Woman talks about her life as a victim of domestic violence.
Eight years of counselling victims of domestic abuse have taught Trichy, Tamil Nadu based human rights activist Margaret Joeji a thing or two about how the systems function. “The first rule is never give advice,” she says. “You’re not a parent, you’re not a teacher, and you’re not god. What you can aspire to be is a patient and friendly listener. That brings us to rule number two – listen to all they have to say. It may take half an hour or three hours, but you have to be there to listen to her. And rule number three – gently encourage them to come out of the cycle of violence.”
Margaret speaks about the ‘vicious cycle’ of domestic abuse that women find themselves in. In her opinion, a large majority of the women whom she has counselled think of domestic abuse as a part of the lives they have been condemned to live. Most of these women are poor, uneducated and have no livelihood skills. They cannot seem to conceive their lives outside the four walls of their home. “They return to counselling once every few weeks but there is little you can do but lend them an ear.”
To get the victims to give testimony to the violence is in itself quite an achievement, especially the women who belong to dalit and underprivileged communities. They lack the awareness of their rights as women and as victims and access to their rehabilitation.
In 2005, the government passed ‘The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act’ which appointed special protection officers in each district that the women could approach if they were being harassed physically, verbally, sexually, emotionally or economically. It also provides for medical facilities, counselling, shelter and legal aid. Margaret feels that while the government’s gestures are noteworthy it will not translate to impact on the field without necessary awareness.
Margaret who also works as an IndiaUnheard Community Correspondent decided to produce an awareness video by making a case study of one of the victims she had counselled along with interviews of a lawyer who provided expert legal aid to domestic abuse victims. The woman she interviewed was among the few she had known who had walked out of her life as a victim and was now supporting herself and her children by running a small tailoring unit.
“70% of married women in India are victims of domestic abuse. This video is my attempt to reach out to some of them and tell them that they will find all the support they need if they reach out through the right channels. I want to tell them that they are not alone. I want to tell them that if they ever feel the need to tell their story, we are there for them.”