10 Signs That Someone Is Being Subjected To Violence And How You Can Help

Bystander Intervention and Peer-Based Intervention are two of the most important ways that we can help someone who is going through violence. While sometimes the survivor of violence may not really appreciate the intervention, when undertaken smoothly, it has the potential to not only prevent gender-based violence but also save lives and enable the survivor to regain control of the situation.

Bystander Intervention, as the phrase denotes, is an intervention undertaken by people who witness a situation which puts an individual at risk. For example, this could be at a party, where you may spot someone being intimate with an inebriated person – which means they are not in a position to give their informed consent or by the road, where you locate a stalker.

Peer-Based Intervention is when you take the mantle of being an educator or interventionist for a friend, family or colleague. For example, this could be you explaining CPR or how to prevent HIV or how to reach out to the police for help, if one is feeling threatened.

It is important to understand the patterns and signs that someone you know is possibly going through violence.

However, for individuals, either of the interventions may be difficult to launch into as hesitations abide. One way to circumvent this initial hesitation of reaching out to offer help is by fully comprehending the patterns and signs that someone you know is possibly going through violence.

Do note that this is not a comprehensive list but only a set of signs, that if you notice, you should choose to probe further. The steps you take could save a life.

  1. Your friend/family member needs to seek permission to exercise their basic rights especially with regards to their movement, their finances or their decision making. This is more than a “Hey, am going away for the weekend. Hope I am not messing up any of our plans”. This sounds like “Can I go away for that weekend?” with a fear of punishment/consequence if they don’t adhere to their partners wish. That is control.
  2. You notice that your friend/family member is being subjected to demeaning words and statements by their partner. This could be verbal abuse. Watch out for name-calling, condescending behaviour, criticism, degrading behaviour, manipulation, blame, accusations, isolating, gaslighting.
  3. You notice that your friend/family member seems to be missing in activities they used to enjoy, is withdrawn and is holding back. Probe respectfully.
  4. You notice a stark change in how they look. Sudden dark circles or eye bags, personality and attitudinal shifts, appearance and even weight are markers that things may not be going well.
  5. Your friend or family member directly or indirectly tells you they are being forced to be intimate, and they do not feel comfortable with it. This is coerced intimacy and may in some cases even amount to rape.
  6. They seem constantly stressed about their location and are worried about not responding in time to their partner. They keep looking over their shoulder, are anxiously checking their phone, and you find out that their movement is being monitored. Being followed without their consent is stalking.
  7. Your friend or a family member has a set of rules they must follow in their relationship, failing which, they are afraid their partner will be angry. They live in fear of that anger and the consequences of it. Watch out for signs of that fear.
  8. Your friend or family member is facing threats or even emotional blackmail. Threats of violence, suicide, homicide hang over their heads, issued by their partner with or without ultimatums and they undertake multiple activities to avoid the same.
  9. You notice that their partner constantly questions them over meeting others, is suspicious, jealous and possessive.
  10. You notice marks on their body or they confide on having been in a physical fight with their partner even if it involves something they deem as minor. Any physical abuse and violence, irrespective of degree, is a transgression into the boundary of safety, and lays the path for many more, that may amount to grave injuries or even death.

Here Are Four Ways In Which You Can Help Out:

  1. Ensure they know where they can access help and access a support network and safe space. This includes various helpline numbers and those of friends, family and civil society networks who can provide non-judgmental safe spaces. Meet a counsellor together to work through the situation with professional help that empowers them to break out of the situation.
  2. Stay connected so the friend/family member can SOS you.
  3. If you are outside with your friend and the person you suspect is a perpetrator have a secret code that your friend can use to signal that you both need to leave.
  4. If you notice a situation of risk to the safety of a friend/ family member, create a distraction so they can get away.

Shrirupa Sengupta, Associate Director at Swasti, is a communications and leadership trainer-facilitator based out of Bengaluru, India. With hands-on experience in development communication, Shrirupa currently leads the Communications Team at Swasti- a global nonprofit headquartered in Bangalore.

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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.

Read more about her campaign. 

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)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

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.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

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 Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’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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