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. 

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