domestic violence
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Domestic violence: The way out

Domestic violence is a legally punishable offense in India.Yet one in three women between the ages of 15 face violence at home. It also rose sharply during the COVID-19 lockdowns. This violence can be physical, sexual, emotional or even financial. If you are suffering from it, what can you do to break the cycle? We bring to you some practical advice and tips.

Identifying violence

There are various warning signs for identifying if you’re facing domestic violence – controlling of your actions and activities by the partner or family members, threats to hurt you or themselves, forced sex, denial of food or other essentials, keeping control on your money, etc – but it might not be limited to these signs. 

Don’t think that ‘nothing wrong has happened’ or ‘It happens with everyone,’ or even worse that ‘the (abusive) person also loves me/ us, after all’. Do not normalise any form of violence.

It is not your fault

First and foremost, you must always remember -- it is not your fault. Do not blame yourself for what is happening to you. There is nothing in a relationship that justifies violence. 

Often abusers blame the victim for causing them stress (I couldn’t succeed because of you), or cheating (of another relationship) or being inefficient at a task or a responsibility (you don’t cook well or take good care of my mother). Once again, nothing justifies violence. 

Tell yourself clearly nothing that you do or don’t do can instigate violence. It is very important to recognise this to break the pattern of violence or abuse. 

Reach out, talk, share

 Do not close yourself in. That’s what often helps the abuser. They gain courage in the confidence that you are alone. Reach out, talk and share with someone. You may just need somebody to listen to you to give you clarity of mind and another perspective. Or you may need help to find a way out of this difficult situation. Talking to someone may be another step towards finding your way out of it. 

Take some time to think about who that person can be. Is it someone in your family? Friends or neighbourhood. Who can you trust? Who can you talk to? Usually, we turn to our parents or other family members. But if they live far away or do not understand your situation, you may need to identify someone in your proximity. 

Don't shy away from seeking professional help or counselling if you can. Domestic violence can impact mental health and puts one at risk of depression, anxiety and substance abuse, especially if you do not share your thoughts with anyone. Professionals may help you develop the strength, courage and clarity to better address the difficult situation you are in. 

Have an exit plan

If you sense a threat to your well-being, you must plan to remove yourself from the place of abuse. However, have a plan. Ensure you take time to pack your essentials, including important documents and be ready for an emergency. Think about where you are going to go, where you can live and how you will help your financially as you move out. 

A reliable neighbour or another person you trust could be points of help for you when you leave and need assistance. Your plan will largely depend on several variables, such as your financial situation and if you have children along. If there is a threat to your life or serious injury, you must leave immediately. Having a well-thought out plan would assist in emergencies. 

Read up and get informed

Read up about domestic violence issues in the papers. We know it will be difficult but it will also help you gain information that will be very important in getting out of your situation. Note down the emergency numbers, contacts and details of other mechanisms provided for seeking help in your city or your state.

For example, if you are in Delhi, you can go to many milk booths like Mother Dairy and pharmacies, to report cases of domestic abuse. You can also download an app called Vidhik Sewa to report abuse. You can also reach out to Aanganwadi and ASHA workers for help. This information is regularly published in papers and on websites. 

Write down or save details of other forms of help available or what other victims were able to do to get out of their situation of violence. Read up on the laws against domestic violence. This will help you understand what assistance you can get from the authorities in your situation and what evidence you may need to collect later. 

Financial independence 

While thinking about how to get yourself away from abuse, it is also important to think about financials and prepare yourself. If you are not working, apply for a job or pick up some work that you can do from your home. You should not be dependent on your abuser for your financial needs. If you are in a job, save as much as you can. Keep a part of your monthly salary in a fixed deposit in any other way. Try to get yourself an  independent bank account. 

Not for the sake of kids

Many women believe that they have to keep staying with their abusive partner and tolerating this violence as it would be in the best interest of her children. She bears the abuses, violent behaviour under the impression that she is keeping the family together. 

However, this is not true. The family may stay together under one roof but it is not good for the mental well being of both the mother and the children, who may have to witness their parents’ fight frequently and witness physical and other forms of abuse. A happy person will be a more responsible parent. 

When in emergency 

Call the police: You can call on 100 to get immediate police help.1091 and 1291 are helpline numbers specifically for women.The domestic abuse national helpline number is 181.

Help from NGOs: Several NGOs are running helplines.You can also lodge complaints over email and WhatsApp service or online.

Social media: Think about social media (your regular Facebook, Instagram or Twitter handles) to post a quick SOS message for help.

Tag your friends, family or anyone from various NGOs and women helplines numbers.If you do not want to share your number, add your location to your post or your landline number for authorities to get in touch with you.

Seek medical help:  Visit a doctor.He or she could be your point for help.Along with providing medical assistance, doctors are trained to counsel and help victims of domestic abuse.They could connect you to police and other authorities who can provide further guidance and assistance.

In case of physical violence, the doctor will generate a detailed medical report, along with the treatment prescribed, in his evaluation, which will be helpful in a legal situation.If possible, click the pictures of your physical injuries and save them.

Shelter homes: If you are in need of safe-space shelter, there are government and non-governmental shelter homes.Some of them are known as Nari Niketans. For women under 18 years, there are one-stop centres (OSCs) sponsored by the Ministry of Women and Child Development to provide for short stay with food and clothing, legal, medical, and mental health assistance for survivors of any kind of gender based violence, including domestic abuse.If you have some savings with you, move out of your house and stay at a safe place.

Are you facing any kind of violence or abuse at home? Join our discussion forum to have your questions answered or connect to us via Facebook.  

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