In September, Shelly, one of our moms, came to stay at our shelter after being abused by her husband. He often demands money from her and if she doesn't give it to him, he beats her. The abuse has been going on for a while now, and each time it happens, we encourage her to go to the police to file a complaint. Until now, she hasn't wanted to do that.
This time, tired of the abuse after all these years, she wanted to go to the police, so we took her to the Women's Police Station, which handles such matters. They did the require paperwork, then told us that the first step is to bring the husband in for husband-wife counseling. Of course, the husband would not voluntarily come into a police station, so we had to devise a plan -- the next time he showed up at KM to find her, we would keep him occupied as the police made their way to the facility.
The day after filing the complaint, the police managed to capture him, and ... during counseling, Shelly was adamant that, after years of abuse, she wants nothing to do with him. Her two kids are growing up nicely at Karunya Mane and she expressed that she also wants a better life for herself. Husband, of course, wanted her back. She could not bring herself to press charges and put him in jail, but she did say that she wanted nothing to do with him. The police let him, with the warning that the next time she complains, he'll be thrown in jail.
After Shelly went back to KM, husband has constantly asked us to tell her to return to him. We've explained to him that such a decision is her choice, nobody else's, and he'll just have to be patient to see what she decides in the future.
Since then, Shelly has shown no signs of wanting to return to him. She stays at Karunya Mane and recently took a job as a house cleaner in Gokulam, a wealthy suburb of Mysore where many yoga students stay while in India. She's quite happy to be earning an income so that she can pay back the money she borrowed from her friends, and enjoys being productive again. We hope that she continues to work there, as it is steady work with good pay.
Another unfortunate aspect to Shelly's story is that many of her women friends on the street refused to take her side. Instead, they blame her for her husband's current misery and for breaking up the marriage. They have told us to send her back (we constantly explain that we can't do that), and claim that, "he did not hit her all the time, just sometimes. So why doesn't she return to him?" and that "he has no money, she should come back to him." They also want their money paid back immediately and we explained that it will take time for her to repay them, but that she has every intention to do so. The women refuse to ask the husband for repayment, claiming that Shelly took out the loans, not him -- even though everyone knows that she did so only to give the money to him and avoid being beaten.
We can't guarantee that Shelly won't return to her husband, as many women in India have the belief that they are nothing without a man around, no matter how he treats her. But she now has a couple of good examples of women who have put their foot down against abusive husbands -- Mary and Kamini -- so we hope that she finds her way. We encourage her to continue to work for her earnings, to take care of herself and her health, and to not forget the horrible things that he did to her.