Why Don’t We Listen To Women When They Talk About Abuse?

Why don’t we listen to women when they talk about abuse?


Have you ever wondered why women are always labelled angry or vindictive when they talk about their rights or of being abused? Or, when they react to something instead of being silent spectators?


These past few days, I have actually been pondering a lot on this. Perhaps, the derogatory comments on social media made against Tanushree Dutta who is talking about how she had been abused are one of the triggers. But then that’s not the only incident which makes me come to this conclusion.


I have seen it happen to women around me, to myself too. I have seen how everything we do is viewed in the negative connotation when we refuse to toe the imaginary line that men and some women believe we must toe. I remember how I have been called arrogant when I refused to be bullied by the men in my team. There have been instances when a female boss upbraiding her team for their bad performance or lapses has been called names. Not only that, whenever a woman does anything which remotely resembles authority, it is insinuated that she must have periods or mood swings and hence the ‘outburst’. Yes, when a woman speaks it’s always an ‘outburst’ when for a man it’s ‘sensible talk’.


This actually happens to women whenever they try to make their presence felt or any time they speak up for themselves. I think nobody sums up what I had been thinking better than one of my favourite authors, Chimamanda Ngozi when she says,


“In our world a man is confident but a woman is arrogant. A man is uncompromising but a woman is a ball breaker. A man is assertive, a woman is aggressive. A man is strategic, a woman is manipulative. A man is a leader, a woman is controlling. A man is authoritative, a woman is annoying. The characteristic or behaviour is the same, what is different is the sex. And based on the sex, the world makes assumptions and the world treats us differently.” – Chimamanda Ngozi in the Chatham House London Conference 2018.


Every time a woman comes out to speak about her rights, she is subjected to negative scrutiny just as Tanushree Dutta is being subjected to now. Instead of letting a woman tell her story, slanderous comments are made against her. She is belittled in every way possible, her accounts questioned. She is labelled as spiteful and out to destroy a man’s reputation. She is made to provide a character certificate because she chose to not coke on the abuse anymore. It’s probably why most women choose not to speak about the abuse they suffer at home or at the workplace because who is going to believe them anyway?


Most of the time when I write about women’s issues or share women-centric content on social media, there is at least one person who labels me angry.  Or that because I am a woman I have to keep complaining or as one of the latest comments on one of my posts puts it ‘women will keep whining until the last day‘. You know what makes me angry? Comments such as these, this ignorance and absurdity. Walk a mile in a woman’s shoes and then you’ll know.


Whenever a woman does anything which remotely resembles authority, it is insinuated that she must have periods or mood swings and hence the ‘outburst’.


If we talk about rapes, we whine. If we talk about gaslighting at home or at work, we whine. If we talk about being overlooked at work for promotions or increments owing to being married or mothers or not ‘pretending’ to work till 2 am in the morning, we whine. Any step we take professionally or personally which opposes the tide is seen as wrong. It’s like we just can’t catch a break. I understand that being in a privileged position in society, both at home and at the workplace, as most men are they can’t possibly fathom what we deal with on a day to day basis. But does that give them a right to mock our genuine concerns? Does that give them a right to ignore what we have to say as if we are children who don’t know right from wrong? I think not.


It’s funny how men have a free pass in redeeming themselves in society even if they are accused of rapes or murders. But the rules are very different for a woman. If a woman speaks up, more often than not it is at the cost of her career and her peace of mind. The general disposition that it must be the woman’s fault, or that she’s overreacting doesn’t help either. Also, the unfair conclusion that the woman must be bitter or out to get revenge for not being acknowledged by a man, makes it even worse.


As you read this, two women are being discussed extensively on social media and across news channels. Women, who are in two different continents. Tanushree Dutta and Dr Christine Blasey Ford. But there is a lot in common between them. Both have spoken up about being abused and both are being vilified and mocked. Instead of telling them that we believe you. Instead of telling them, let’s help you gain some closure or let’s help law take its course and the guilty party punished, what are we doing? We are questioning their motives and hurling choicest of abuses at them. We are calling them names like a woman enjoys talking about being abused. But as a society, we have failed them both. And in doing so, we have deterred other women who want to come forward.


Believe her when she speaks. #Women #IBelieveHer Click To Tweet


Let’s assume for a minute that they are wrong, that there is a hidden objective to their coming out in the open. But why are their motives questioned and their accounts rejected even before a proper trial, even before they have had a chance to tell the entire story? Why can’t even women believe their fellow women? Does a man get a free pass for abusing women if he does some charity work in life or if he occupies a powerful position? Or, does a man has to always get away from blemishes on his character no matter what he may have done?


If a woman speaks up, more often than not it is at the cost of her career and her peace of mind. #Woman #IBelieveHer Click To Tweet


Why can’t a woman’s experience be taken as it is instead of the woman being looked through a negative lens? Why is it that a woman has to keep shouting at the top of her voice but still nobody would listen to her because the truth is just so uncomfortable? That abuse happens at the workplace and at homes is not unknown. That most women shirk away from speaking up when abused because the perpetrator is often a powerful male, a male wielding influence is not unknown. Then why can’t we just listen instead of being so vile towards women who find the courage to speak up even if after years?


I think nobody sums up better than Laura Bates when she says,


“As long as we as a society continue to belittle and dismiss women’s accounts, disbelieve and question their stories, and blame them for their own assaults, we are playing right into the hands of those who silence victims by asking: “who would believe you anyway?”.”


As I said before, it’s not only about when a woman talks about being harassed. This kind of vilification is done everytime a woman wields her authority or her choice. When a man oversteps his professional boundaries, it is seen as taking responsibility but for a woman not so much. When a woman calls out to someone who touches her inappropriately in a public place, she is told to not create a scene or to not exaggerate. When a woman reacts to being humiliated in any sphere of her life she is told to not overreact.


It’s 2018 for crying out loud, we are not going to take things lying down whether you like it or not. It’s high time men stop getting away with all that they have been at the cost of women’s rights.


I know there are those who always come up with the point about women falsely accusing men, about men being victims. But to them, I say what Trevor Noah put so very beautifully. Ask the men and women around you these two questions. Ask how many men around you have been falsely accused of something by women. And then ask how many women around have been eve teased, catcalled, abused, harassed and subjected to prejudice owing to their gender. The startling difference between the two should give you the answer as to where you need to focus your attention. The answers should tell you what your conscience should.


So, think carefully about what you are going to do. How are you going to react the next time a woman talks about being abused? How are you going to react when a woman talks about women’s rights or feminism? Are you going to label her angry, spiteful and characterless or are you going to do what is right?


Why don't we listen to women when they talk about abuse? This post is where I think about how unfair it is to shut women up when they try to talk.


Pic Credit | By Doidam 10 via Shutterstock






This post is part of the #FeministMondays series (previously called #IAmAFeminist series) on the blog. Inspired by a TEDx talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – We Should All Be Feminists, I intend to talk about the need for feminism through my posts, posts on my experience and observation as a female. I intend to talk about issues concerning women.

Join me and let’s work towards a world of gender parity. Remember, each voice counts. Tell me your story.



24 thoughts on “Why Don’t We Listen To Women When They Talk About Abuse?”

  1. Such a great and timely post especially with all of the controversy about the Kavanaugh appointment. It’s so hard to realize that women still struggle so much. We need to continue to stand up for ourselves and each other.

  2. What a great read. It’s so sad that we have to separate men/women in this. You are right but I wish the article/life these days wasn’t so one sided!

  3. It’s all about equality and until we all acept that, we just have to keep on standing up for what’s right. Great post.

  4. It makes me sad that we still don’t listen to women when it comes to abuse. I remember 10 years ago I had a police lady tell me oh we just won’t mention XYZ in the statement as then it would likely go to court (I have got back with my abuser). Later a male officer said; you retracted your statement once before your probably do it again so I’m not going to bother making this official. Of course I could take your phone as evidence (expecting me to say no) I hand it to him and say take it.. He changes his mind.
    Anyway that’s probably a little off topic.
    Sarah Bailey recently posted…Summer Savings Challenge Wrap UpMy Profile

  5. Men are from mars Women are from venus. I think both parties need to see things from others’ perspectives and minimize mis-understanding.

  6. This really irritates me so much. Just recently, I was listening to how other women were talking so badly about this lady who had been abused saying that it was her fault. I wonder why we always blame the victims?!!

  7. Thank you so much for gettibg the conversation started through this great post. Far too many times I have been on both sides of the argument and I think for our future generations something has to give, we need to learn to respect ourselves and each other.

  8. Great post. A good conversation starter! Women need to be heard! I’m so sick of all of this abuse that people think is ok…

  9. I have thought all of these things. It is very true that there is a double standard when it comes to women. Furthermore, women are often pitted against each other. Imagine what could happen if more women came together instead of being against each other.

  10. Every couple has arguments or disagreements. In a respectful and equal relationship, both partners feel free to state their opinions, to make their own decisions, to be themselves, and to say no to sex.

    But this is not the case when someone is abusive. In an abusive relationship, one partner tries to dominate the other through physical harm, criticisms, demands, threats, or sexual pressure. For the victim and her children, this behaviour can be very dangerous, frightening, confusing and damaging.

    Psychological or emotional abuse can be just as harmful as physical abuse. Abuse in a relationship is never acceptable, regardless of the circumstances, and is never the fault of the victim. Abuse is not caused by alcohol, or stress, or by the victim’s behaviour. Abuse happens because the abuser wants to control and manipulate the other person. Physical and sexual assault, threats and stalking are crimes and can be reported to the police.

  11. I guess centuries of normalizing abusive men behaviors. Because you know “boys will be boys” so saying being violent and abusers is intrinsic to who they are makes it excusable. Which is outrageous! And always put the blame on women. Shame that opening up is so risky for them. Good thing it is slowly changing!

  12. Abuse is one of those areas which we ignore or don’t talk much of. I think the introduction of safe space discussions in the curriculum will go a long way in educating the future generation.

  13. Equality needs a level playing ground – a system where the abusers will be investigated and the victims will get justice. Until then powerful men (and women) will continue to exploit their positions, commit these crimes and get away with it.

  14. This is a very hard subject, especially because women have been silent until now. I think that the reason why women are not yet heard as they should be is because not many have talked until now. We are going through a change where women are becoming more and more empowered and have courage to talk about abuse that happened to them.

  15. A very powerful post. I think raising awareness on this topic is a wonderful idea. It’s sad that some women get attacked when coming out with the truth – as if they haven’t been through enough already. I think our society needs to listen more and relate to stories with more compassion – and stop judging.

  16. Yes! So much this! It’s such a heavy subject and it makes me so mad to see how women are treated as they endure trauma more than once in the retellings. There is no winning for women who come forward. As a society, we need to be better, and understand that women do not lie when it comes to sexual assault.

  17. I admire Tanushree. Took her a lots of guts to come out and speak. I feel that those who are silent or react aggressively are probably not comfortable cause either they themselves have faced it or and not yet comfortable to speak about it or they have themselves done it.
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  18. It does make me sad when other women remain silent when it comes to abuse. However this current movement has brought in a large percentage of women in unity to speak up, loud and clear in support of other women.

  19. This is so true not only in India, but also in other parts of the world. Look at the Kavanaugh case. There are women who are talking shit about the victim. It baffles me. It takes a lot of courage to speak up. I am glad women are getting there.

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