It all seems so easy when it happens to someone else, doesn’t it? But, when it happens to you, what then?
Fear and hate feature prominently in my childhood memories. Every day, before our drunk and half-conscious father could come back home and create havoc, our mother would hurriedly move us into the other room and tell us not to come out.
We would obey her – being too frightened to rush to her aid, despite hearing her painful screams as our father struck blow after blow upon her. He would tell her to cook for him and then throw everything in her face – all the while shouting expletives at her.
This ritual continued for years, and every new morning, we would see fresh bruises on her. Every day seemed to bring us all closer to death. We had no money for education, food – and with an alcohol-possessed man in our midst, anything could happen anytime. It wasn’t until my sister grew old enough to force mother into leaving father and beginning all over again, that our lives began improving, gradually.
I am sure many questions have already popped in your minds. Why wouldn’t our mother leave father? Just like many other women in India, she had been financially dependent on her husband for years. Hence, when the time came, she could not gather enough confidence to go out into the world alone. However, once my sister showed her that there was no other way to live peacefully, she began giving tuition to students. She realised that if she tried hard enough, she could find a way to earn for herself and for us as well.
Where were the relatives during the times of need? The answer to that is very straightforward – just like most people, they ‘found’ their own problems to solve – sorting out their own lives and taking care of their own people.
How is it that there wasn’t a single person, neighbour or friend who took any action against the domestic violence that my mother faced? Till date, this question leaves me dumbfounded! On the other hand, we had many landlords who threatened to throw us out if we couldn’t pay the rent, or if the noise levels and property damages didn’t decrease. We also had ‘educated’ neighbours, who despite knowing about the situation, only complained about the disturbance created by us. But, why didn’t anyone do anything?
Someone could have referred our mother to an NGO or filed a police complaint against the violence they had been witness to. Anyone could have tried to intervene, and not just listen and watch, while a man wrecked the house and beat his wife. Someone could have taken us in and tried to show us some way to get out of the horrific situation. But no, people took the easier path! They chose to sit back and watch a terrified and battered mother try to defend her three small and helpless children from their alcoholic, abusive father.
I have witnessed domestic abuse with my own eyes. Probably, that is why I will never hold myself back while helping those I find facing similar situations. However, the critical question is what will all of you – who don’t know about how the helplessness and fear feels or haven’t seen or heard of this either – do about this? Will you sit back and watch the situation unfold, despite knowing that there are certain things that you can do?
The history of domestic violence is a long one. How much more time, development and education do we need to eradicate this horror? An article by the Inter Press Service (IPS) in 2015 stated that, according to the most recent government household survey, 40% of women have been abused in their homes. However, according to an independent survey supported by the Planning Commission of India, the figure is closer to 84%.
Are we waiting for the time when perhaps every single family goes through this horrific experience? It’s about time we start thinking. We need to acknowledge the fact that, as individuals, we can do anything and everything only if we try to. I hope this article serves its intended purpose of spreading awareness, and inspires other people to speak up on and fight against domestic violence.