The author’s identity has been protected respecting her privacy.
It is no less a nightmare to be abused in your own house that was supposedly your haven. Imagine the same happening in a foreign land. You are separated by from your friends and family by time and distance. You are separated from the locals by language and culture. How does one deal with this war?
From being a victim to a survivor, here is her story.
Fairy tales and movies had romanticised the idea of marriage for me. But my marriage was far from it. It was a sham.
I was put down constantly, criticised, shamed, called names. There was no affection. I pulled on because I was pregnant. I wanted a father for my child. My parents knew. They said a baby will change everything.
It got worse. I was punished for giving birth to a girl. In the land of opportunity, I was isolated from the rest of the world. I was dependent on him. And that gave him power. I had to endure his guilt trips, his anger and rage. My parents knew. They asked me to be patient and told me he’ll change.
The violence started small – it always looked like an accident. ‘Accidental’ tripping over the staircase, ‘accidental’ burns on my hand with a hot ladle/ cooker, ‘accidental’ pouring hot payasam over my thigh…I was made to think I was prone to accidents.
July 7th, 2014 is one day that I’ll never forget. My 8 month old daughter became a football that he could kick and I became his punching bag, literally. 911 was called. The cops were more keen on talking bout ‘fish tikkas’ than filing a complaint. We were both served citations for misdemeanour and were asked to come to court. He was asked to stay separate for a week and moved into a hotel.
I called my parents. While I expected them to ask me to adjust, they surprised me and asked me to pack my bags. My Amma took the first flight out of India and joined me and my daughter. We moved into an apartment nearby. In the meantime, I reached out to the local YWCA for support. They turned me down because I had a citation served as well. The domestic helplines for violence didn’t offer much support. I wrote to the NCW in India seeking help. I felt a glimmer of hope when they responded. But there was a deafening silence from them after I had sent them a detailed email narrating the incidents, sharing pictures of our bruises and the doctor’s reports.
With the support of my family, I found the strength to leave. He begged and cried. I caved in and stayed. I was coerced to drop all charges against him. The day I did, his wild side resurfaced again. I had kept aside an escape bag with two sets of clothing for me and my daughter, along with our passports. And we ran. My solid rocks – my family were my unwavering support system through this all and they continue to be. And it is here, that I have rebuilt our lives over the last five years.
(The NCW did reach out four months later for a legal assistance but I was back home).
Healing after an abusive relationship is difficult. My self-esteem was shattered into pieces.I was angry. Angry that I had become another statistic because of the violence. When I gave birth, I had made a silent promise to shield and protect my daughter. But I couldn’t protect her from her father . I couldn’t protect her from domestic violence. I had failed her. This broke me.
I sought help with a mental health practitioner. It was embarrassing at first. But I soon realised that there are people I could talk it out. If I felt like I wanted to cry I could cry. And when I did cry I could just let it all out. It felt really good because that anger inside me soon dissipated.
I stopped being a victim. I became a survivor. In the last five years, I’ve found strength that I never knew existed. I have realised my worth. Above all, I stand with my head held high, with my baby girl by my side. Together, we march on, with the knowledge that this world can be a great place.
To any victim or survivors out there:
“There is happiness at the end of this nightmare. If you’re willing and open to accept it. Get help. There are services out there who will understand. Call them. Allow yourself to heal. Find ways to build your confidence”.
Like me, I urge you to find your reason to leave. You deserve better. You are a precious human being and you deserve to be treated with respect. And you can’t ever give up. Don’t hurt yourself. Hang in there – you are not alone.