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The Resilience Of Abuse Survivors Has Always Awed Me, Including Mine

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Human resilience is something which had always fascinated me, even before mine was tested. My parents would say that I have always had an unhealthy interest in the darkness of society; too many thrillers with too many traumatised characters, too many tv shows with murder and death, too much attraction to people with fucked up lives. And this was all pre-my direct introduction into the darkness.

And then my ex-boyfriend decided that I was his favourite punching bag, literally and figuratively. I was 15. And suddenly, I was thrown into the deep end of resilience with no semblance of a lifeboat of any kind. I spent four years of my life actively drowning, and then a few more years drowning in the memories. And yet, I never actually drowned.

Take a minute and imagine spending four years drowning and forcing yourself to survive again and again. Imagine spending four years solely on survival. Except I didn’t get to spend four years solely focused on survival. I spent four years focused centrally on not letting my fight for survival be visible, with a side note on the actual survival part. I focused on making life look as normal as it was before, while I secretly survived. I spent four years not letting anyone see I was drowning while somehow keeping my head above water.

Now when I look back on that time, I’m basically in awe of my own resilience. I was physically beaten, abused, molested, assaulted and raped. And somehow, I got through school with reasonable grades and got into the college and course I wanted. I was verbally and psychologically humiliated, stripped, torn and crushed but I still found the trust to have close friendships and relationships, be let down and do it all over again. And I did all of it with maybe 1% of the people in my life having even the slightest idea of what I was dealing with.

I’ve written about some of the details of the abuse earlier, but the relevant points for this piece are that my ex got two of his friends to join him in abusing me, and then killed himself when he realised he wouldn’t ever be able to abuse me again. Because I couldn’t go to my family for help, I went to his, and his father took action. Does anyone else see the irony in that? One of the other men who was involved with my ex was his best friend, and once a close friend of mine. Recently, the friend contacted me with ‘gaslighty’ apologies.

I chose to ignore him, but there’s a thing about men and entitlement. He started incessantly calling me. I’m talking dozens of calls in a day. The first time I picked up and heard him call me by the name only my ex and that group of friends ever called me; I went from catatonic-level frozen to adrenaline-hit-panic-attack to push-it-away-so-he-doesn’t-hear-it to a rage which I could never even hope to express. All in the span of maybe a minute.

And this brings me back to the awe I have in my own resilience. Over the last few days, I have been consumed with deadline-ridden work. I would ignore most of his calls, but then every so often pick up, with the stupid hope of getting him to shut up and hear the same words of how everything is my fault, including the brutality, how I killed his best friend (my ex) and how I didn’t deserve to move on when none of them has been able to. When it was more than evident that this shit wouldn’t end, I had to call my ex’s father and rely on him to take action. I had to speak to the father of the man who basically killed me more times than a cat is supposed to have lives. It was hard. I haven’t needed to speak to the man for five years. That’s how long ago my ex killed himself, and somehow this shit still hasn’t ended!

I dragged myself through my work, almost grateful to have a distraction. It allowed me to be in the company of someone else, so I didn’t have the luxury of falling apart. It gave me a reason to stay up all night and not feel like I was too scared of the nightmares which would most definitely plague me to fall asleep. I got all my work done. I didn’t miss a single aspect of the work I had to do.

This is the resilience which always awed me. This is why even before I got to see it in action, I was fascinated by people’s fight for life. I half-heartedly tried to kill myself a few times while the abuse was happening, but it was always event specific. As many times as I felt like I died, or that I would, I knew that I didn’t want to actually die. I fought not just to survive but to have a life. One which I would be proud of, be happy with. I fought to love myself, and I succeeded. This piece is proof of that. This is my homage to my resilience, to the strength which even I don’t know how I have.

I have so many more steps to take when it comes to dealing with this current issue, ones which I’m deeply dreading, ones which will force me to delve deeper into the past than I really want to. But one thing which I’ve learnt from all of the horrors I’ve survived is that I can fucking survive anything. I have faith in my ability to deal which is unshakeable. Right now, somewhere inside me, I’m a little broken again, I’m a lot terrified and even angrier. I almost feel like the weight I’m being forced to carry once again is heavier than I can handle. And yet I do not doubt that I’ll do it. Even though right now breathing seems like a monumental achievement, how can I doubt that I’ll be able to deal with a few phone calls when I’ve dealt with being ripped apart and put myself back together more times than I can count?

Human resilience, especially that of women and non-cis individuals is unsurpassable and amazing.

Photo by Maranatha Pizarras on Unsplash

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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