Nigella Choked

Nigella Lawson is one of my favorite chefs especially when it comes to her easy and lazy recipes that allows one to enjoy a sumptuous meal made without much effort. However what made her stand out among all the chefs I admire, is the fact that she managed to have it all- marriage, kids and career. Essentially the whole package.

Hence the latest domestic abuse (or should I say violence) episode left me deeply shocked. It opened my eyes to the fact that women in the West still put up with domestic violence despite living in a society that is far less prejudiced in comparison to the patriarchal entrenched society in the East. More than that, it shocked me into acceptance that domestic violence in its attitude is unbiased. It sees no caste, creed, race, class or ethnicity. It can pervade your home even while you are cocooned in financial bliss with a wide diaspora of fans from across the world.

Having seen the pictures of Nigella being choked, splashed in various forms of media, my heart goes out to her in the most difficult of times. I wonder how she is coping with the attention this incident has drawn from across the world. Being a celebrity might be tough enough, added to that is having to substantiate each decision you take no matter how personal it might be. Hence I personally feel that even though she should take a stand against the violence and abuse meted out to her, the decision to do so should be purely and solely be hers. Nigella, must not at any point of time be pressurized into taking a stand against domestic violence and abuse just because she is a celebrity and has been endowed with the responsibility of having to set an example.

Taking a stand against domestic abuse and violence must be a personal decision and never enforced on another person. Breaking a relationship which holds high value will anyway rack the person with self doubt, hence it is best not to aggravate this further by making the person wonder, ‘what if I had never paid any heed to X, Y, Z’s advice?’. Moreover an independent decision is more likely to sustain in comparison to an enforced one, however right the latter might be. So celebrity or otherwise let the decision remain independent as you provide support and unbiased advice to the victim.

Freedom is Just the Beginning

I have been quiet on the blog for almost a month now, though my mind had been buzzing with numerous ideas for posts I barely got the time or the energy to pen them down and post them. But what dominated the thoughts of posts was the ordeal faced by the freed women in Cleveland. I first came across the news on twitter and did not think much of it till I turned on the TV. 

As Amanda Berry’s photos with her sister and daughter flashed across the screen I could help but going back to the torture and trauma I had faced not so long ago. The thing with power play and abuse is that they start almost in a similar manner but in different situations and are of different intensities. The underlying psychological games of making the victim feel worthless and powerless without the abuser remain the same. The flood of physical and mental abuse, though might vary in intensity, is present in every abusive situation. 

As I thought about the way I submitted to the psychological manipulations of my ex and his family I could almost imagine the trauma these brave women endured. The worst part of continued abuse is the fact that it can be very difficult to adjust to normal life at a later date. By normal I mean enjoying the rights provided to every human.

There are still times when I jerk out of any leisure activity be it sleeping, watching TV or reading a book, guilty and fearful that I should be pleasing my ex and his family so that I do not have to listen to their tirade of abuses. It takes me some time to re-orient and realize that I am in my own house, to do as I please. This surprisingly was echoed by Elizabeth of the Fritzl Case when she found it difficult to sleep on a soft bed after being held captive and raped by her father for 24 years in a dungeon.

This makes one realize that attaining freedom is just the beginning of a whole new arduous journey of healing through every bit of trauma. It also includes dealing with the moving on of life, as Berry did with the passing away of her mother, when the life of victim was made to stand still by cutting her off from her support system.  My heart goes out to them along with prayers that their healing period is short and sweet to propel them into success later on. 

I Will Survive

The months between November and February are difficult but the transition from January to February is particularly strenuous. This should have been the time of celebration of love but as February moves into Valentine’s day I am shuffling and dragging my feet, hoping with every ounce of faith in me to find a fast-forward button or an Einstein-Rosen bridge to help me move out of this dark, depressing and heart crushing period into bright sunlight where I can breathe freely.

Every trigger is painful during this period and the worst was a daily soap on an Indian TV channel which details the horrors of child marriage, rampart in North India. Even though the age of marriage might differ in my case with those in North India, the instances of torture are unfortunately very similar. It is the same story everywhere, abuse, molest, harass till such time the spirit and soul is broken beyond repair so that the girl cannot find an iota of strength to fight back.

Of the few who have dared to come out in the open with the horror stories, they believe that their counterparts living in the so-called modern cities of India, educated, financially independent and married well after the age of 18 years are better off. Sadly the reality is otherwise. Through decades, countless stories and horror tales of oppression have been testimony to the fact that PhDs and fat pay packages do not necessarily mean the right to be treated like a human being instead you are treated as a sex slave apart from a baby and money vending machine.

During the times I have a hearing in the court, the glimpses of numerous sad if not broken faces combined with heart breaking stories reported in the media every day, leave me depressed. But then again there are stories like these [Raging Angels] which bring hope to an otherwise frustrating situation. It is heartening to see women fighting back and making themselves self reliant.

A voice is rising [Insult after Assault] against centuries of oppression and humiliation. The voice is rising hopefully this time in unison not just to make the streets safe for women but also our homes. It is also about time a voice rises against the insulting character assassination defense lawyers use to their advantage on a daily basis in Indian courts.

This voice gives me the hope that when there is a will there is a way. This time we will not be tortured into silence. This time the mean and insulting words will not be enough to make us slink back into the corners of the house. This time we will come out and fight. This time we will survive.

This time I will not just survive but the live the life you so wanted to snatch from me and then, if you can at all, you will realize that I just enjoyed the best revenge ever.

Re-victimization of Women

The lawyer of three accused in the gang rape of a 23-year old medical student in New Delhi, Manohar Lal Sharma, has blamed the victim for the assault and said “respected” women don’t get raped. [Read further].

This attitude is commonplace in most patriarchal societies where as women we are first tortured and harassed and when we raise our voices we are tortured and harassed even more so that we are insulted to remain subdued to our male counterparts.

The Indian society is rife with many such instances where we have been taught that ‘respected’ women do not get raped, molested or divorced. It is such an attitude that allows every man, stranger or otherwise to comment not just on how we behave but our dress, attitude and also our sex lives. We are supposed to be virgins on the wedding night or else we are termed as women of loose character and we are also supposed to remain silent when we are beaten and battered because we ‘belong’ to our husband who has every right to do whatever he wants with us. If anyone thought that domestic violence is an issue of the lower classes and the uneducated must read this.

The society teaches us that we must equate our husbands’ beating and abuse with love. After all, only because he cares he takes time out to beat you and abuse you, right? This, being taught from childhood causes the self-image to be so distorted that the woman might not see anything wrong with the domestic violence and might even go to great lengths to protect the perpetrator of the violence. Judith Herman has written in detail about the victims of violence and abuse clinging to their abusers. It is this attitude on which the perpetrators capitalize to continue if not escalate the violence and abuse.

Victims of crime such as rape and domestic violence are often questioned about their dress and attitude in a way implying that their behavior or dress might have ‘invited’ the crime. What many fail to understand is that crimes against women like rape and domestic abuse are about having absolute control and power over the victim and her life and very rarely about her attitude or dress.

In India almost 65% of the crimes against women go unreported because most women fear being ridiculed or disbelieved by the legal authorities. The negative experiences associated with reporting a crime such as being ostracized from the society, being questioned time and again by lawyers and the police about what you were during the time of the incident and the preconceived notions that exist about victims are discouraging to the extent of living with the crime and not reporting it.

As a society we are a long way from sensitization towards crimes against women but what cannot be denied is that the battle against re-victimization is layered and has several requirements of which the most important is that the sensitization process must start at home. We cannot make the streets of our cities and towns safe if we as women are not safe in our homes from marital rape and domestic violence. This must not be allowed to continue:

“As if the rape weren’t bad enough, I had to go through everything that I did with the police and doctors. It’s just more rape. The rape just keeps on and on,like you just can’t escape it.”  — A rape survivor