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Remedial Trainer Roseline Gomes On The Psychology Of Patriarchy Behind The Marital Rape

  • IWB Post
  •  December 5, 2019

66% of married women have experienced physical or sexual violence when the husband is an alchoholic; only 10% of married victims of sexual violence seek help.

The statistics on marital rape tell a horrific tale – a tale of abuse, unreported cases, and oppression. In a country that is continuously struggling with sexual harassment, raising a voice on marital rape is a taboo subject. Even though sufficient data exists in survey sheets, marital rape is still not a criminal act in India.

“I once had a client, whose husband would insert bulbs inside her genitals. Whenever she complained, her mother would tell her that things would get better with time as they were newly married,” shares Roseline Gomes, a Counselor and a Remedial Trainer, in conversation with IWB.

Roseline Gomes works on community oriented projects and currently pursuing her research in the field of positive psychology and education. Her initiative, Shilpi and Michael Foundation, is a non-profitable venture that trains youth and helps them in gaining confidence and enhanced sensory skills to initiate a forum of change.

As a part of #16DaysOfActivism in collaboration with Our Young Voices, Roseline Gomes explores with us how toxic masculinity can trigger domestic violence, the lack of mental health awareness in relation to traumas of marital rape survivors, and importance of discussion on hierarchies within a patriarchal setup of an Indian family.


Marital rape is a highly sensitive issue. Unfortunately a lot of men and women aren’t even aware of the term. Could you highlight the ways in which we can raise awareness?

It is true that most people do not believe that it exists. A friend once told me how family is an institution in India and so one cannot stigmatize marital rape because there is no proof in these cases. Even when one is reporting the crime, there is no proof except for what one goes through physically and mentally. Most people blame themselves and live in denial. If we can normalize a conversation on what an individual goes through in a marriage – emotionally and physically through informative websites, we could begin to raise some awareness. We need to make people understand the concept of consent. As counselors and therapists, the onus is on us as well to make the client understand the interrelation of emotional trauma with physical abuse.

Let’s discuss the psychology behind marital rape. What makes a man feel entitled to sex in a marriage?

There could be multiple reasons. For e.g., if a person has undergone any kind of abuse in his childhood, or has seen any person undergo abuse in the household, he will reinforce the same behavior onto others. We had a case where a child abused his peers in school because he saw his father abusing his mother at home thinking it was part of a game. Also, there are times when we are unable to enact on some emotions. These repressed emotions take the form of abusive behavior later on as a means of showing authority – winning something else over something else. Patriarchy too has played a part in aggravating the issue, but to say that it is the only cause would be wrong. In some cases, people may have some issues in the brain which may lead to a person behave in a certain way based on their personal experiences.

Can you please explain how toxic masculinity can contribute to the manifestation of abusive traits?

Toxic masculinity is basically ‘me winning over everything’ to show my power. A toxic man would always want to exercise control over everything and everyone – children, parents, and especially a partner.  When things don’t fall as per a toxic person’s plan, he is likely to use force to exert his supremacy – the abuse could either be verbal or physical. Sometimes, there is sadistic pleasure attached, some people get excited when they hurt a person. This condition in psychology is diagnosed as a paraphylic disorder – when a person experiences a sense of euphoria upon physically hurting the other. It’s not just women who go through marital rape, men too suffer abuse in relationships.

Women undergo severe mental trauma as a result of marital rape. How can the healing process be facilitated?

First of all, it is very important to make a woman feel safe when she comes to a counselor or a therapist. They also need to be made aware of what they are going through, the changes happening in their body. You need to make them see the whole picture in order to start the healing process – how they felt earlier, how they are feeling now and how they see themselves in the future. Also, if only therapy is not working, we need to sensitize them towards medication and guide them in seeking help of a professional for further diagnosis or send them to rehabilitation centers if needed. It is very important to understand the mindset of the patient, their thinking patterns aren’t very clear when they are suffering and in such cases cognitive behavior therapy can help. Creating small self-help therapy groups where patients can talk about their experiences and come up with solutions and giving them activities to instill body positivity can aid in their healing.

Could you please talk about how modernizing a concept of family in India can help sensitize people about the issue?

Making people understand the concept of Consent is difficult, especially in rural areas where most people are uneducated and come from various cultural backgrounds. We need to train women to be mentally and physically strong to help them in stopping abusive behaviour.  Enacting skits in rural areas through the help of NGO’s and social work departments that explains basic concepts can prove helpful in educating people. It is required to teach skills to women that help them earn a living so that they can get out of a situation and empower themselves. As a community, experts should train students and volunteers in setting up mental health camps to address the unspoken mental issues – helping the needy in their healing and the students in their learning process. Our education needs to be more application oriented than textbook oriented.

Countries like UK and USA have criminalized marital rape. Do you think criminalizing it in India will bring us a step closer to fighting this social evil?

We must work towards creating a framework that criminalizes marital rape. In India a family is an institution and there are certain values attached to it, but that value goes away when such incidences happen and the women are unable to voice their concerns. We need to bring in experts from different departments, brainstorm and initiate a forum where people can talk about their experiences. People need to understand how grave mental and physical implications of the marital rape are. They need to understand that marital rape is a criminal act because it does not involve consent.

Do not miss: Our Young Voices is hosting a panel discussion on gender-based violence in India on Human Rights Day, December 10, 2019 in Bengaluru, Karnataka. Through the campaign against marital rape, Our Young Voices has documented the experiences of marital rape survivors, and these experiences will be narrated in the form of monologues, poetry, and music. 

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