to all the media reports we read about educated and financially independent women not being victims of domestic violence and only the sole wage earning lower classes getting away with this sort of behavior. And she didn’t even have kids to worry about spoiling their future due to any action she took on her husband.
And as she said the infertility could be due to any number of causes on both sides. And none of which reasons excused the husband from hitting her violently. But she was actually proud of him in front of me, defending his right to hit her, refusing to give a police complaint, even thought the risk of a bigger injury in the near future was threatening. Did she love him that much? Or what was she thinking? I am merely a writer of medicines and I don’t have the answers to these complicated questions. Hell I don’t even have the answers to some of my own questions about what goes on in a woman’s mind (considering my distinct lack of success so far with the fairer sex). So I offer no expert analysis here. But maybe you my readers can help me with understanding this Bharatiya Nari's devotion to her abusive husband and why she keeps on clinging to him despite the risk to her life. I hope at least the female readers of my blog can explain the why to me. Do enlighten me....