(by Rattan Mall, Asian Journal)
Simon Fraser University clinical psychologist Dr. Joti Samra says that someone who commits a horrific act like the murder of his wife often has a history of domestic violence.
Samra told the Asian Journal that domestic murders are “often the culmination of a long history of abusive behaviours,” often starting off with verbal abuse and emotional abuse, followed by physical abuse and that there “certainly can be sexual abuse,” something that our community does not talk about. She added: “There can be sexual abuse even in a marriage.” Samra, who is also President of the BC Psychological Association, said that often there has been a pattern of domestic abuse and people, including those who were close to the wife, will recall that they saw some signs of it but they didn’t say or do anything about it. No one really paid any attention to it.
Samra pointed out: “We need to remember that violent acts rarely come out of the blue.” I had asked Samra about how South Asian parents can instruct their children about dealing with domestic violence in view of the brutal murder of 24-year-old Ravinder Kaur Bhangu of Surrey last week. Her husband, Manmeet Singh, 26, has been charged with her first-degree murder. The couple had been married since 2009 and Ravinder had reportedly left her husband three months ago and moved in with an aunt since her parents are in India.
Ravinder was reportedly attacked with an axe and a meat cleaver at the Sach Di Awaaz newspaper in a business complex in the 8100 block of 128th Avenue in Surrey (see last week’s newspaper at www.AsianJournal.ca).
This week, on Wednesday evening, hundreds of people attended a memorial and candlelight vigil on the lawn of Surrey’s Vedic Hindu Cultural Society. Newton-North Delta MP Jinny Sims, former MP Sukh Dhaliwal, NDP Leader Adrian Dix and several NDP and Liberal MLAs were also present.
There was a lot of anger and disgust expressed against a Punjabi radio station that is alleged to have said that the victim provoked her husband to commit the dastardly murder.
As usual, there are unconfirmed versions of what led the estranged husband to kill his wife. But a report from Rajpura, Punjab, in the Indian newspaper The Tribune of Chandigarh alleged that the victim’s in-laws used to harass her for dowry, including a portion of their agricultural land. The newspaper said: “Ravinder had planned to leave Surrey and come back to her parents in Rajpura next month. Family members said she had even bought tickets for the flight.”
Samra said although she didn’t know what factors were at play here in terms of the alleged killer’s mental state, it is important to keep in mind that men can also experience a sense of shame or betrayal when their wives leave them because of the belief that South Asian society inculcates into people that “a marriage, no matter what, has to work.” But, Samra noted, “Some relations get to a point where it’s just simply intolerable for individuals and I think we need to start to reduce the shame and stigma for both parties when there is a divorce or a separation.”
She said that it’s easy for people to make assumptions about the situation and, unfortunately, as a society, we are more willing to blame the woman rather than the man for the situation. She noted: “People make statements like ‘If she hadn’t left him or if she had worked on the relationship, perhaps this wouldn’t have happened.’” She added: “Indirectly what you are doing is blaming the victim for the crime.” Samra also pointed out that drugs and alcohol can play a big role in domestic violence. She warned that they can impair our decision-making and people end up committing acts that they wouldn’t have otherwise.
Samra said that parents need to educate their daughters and sons about these issues. First of all, they need to give them the message that, no matter what, violence is never appropriate in a relationship. She added: “It’s basically teaching respect issues.”
She said that parents and families should be able to let people know: ‘Look, if there are some things happening in a relationship, there’s help you can get, there’s support you can get; don’t ever feel that you need to hide something that’s of this level and magnitude.’
She added: “And I think that goes a long way towards people feeling that if they need to get help, they can before anything gets to this extreme level.”
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