This is not a survivor story. Surviving an ordeal entails more than the constant struggle to get through it. A survivor is a former victim who breaks free of abuse and brings about a positive change to his/her life. This could be a story about lifelong engagement with all the wrongs, hoping against hope to turn things around to make them right. The age old sob story that features a woman harried, harassed, humiliated and violated time and again by her spouse, kids that are scared, scarred and devoid of any sense of security and the lone man – the perpetrator.
I am not qualified to write her story though, seeing as I have failed to understand and accept the motivations behind her decision to battle it out till date. As an ‘indirect’ victim, what I know to be true is of a life that is so poisonous and explosive that fear becomes second nature. I have been married for six months to a man I chose. In fights, I invariably end up taking the more aggressive tone, ready to push before I can be pushed. My reference points are skewed to my disadvantage and I have to constantly remind myself that I am not living my parent’s marriage. In case there are children involved, the only way to shield them from all the unpleasantness is by changing the environment they grow up in. Research tells us that children from homes with domestic violence history are clinically proven to suffer long term psychological trauma. Let us look at a few numbers:
- · 90% of children from violent homes witness their fathers beating their mothers.
- · Children in homes where violence occurs are physically abused or neglected at a much higher rate than the national average.
- · Daughters of abused women are six times more likely to be sexually abused as girls from non-abusive families.
- · Child victims of severe violence have two to four times higher rates of trouble making friends, temper tantrums, failing grades in school, having problems in school and at home.
I haven’t particularly added any new findings. We are all aware that the effects of domestic violence are devastating if one considers the vicious cycle it starts and the ways in which it affects the future generations. Studies have shown that in most cases, domestic abuse victims are repeat sufferers and the abuser, a repeat offender. That first slap is not the last slap. Moreover, domestic abuse cuts across class barriers and majority of its victims suffer in silence and the perpetrator goes scot-free. In the recent Darshan case, while the KFPA banning Nikitha Thukral has garnered much interest and outrage and rightly so, what do we have to say about Vijaylakshmi – the battered wife – who is party to a compromise in what’s now being called a ‘family matter’? Financial dependency, lack of parental/outside support, attempts to save the marriage, children’s needs and social pressure and stigma are cited as varied factors that eventually decide if a victim continues in an abusive relationship. In some cases, victim’s social position adversely affects her choice. Irrespective of the compulsions of the victim, the turning point is when one decides to become a ‘survivor’ by showing the necessary will and courage to put the abusive relationship in the past and bring about positive changes in life. It is often easier said than done but any compromise on physical safety and mental well-being could eventually extract a far greater cost.
Don’t suffer silently – Talk to Family/Friends/Acquaintances. Speak openly, ask for help, if no help is forthcoming, try to get outside support. Contact the Domestic violence support groups/ Police – Sometimes the well-meaning folks try to broker peace. Share your story; insist on help to get out of the ugly situation. Try to contact women’s organizations that run shelters to support victims of domestic violence.
Walking out might not be an easy option for many but a lifetime of emotional or physical abuse can be very damaging. Walk out if it doesn’t stop. But more than anything please walk out if you have kids. Writing this piece hasn’t been easy. It brings back all the ugly memories I struggle to forget every day. I might not know much about broken homes, but I do know about living with a broken spirit and it isn’t pretty.
Disclaimer: I understand that violence against women in a domestic set-up is an issue that has multiple aspects and I have only tried to put forth my point of view.