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Indian Judiciary’s Stance on Cycle of Violence Theory in Assessing Domestic Violence

Updated: Jun 5

Lolita Delma Crasta, Nyayshastram

Introduction

The political ideology of Radical Feminism has the core belief that men have created an ‘ideology of rape’, which amounts to a ‘conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear'[1]. This vision has originated from the patriarchal institution of the society, which has been described by Millett in Sexual Politics (1970) as a ‘social constant’[2]. Men have been raised in a certain manner that instils in them the socially acceptable role[3]. Even though controversial, the silent role is also to keep the women insubordination. In Against Our Will (1975), Susan Brownmiller reiterated that men dominate women because they have ‘biological capacity to rape’ and thus, benefit from the fear provoked[4]. In contemporary times, this fear is provoked by either of the genders in a domestic relation, which is illicit and sought to be condemned by the lawmakers.


The Cycle of Violence Theory

The cycle of violence theory or the cycle of abuse is a theoretical model developed by Lenore Walker to give a better understanding of the pattern shown by the aggressor and victim in their relationship. There are various stages proposed in this theory[5]:

  1. HONEYMOON PHASE – This is the beginning stage of a relationship -where the partners are unaware of the other partner's nature and behavior of the nature of each other.

  2. TENSION BUILDING STAGE – The potential aggressor may prevent the victim from certain freedoms and make it seem as if it was for the good of the victim.

  3. INCIDENT OF ABUSE – The actual physical and violent act is done by the aggressor. Every domestic violent act has an aspect of “physical pain” and the emotional, bearable, or economic violence builds up to this stage.

  4. RECONCILIATION – The aggressor tries to justify his acts and promises to ‘never repeat’.

  5. CALM – The victim forgives the aggressor and tries to move on with her/his life. The victim considers a degree of her/his own fault in the violent act of the aggressor and vouches to change her/himself.

Interpersonal violence appears to be an inter - and intra-generational phenomenon and persons who experience one form of violence tend to develop the mentality for accepting violence from their school years, by observing violence between parents, siblings, and in the school environment[6].


Contemporary Relevance

There are statistics[7], globally, to show that the cycle of violence theory is relevant in depicting domestic violence as a cause of mental harm to the victim i.e., suicide-prone or depression. The repeating of the same cycle of abuse-reconciliation constantly affecting the mind of the victim negatively.

  • 1.3 %rise in registration of complaints of domestic violence cases[8]

  • 72% of all murder-suicides involve an intimate partner[9].

  • Domestic victimization is correlated with a higher rate of depression and suicidal behavior[10].

During times of pandemic, the WHO has stated that DV helplines and medical care should be essential services. Violence imposed by the aggressor on the victim operates in rotation according to the cycle of violence theory. It is always better to get out of the relationship during the tension-building stage itself. Thus, the WHO guidelines aptly cohere to the theory in its relief measure.


Some measures have been taken by NCW[11] to accept complaints via mail and Whatsapp helpline. Similarly, Odisha State Commission has launched a Whatsapp helpline number. UP police have launched the initiative of “suppress corona, not your voice” to encourage women to report abuse cases[12]. Delhi police have also launched a helpline and rescue line for complaints. Tamil Nadu has allowed the concerned officials responsible for this issue to patrol areas and increase access for women to speak out.


The Domestic Violence Act

Section 3 Explanation I (iii) defines verbal and emotional abuse, which usually constitutes the tension-building phase of potential physical violence in a domestic relation, as described by the cycle of violence theory. The section includes- verbal aspects like, “insults, ridicule, humiliation, name-calling” and “repeated threats to cause physical pain” that may lead to an unhealthy mental state of the victim.

Section 3 Explanation I (i) define physical abuse, which describes the ‘incident of abuse’ phase of the theory. The ambit of violence is further increased in the act by this provision.


Section 9(d) ensures the provision of free legal aid under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, in the prescribed form in which a complaint is to be made.


An act of committing violence over the partner is psychological. Therefore, besides providing monetary relief and legal consequences, psychological counseling is provided under Section 14(1).


The Act provides the aggrieved person to continue living in the household peacefully, under Section 17 r/w 18.


Section 9 of the act provides for free legal aid for the victims under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987. This will help the victims to get out of the rut as soon as they can.


Judicial stance

In the case of Sukhendu Das V. Rita Mukherjee[13], the parties weren’t compelled to live together, when it constituted mental cruelty for the husband. The cycle was stopped from repeating itself.


In the case of Narendra V. K. Meena[14], the marriage was ended on an instance of mental cruelty by the wife and constant persistence to live separate from family. Even in this case, the relationship was ended at an early stage.


In the case of Dr. (Mrs.) Malathi Ravi, M.D. Versus Dr. B.V. Ravi, M.D.[15], it was held that “The feeling of deep anguish, disappointment, frustration in one spouse caused by the conduct of other for a long time may lead to mental cruelty. Sustained reprehensible conduct, studied neglect, indifference or total departure from the normal standard of conjugal kindness causing injury to mental health or deriving sadistic pleasure can also amount to mental cruelty.”


In the case of Ataullah Fakruddin Ansari v. The State of Maharashtra[16], the victim filed the suit as soon as the Respondent started showing signs of potential aggressor and started constraining her from certain freedom available to every human being. The judiciary was in support of the Petitioner and praised her for her immediate response. The Bombay High Court said in its order- “The complaint lodged by the prosecutrix is an immediate response to the said discord...one fine day when the relationship turned sour, she filed the complaint.”


The Domestic Violence Act is inclined towards the protection of just women. Even though that is necessary as some women in rural areas still have to suffer under the backward mentality, it cannot be an excuse to let the other gender suffer by keeping the protection under the act limited. This was recognized for the first time in the case of Hiral P Harsora & Ors vs Kusum Narottamdas Harsora & Ors.[17] In this case, the Supreme Court struck down a part of section 2(a) that defined an aggrieved person as the only woman. Further, the words ‘adult male’ was struck down from 2(q) from which defined the respondent. Through this, the judiciary has attempted to make the act more gender-neutral.


Recommendations

  1. Varying punishments should be prescribed for the various levels and stages of violence in accordance with the violence theory.

  2. A committee should be set up to give statistics on the percentage of victim partners who let the ‘first mistake’ slide and appropriate awareness should be imparted, thus.

  3. The Domestic Violence Act should be made more gender-neutral.


Conclusion

The main aim of the cycle of violence theory is to nip the relationship in the bud when the aggressor starts showing symptoms as per the stages of the theory and not consider the first physical violence as ‘the first mistake’, as it will continue repeating in a loop, despite the justification given by the aggressor. One can deduct from the case laws that the judiciary has been in tune with the application of the theory and not forcing the couple to stay in the intimate relation, post–tension-building stage. The same can be observed from the domestic violence act, with its definition, it explains the different phases as described by violence theory.

______________


[1] Maria Bevacqua, Rape On The Public Agenda: Feminism and the Politics of Sexual Assault, 60 (1st ed., 2000). Maria Bevacqua, Rape On The Public Agenda: Feminism and the Politics of Sexual Assault, 60 (1st ed., 2000). https://books.google.co.in/books/about/Rape_On_The_Public_Agenda.html?id=PX6z7RB24OMC&redir_esc=y

[2] Kate Millet, Sexual Politics (1970), (1st ed, 2000) Maria Bevacqua, Rape On The Public Agenda: Feminism and the Politics of Sexual Assault, 60 (1st ed., 2000). https://books.google.co.in/books/about/Rape_On_The_Public_Agenda.html?id=PX6z7RB24OMC&redir_esc=y

[3] Andrew Heywood, Political Ideologies: An Introduction, 322 (6th ed., 2017)

[4] Susan Brownmiller, Against Our Will (1975), (1st ed.1975) Maria Bevacqua, Rape On The Public Agenda: Feminism and the Politics of Sexual Assault, 60 (1st ed., 2000). https://books.google.co.in/books/about/Rape_On_The_Public_Agenda.html?id=PX6z7RB24OMC&redir_esc=y

[5] Lenore Walker's Cycle of Abuse, Exploring your mind,

[6] Suzanne K. Steinmetz, Handbook of Psychological Approaches with Violent Offenders, 13 (2nd ed., 1999) Maria Bevacqua, Rape On The Public Agenda: Feminism and the Politics of Sexual Assault, 60 (1st ed., 2000). https://books.google.co.in/books/about/Rape_On_The_Public_Agenda.html?id=PX6z7RB24OMC&redir_esc=y

[7] Violence against women, The World Health Organization, Maria Bevacqua, Rape On The Public Agenda: Feminism and the Politics of Sexual Assault, 60 (1st ed., 2000). https://books.google.co.in/books/about/Rape_On_The_Public_Agenda.html?id=PX6z7RB24OMC&redir_esc=y

last see 08/03/2021

[8] Domestic violence top crime against women, sedition cases doubled in 2018: NCRB data, The PrintMaria Bevacqua, Rape On The Public Agenda: Feminism and the Politics of Sexual Assault, 60 (1st ed., 2000). Maria Bevacqua, Rape On The Public Agenda: Feminism and the Politics of Sexual Assault, 60 (1st ed., 2000). https://books.google.co.in/books/about/Rape_On_The_Public_Agenda.html?id=PX6z7RB24OMC&redir_esc=y..last seen 15/08/2020

[9] The Association Between Sex Ratio and Domestic Violence in New York State & California, Maria Bevacqua, Rape On The Public Agenda: Feminism and the Politics of Sexual Assault, 60 (1st ed., 2000). https://books.google.co.in/books/about/Rape_On_The_Public_Agenda.html?id=PX6z7RB24OMC&redir_esc=y. last seen on 08/03/2021

[10] Statistics, NCADV Maria Bevacqua, Rape On The Public Agenda: Feminism and the Politics of Sexual Assault, 60 (1st ed., 2000). Maria Bevacqua, Rape On The Public Agenda: Feminism and the Politics of Sexual Assault, 60 (1st ed., 2000). https://books.google.co.in/books/about/Rape_On_The_Public_Agenda.html?id=PX6z7RB24OMC&redir_esc=y. last seen 14/08/2020

[11] National Commission for Women records a rise in complaints since the start of lockdown, The HinduMaria Bevacqua, Rape On The Public Agenda: Feminism and the Politics of Sexual Assault, 60 (1st ed., 2000). https://books.google.co.in/books/about/Rape_On_The_Public_Agenda.html?id=PX6z7RB24OMC&redir_esc=y. last seen 08/03/2021

[12] With Covid-19, comes the “Shadow Pandemic”: How the surge of domestic violence gripped India’s women in 2020, The Times of India Maria Bevacqua, Rape On The Public Agenda: Feminism and the Politics of Sexual Assault, 60 (1st ed., 2000). https://books.google.co.in/books/about/Rape_On_The_Public_Agenda.html?id=PX6z7RB24OMC&redir_esc=y

[13] 2017 (8) Supreme 33, 46

[14] AIR 2016 SC 4599, 4612

[15] (2014) 7 SCC 640, 655

[16] Bail Application No.390 of 2020

[17] AIR 2016 SC 062, 016