A Survivor's Tale

By Nalini chaturvedi


Survivor, what does the word mean? as per the Cambridge english dictionary the word means “ a person who continues to live, despite nearly dying”. death is not just organic – death happens at many other levels as well.

I too survived death in the hands of someone whom I had loved the most and in whom I had put all my faith. yes, I am a survivor of extreme domestic violence in the hands of my ex-husband. There is no shame in it, no cry for pity, just a statement that I make to reach out to you all who have been in similar situations and have no one to share the pains with. It is also an attempt to educate and sensitise others who have been lucky not to experience it.

It’s still taboo to talk about such issues in our “cultured” society. I am just sharing my real-life story trying to bust some myths and also inform the public about how hard it gets to break the circle of violence. Intimate partner-violence is a public health concern. we still need to do much in the direction of preventing this social disease.

08/06/2014...around 8 pm in some small town of eastern UP a woman was dragged by her hair on the concrete road by her husband. She cried out for help, she pleaded her tormentor to have mercy and leave her. her only crime being to come out of their home out of fear of his fury. an altercation a few moments ago made her nervous. she suffered PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) due to last 16 years of recurrent episodes of violence. the only reason she lives on is because the neighbours intervened at the right time, or else either she would have been killed or crippled on that fateful day.

This woman was a vibrant intelligent young doctor, someone who was proud to get higher education from the US and also have the experience of being employed in a government job there. She had returned from the US after living there for nine years at the behest of the same husband. She did not go to the US with her husband. In her case she went ahead of him to help them achieve the common goal of immigrating to the

US.

I am she. He is now conveniently pursuing a PhD in his chosen subject from a university in the USA. It was my idea for him to do the same five years ago.

Myth No 1: Only poor uneducated women are victims of domestic violence

The general stereotypes that we have in mind as victims of intimate partner-violence are the uneducated vulnerable female population group belonging to the weak socio-economic strata. A self- reliant, professionally qualified woman is thought to be least likely to “suffer” such a fate. Fact is all of us are equally vulnerable.

Myth No 2: Its better for children to remain in dysfunctional both parents’ families rather than be a part of divorced household

What makes it harder for educated women of the higher socio-economic population groups is the fear of family embarrassment. Hence such crimes against professional women go unreported or underreported. Concern for the mental and financial well-being of children exposed to divorce also keeps the women from taking radical steps in such hostile situations. Studies have proved that exit from marriage is a better option for women with children. Children who are exposed to violence from a young age accept it as a normative behaviour. Covert messages about justification of violence against women is incorrectly passed onto the next generation in such households.

Myth No3: Violence is only using physical force.

Other coercive actions are not violence Domestic violence has many faces. Any action that results in control of the victim by the perpetrator is categorised under an act of domestic violence. Intimidation, verbal or emotional abuse, financial control, etc are some examples.

Myth No 4: It’s the victims behaviour that isresponsible-perpitrator is not to be blamed

In a largely patriarchal society the onus of domestic discord is always put on the wife. The only way a victim can help in continuation of the violence is by accepting it and staying in the situation.

Myth No 5: It’s easy for the victim to leave this unsavoury situation

It seems hard to believe, but speaking from personal experience, one major factor that stops many educated women from leaving their abusive spouses is nothing but psychological dependence. It’s sort of Stockholm Complex.

Myth No 6: You can wish this away from your Life

Denial of one’s situation leads to many productive human years wasted. Essentially both the perpetrator of the crime and the victim need to be treated through extensive counselling. Behavioural modification takes a long time to set in. In my case I was divorced by him. I signed on mutual divorce papers. Some of the suggested preventive actions With my extensive experience of first studying then working in the USA in community healthcare settings, I would like to suggest the following actions to prevent domestic violence from occurring and also providing

required help to the victims who are already entrenched in it. Accepting that domestic violence exists and accepting it as a serious public health problem, we need multiagency involvement in the prevention and dispersal of information.

✿ Placement of pamphlets in various healthcare settings, both public and private, giving information about the signs and symptoms and free helpline numbers.

✿ Training personnel working in various healthcare settings to be able to catch the signs and symptoms of domestic abuse. Training them to ask the right questions and provide a safe space for victims.

✿ Infrastructure to provide psychological counselling for victims and survivors of domestic violence. Also for rehabilitation of the financially and socially weaker sections of women.

✿ Forming support groups. Validation of fears and feelings helps in the healing process. I think, many of us who are perceived as the fortunate few and belong to the creed of educated women, hurt the most. It’s important that we not only come together but also give voice to our concerns. We in turn could also form non formal support groups for the lesser privileged women. I would wind this up by saying that this is not by any chance a scholarly article. It’s my take on the life I have lived and is supported by valid diagrams wherever needed.

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