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Battered and bruised — 47 cases of domestic violence in July

BANGALORE: The domestic violence that Darshan allegedly subjected his wife Vijayalakshmi to has hit the headlines all because the perpetrator is a famous film actor. But several other cases in the city just don’t make it into the public domain.
Vanitha Sahaya Vani, the government-run helpline that offers free counselling and legal help for distressed women, receives about 20-30 calls every day from women stating they’re victims of abuse. In July, it dealt with 107 cases related to marital crisis and 46 were of domestic violence.
Helpline counsellor Saraswathi B S told TOI: “Every day, women come to us with bruises on their hands and eyes or legs swollen after being beating by their husbands. They come when the situation becomes unbearable. Most of them we counsel here try to save their families.”
Saraswathi recalls how she had to ensure safe shelter for Jayalakshmi who didn’t want to go back home. She had to endure threats from her policeman husband. “She went for a movie with neighbours. Her husband got suspicious and started ill-treating her and beating her up, thinking she’d gone with a boyfriend. We took her for treatment to Bowring Hospital and Ashok Nagar police refused to take her complaint and lodge an FIR saying it was a personal issue between the couple. We’ve put her in an ashram and she’s free from trouble,” says Saraswathi.
In another case, Stella D’Souza,45, successfully battled breast cancer but had endure domestic violence at home. As part of the treatment, her breasts were removed. Her husband found her unattractive and got involved in an extramarital affair. “The well-educated husband had no concern for the wife. He even beat her up when she questioned him about the affair. She turned to us for help,” Saraswathi said.
Another counsellor Rani Shetty says there is a breakdown of relationships among young people, including techies, and common causes are incompatibility, ego issues and extramarital affairs. “Most belong to the 25-35 years age group. We receive complaints of domestic violence attributed to extramarital affairs. We counsel them to save their families and suggest they change profession or look for jobs in other companies,” says Shetty.
Silent sufferer
She has been married for the past year but hardly spoken to her husband since the wedding. The couple hasn’t had any kind of relationship despite living in the same house for over six months. If she asks any questions, she’s beaten up.
This is the story of Mangala, who has sought help from the Vanitha Sahaya Vani. This graduate says she wants a divorce from her PUC-pass husband. “He doesn’t speak to me at all and doesn’t let me work. He only wants the jewellery given to me during the marriage. He has a girl friend and I’m a namesake wife. Is this not domestic violence?” asks Mangala, who this reporter met at the helpline on Monday.
Defunct helpline number
* Where do I top up my currency?
* What did you have for breakfast?
These are some crank calls made to the women’s helpline. The toll-free helpline exclusively for women in distress (1091) has not been working for the past six months. “After TOI wrote about the non-functioning helpline in March 2011, BSNL officials took up the matter. But we were flooded with crank calls. After a few days, the number once again stopped functioning,” said Hema Deshpande, helpline convener. The helpline now deals largely with walk-in cases.
(All names of battered women have been changed to protect their identity)
Cases in July 2011
Marital disharmony — 46
Premarital relations — 5
Extramarital relations — 13
Dowry harassment — 21
Alcoholic/psychiatric — 16
Others/ Cheating — 6
Total — 107
Violent crimes against women
* In 2009, 8,839 cases
* In 2008, 7,698 cases
* Crimes include gang rape, molestation, abduction and dowry deaths
(Source: State Crime Records Bureau, Karnataka)



?The brutality of domestic violence is often never understood and adequate measures taken to assuage the pain of women. Often, the silence of victims who put up with it just to ensure their children don’t suffer more than they already have to. But when they do summon courage to take on the bullying husband, the government should make sure she is protected and cared for. In Bangalore, the government can make a small beginning by fixing the dead helpline.



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