Domestic Violence In India

Leave a comment

When The One You Love Becomes Your Abuser

The Post and Courier recently won the Pulitzer Prize for a seven-part series titled,“Till Death Do Us Part” that sheds light on the issue of domestic violence in South Carolina. As I was reading through the series, “Part 4: I just remember the fear” really stood out to me and brought up fears I had not thought of in many years.

As I read about Therese’s plight, I noticed tears welling up in my eyes. It’s hard enough not to be moved after seeing what she endured, but for me, the pain was different. It was scratching at intimate scars. Everything Therese said rung true to my own experience; I understood it from a very personal place.

I was not shot at between the eyes, thankfully, but I have endured abuse. So much abuse that I sometimes question how I got out alive. My abuser maintained his iron grip on me and though I was not married to him, I was under his control 24/7. I could not move or even breathe without his permission. I was so terrified of him that I’d rather do exactly what he said, no matter how ridiculous, than endure the beatings and the pain afterwards.

“My abuser maintained his iron grip on me and though I was not married to him, I was under his control 24/7.”

It all started well. He was the perfect gentleman and the perfect boyfriend. He was smart, witty and spoke with an effortless confidence. Everyone looked up to him, so I was pleased when he asked me out.

After our first few dates, we sat down for a “serious” conversation. I was special, he told me. He did not want to only have a physical relationship with me, he wanted to take this somewhere. My joy knew no bounds because that “somewhere” meant marriage. I could hardly believe my ears. I happily let him take charge and guide us beautifully into the sunset.

I could not have been happier.

One evening, around 7pm, we were at the beach. Walking arm in arm, we were happily in love and I could not believe how blessed my life was. I was wearing a white and golden churidars and my favourite bell earrings.

The next sequence of events is fuzzy and all I remember is a heavy hand landing on my right cheek.

He had slapped me so hard my earring fell off and landed in the sand. A few minutes later, he was gone and I was left alone standing at that beach. It was so hard for me to process what had just happened. I was so dumbfounded that I remember acting normally and trying to find my earring in the sand.

Looking for it, I thought, would somehow alter the reality of everything that had just taken place.

After that, he apologised profusely for his actions and vowed never to lay a hand on me again. I gave him another chance, thinking it was an honest mistake.

But he was just getting started.

In “Til Death Do Us Part”, Therese says her husband had two sides to him. While everyone saw Dr Jekyll, she alone was exposed to Mr Hyde. My boyfriend did that well too. If I were to ever tell anyone of the abuse, they would call me crazy and not believe that someone like him was responsible for such behaviour.

“The physical violence eventually turned sexual. He started to assault me, rip my clothes off if the mood struck him and rape me.”

Over the next five years, the beatings rained down on me constantly. I was beaten if I walked too quickly, too slowly, showed up to meet him five minutes late or five minutes early. He hit me if I wore or did something he did not like or approve of. To him, it meant that everyone else would see me and be attracted to me. I was accused of cheating on him, being a whore, a slut; my family was called names and he threatened to harm my brother if I ever left him.

The physical violence eventually turned sexual. He started to assault me, rip my clothes off if the mood struck him and rape me.

On one Valentine’s Day, the abuse took a particularly harsh turn. After beating me for hours, he ripped my clothes off and pushed me to the ground. I laid there in pain as he started to kick my stomach. Then, he got on to my chest and started to jump. I thought I would pass out. Thinking it would all end if I stopped moving, I laid there with my eyes closed and heard panic in his voice as he tried to “revive” me. As soon as I realised the beating had stopped, I opened my eyes — big mistake, because when he saw that I was okay, he climbed on top of me and raped me. I was too feeble and frail to object or even raise my voice. Three weeks later, I found out I was pregnant.

“True love does not hurt and I have to thank my husband for showing me that reality.”

Over time, there were a million such instances. The violence continued and the beatings went on, as did the sexual assault. There was no light at the end of my tunnel, there was no one to help. My friends had all left after he “showed” me how selfish they all were and how all my male friends only wanted to sleep with me.

I do not even know how I endured it all alone. The images are all so fleeting. I piece them together, now and then, but the only constant image in my mind, like Therese, is of the fear and palpable anxiety I lived with every day of my life.

Life, though, had different plans for me. Fate brought me to a place far, far away from him where I could make a peaceful life. Over the years he has tried to contact me and profess his undying love and faith and although at one point, my reality would let him slide back into my life, things have now changed. I have realised that people who really love you don’t harm you.

True love does not hurt and I have to thank my husband for showing me that reality.

Leave a comment

Feminist Apologists And Marital Rape

Posted: 07/05/2015 08:12 IST Updated: 07/05/2015 08:12 IST

The refusal by the government to accept marital rape as a criminal act , and to protect those who commit such a heinous crime behind some spurious notion of marriage as sacred, is to embrace the mentality of a colonial past that regarded some people as less entitled to humanity than others. Let’s be clear. This stand has nothing to do with Indian cultural values. It has everything to do with a conviction that some people are simply lesser humans or non-humans, while others are superior.

We need to confront the simple fact that women in India continue to be treated legally as lesser humans and that this status is mediated by religious, caste, class and sexual preference. As feminists, human rights and social justice advocates, we have invariably been confronted with challenges from our western feminist counterparts, the international media and international human rights groups with questions such as “why are Indian women treated so badly?” or ` given the levels of violence against women in India is it safe to travel alone?” or “What’s wrong with Indian men?”

“At what point do we overcome a past where the mere mention of sexual rights and women’s rights in the intimate space, and demand for equal respect of all family members, immediately aligns us with the “evil” West?”

In all these instances, being acutely conscious of the racism and cultural stereotypes that inform such questions and remarks, we have this intense desire to push back with responses such as, “Well we elected a female Indian Prime Minister four decades ago, what about you?” or “In relative terms the rates of violence or rape against Indian women are no worse than elsewhere in the world” or “The murder of women in intimate relationships through gun violence in the US is higher than ‘death by culture’ of women in India.” While each of these statements may be factually accurate, none of them even begin to address the fundamental problem of gender inequality in the private sphere in our own society.

india weddings

If India is one of the 38 countries remaining in the world that refuses to remove the marital rape exception and goes further than most in justifying it as integral to the marriage contract. The abysmal number of women elected to the highest political office elsewhere in the world is of little relevance when confronting this fact. We have to challenge the assertion that marriage is a sacred cultural institution, and expose how such a claim harbours and sanctions violence against women. The argument about culture is bogus — Nepal, which is self-described as a Hindu kingdom, has made marital rape a crime, and is much further ahead of India in legal terms when it comes to sexual rights and women’s equality more generally. Their “culture” does not seem to have crumbled under the weight of inclusivity.

“Support for the rights of the LGBT community and the demand for women’s rights within marriage and the private sphere are perfectly compatible with a culture and history of revolution that threw off the colonial yoke.”

At what point do we overcome a past where the mere mention of sexual rights and women’s rights in the intimate space, and demand for equal respect of all family members, immediately aligns us with the “evil” West or as being anti-national or part of some white Imperial feminist conspiracy? I suggest that it is time to embrace sexual rights as integral to a version of Indian culture that respects intimate relations, and repudiate the charge that it is anti-national to do so.

Support for the rights of the LGBT community and the demand for equality, or women’s rights to full human status within marriage and the private sphere, are perfectly compatible with a culture and history of revolution that threw off the colonial yoke. It is perfectly consistent to be in favour of the right to sexual autonomy and also to be a good Hindu (Muslim, Sikh etc) and patriot, just as it is perfectly consistent to be gay and embrace one’s religious identity and be Indian. We need to occupy the space that renders such claims as anti-national or threatening, and embrace them as part of an inclusive culture and national identity. Any other stand not only endorses the racist and sexist mindset of a colonial past, it renders the very identity of the nation as well as Indian culture as something over which only a few have a monopoly.

Feminists and other progressive groups must stop asserting their nationalist credentials for fear of being considered anti-Indian. When they do so they sacrifice the revolutionary sensibility that is a part of feminism as well as integral to India’s anti-colonial past. Feminism then becomes an architect of a conservative, sexual politics and moral police, rather than a liberatory force. Indeed it is an approach that ends up reinforcing the attitude of some male politicians and their egregious stands on women’s rights.

“It is time to condemn all laws born in the crucible of the colonial encounter that consciously intended to establish a hierarchy between those who counted and those who did not.”

Every time we polish our nationalist credentials in the international press and global circuits of power in which we debate issues of Indian women’s rights, we take another step backward into the colonial era and justify, albeit inadvertently, the continued existence of laws that were designed to exclude a certain segment of humanity from the enjoyment of equal rights. The law that exempts marital rape belongs to this history.

It is time to condemn all laws born in the crucible of the colonial encounter that consciously intended to establish a hierarchy between those who counted and those who did not; those who were legible and human and those who were not. Indian women and men were part of this hierarchy in the past, and accorded a place at the bottom rung of the human chain. It is time to challenge these practices that are now trumpeted as part of Indian cultural values, as not only execrable, but as part of a continuing colonial mindset. We have to be able to counter the caricatures of India and Indian culture in the global and international circuit, without at the same time becoming feminist apologists for right wing conservative forces that are intent on embracing a colonial cultural past that keeps Indian women exactly where they are — as unequal and less human.

Leave a comment

Looking through the gender glass

The seven essays in Rebecca Solnit’s latest book, Men Explain Things to Me (Granta), are concerned with gender, power, control and violence against women. I read these essays on the couch of a Himalayan cottage, surrounded by blossoming apple trees and monkeys gambolling on tin roofs. It was all so ridiculously exotic and peaceful outside, so completely at odds with what I was reading inside. But Solnit’s essays serve to do exactly this: mangle the boundaries, drag the inside out, excavate the many layers of social conditioning and statistics, the centuries of silence and obliteration, till we arrive somewhere close to the truth.

And the truth, according to Solnit, is that violence—whether it is intimate violence or stranger violence—is gendered. In the United States, murder is a crime that is committed by men 90 per cent of the time. Every three years, she writes, the domestic violence death toll tops 9/11’s casualties, “though no one declares a war on this particular kind of terror.” Solnit starts on home ground but moves swiftly into the world—to the predatory patterns of Dominic Strauss-Kahn and the IMF; to Las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, who demanded that their disappeared children be returned. In one of her most striking essays, “The Longest War”,  she highlights the Jyoti Singh rape case in New Delhi, identifying it as a pivotal moment, something akin to what the murder of Emmett Till was to the US civil rights movement. Rapes continue to be reported as if they were isolated incidents, she writes. “We have dots so close they’re splatters melting into a stain, but hardly anyone connects them or names that stain. In India they did. They said that this is a civil rights issue, it’s a human issue, it’s everyone’s problem, it’s not isolated, and it’s never going to be acceptable again.”

The title essay, “Men Explain Things to Me”, should be required reading for all sexes, simply because anyone who has ever lived knows what it means to be a victim of “mansplaining” (a word coined after the essay went viral). It also reminds us that no matter what strides the feminist movement has made, there are still women who don’t have the freedom to speak. And even those women who routinely exercise their vocal chords sometimes fall into the role of the ingénue because they’re trained in self-doubt and self-limitation.

Solnit is that rare writer who is able to weave history, art, politics, and personal experience into wide-ranging essays that seek to explain the distant past and the incomprehensible present with wit, wisdom, and most crucially, hope. As for the future, Solnit believes that “the future of something we may no longer call feminism must include a deeper inquiry into men”. She takes as a talismanic utterance, a line from Virginia Woolf’s diaries: “The future is dark, which is the best thing the future can be”—a declaration that celebrates darkness, much the same way John Keats’s negative capability celebrates the creative spirit. This “embracing the inexplicable” is the trapdoor to wonder and the imagination. It is a form of emancipation, Solnit argues, and it is our best shot at the genders retreating from the poles of extreme and meeting in a “warm equatorial belt of give and take”.


Leave a comment

3 Ways to Keep Yourself Safe When You’re Not Ready to Leave Your Abusive Partner

A feminine-presenting person hugging her knees with a pensive expression.

(Content Warning: Intimate Partner Violence)

If you’re being abused by your partner, and you’re reading this right now, then you have awe-inspiring strength.

You’re suffering, but you have the courage to seek out ideas on how to take care of yourself.

I’m guessing you haven’t come across many tips like these. When I was being abused, the only advice I found was about how to leave an abusive partner, or how to heal after you’ve left.

But for a long time, I wasn’t ready to leave. And you and I aren’t the only ones to stay with a partner who’s been abusive.

The very nature of intimate partner violence (IPV) is that it often escalates gradually over time. Then, before you know it, you’re in a relationship marked by abuse, with no end in sight. On average, survivors attempt to leave seven times before leaving for good.

Let’s just acknowledge that leaving any relationship is hard. Abuse isn’t going to make it any easier, and in fact, there are even more obstacles to leaving an abusive partner. So it’s entirely understandable if you’re not ready to do that.

You have your own reasons for staying in your relationship right now. Maybe you’re financially dependent on your partner or you’re afraid they’ll out your immigration status, HIV status, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Maybe you love your partner. Maybe you’re afraid of what they’ll do if you leave.

Whatever your reason, only you know what’s best for you.

Staying with your partner doesn’t make you hopeless. It does mean that you need and deserve to have ways to keep yourself safe.

So let’s talk about how.

1. Get Informed About What’s Happening

Only you know your situation best, so nobody else can tell you what to do in your relationship.

But intimate partner violence is complicated, which is why there’s no easy answer to the question of why you’re still with your partner (and you don’t owe an explanation to anyone).

If you’re being abused, educating yourself about IPV can help you identify cycles of abuse, signs of danger, and all of the reasons why it’s not your fault.

That means you’ll be able to sort out some of the confusion and self-doubt that can come up when you’re in a relationship with an abusive partner.

For example, some of the most confusing moments in my relationship came when I did exactly what my ex-partner told me to do, only to have him later claim that he’d told me to do it differently. I felt like a failure as he accused me of being incapable of listening or doing anything right.

Those moments put me on edge, worried that every move I made was the wrong one. So I can’t even tell you how reassured I felt when I learned that there’s a term for his behavior:gaslighting.

Gaslighting leads survivors to doubt our own perceptions. Once I realized where this doubt was coming from, I regained some of my ability to trust my own sense of what was happening. That trust relieved some of the anxieties and self-loathing that had me feeling miserable, guilty, and disappointed in myself.

And gaslighting was just one of many behaviors I recognized among the characteristics of intimate partner violence. Included in the signs of abuse were the dysfunctional aspects of our relationship that I thought were my fault or hurtful only because of my oversensitivity. I was floored when I found that I wasn’t the only one experiencing the things I was so embarrassed to admit were happening to me.

Maybe you’ll come across something surprising when you learn about IPV. Maybe you’ll feel a little less alone, or a little more sure of yourself.

And hopefully, the information you find will also help you avoid minimizing the abuse – trying to convince yourself or others that it’s not a big deal. Instead, you can trust your feelings when you know something’s not right and decide what, if anything, you’d like to do about it.

Here are some resources to start learning more about IPV:

Keep in mind that your abuser may track your computer or cell phone use, so you may need to take steps to avoid this. Here’s a resource on technology safety.

2. Hold On to Your Sense of Self (And Don’t Let Go)

I felt like I’d lost my sense of self to the abusive partner I was with. Many other survivors have told me they can relate.

You might put your partner’s needs before your own. You might feel like the relationship is all-consuming, that you have no life or identity apart from it.

Implicit in the very definition of intimate partner violence – a pattern of power and control – is your partner’s control over parts of your life.

But you haven’t lost all your power. You can still make choices (good choices!) as you’ve already demonstrated by doing what you’ve done so far to survive.

And you still get to be your own person – and take care of that precious person.

I know that can be hard to do. When I was hearing constant insults from my partner, I believed the toxic messages telling me I was worthless.

But I wasn’t worthless, and neither are you.

So think about how you can combat the toxicity, and hold on to your sense of self.

You could come up with messages of self-love, your own compassionate mantras to replace messages that tear you down. If your partner or your negative self-talk tells you that you’re worthless, tell yourself something like, “I’m valuable and loveable.” If your partner blames you or you blame yourself for the abuse, replace that message with “It’s never my fault, and I’m doing the best I can to survive.”

Find joy whenever you can. Is there a song that rejuvenates you? An online community you can join? A memento that reminds you of someone who cares about you?

Purple is my favorite color, so something as simple as keeping a purple rock with me can remind me that I deserve joy. Find something like that – even if it seems small, having any sense of joy that’s just for you can be a big deal. 

Reach out for connection with someone who’s not your partner. Isolation is a common characteristic of abuse, and it’s one of the reasons many survivors feel dependent on their partners. Maintaining some connection with even just one person – a trusted friend, neighbor, or coworker, for instance – can keep you grounded in the world outside of your relationship.

The key to maintaining your sense of self is doing something that’s just for you and honoring the strength it takes for you to do that, no matter how small. You think so much about what your partner wants from you, and you deserve to spend as much time as you can thinking about you.

3. Make a Plan

You may feel stuck, like you know you’re being mistreated, but you don’t know what to do about it.

This hopeless feeling is really discouraging, but you do have options. A safety plan can help you figure out and prepare for those options.

Most safety plans focus on preparing to leave your partner or protecting your physical safety. This information is useful to have, in case you change your mind about staying in the relationship, or in case of a violent incident. So you can follow these links for help in those areas.

But you also deserve emotional well-being right now, even while you’re not planning to leave your partner. So our safety plan’s going to be a little different. This is all about preparing to protect your well-being and alleviate some of your stress in non-emergency situations.

What works for some survivors won’t work for everyone, so this guide is meant to be a starting point to help you figure out what’s best for you.

I suggest writing down your plan – that way, you’ll have all of your options in one place for reference (be sure to keep it someplace safe from your abuser).

Identify Your Needs

When you’re used to putting your partner before yourself, it can be pretty hard to figure out what it is that you need. So ask yourself:

In what ways does my partner hurt me? Make a list, and don’t limit it to physical injuries. How do they hurt you with their words or actions?

What will help me heal from that pain? Don’t wait to get medical attention for physical pain. For each of the ways your partner hurts you emotionally, consider what would support your healing.

What will I get out of taking care of this need? You may be used to dismissing your needs, but this plan is all about taking care of them. For each harmful action, consider why it’s important for you to heal from it.

For example, if your partner is constantly putting you down, you’ll need something to lift you up, which will help you feel good about yourself instead of believing you’re inadequate.

Build Options to Meet Your Needs

For each action that calls for healing, you may have several options to choose from. These tips can help you come up with those options:

  • Start with what you already know, listing all the ideas that come to you when you think of dealing with each abusive action.
  • Reflect on what how you’ve dealt with this struggle in the past, to include the strategies that have already worked for you.
  • Talk with a counselor, a hotline, or a trusted friend to help you brainstorm ideas for the areas where you feel stuck.

Write out your list of ways to take care of yourself for each abusive action.

So if you need something to lift you up when your partner’s been putting you down, your options might include:

  • Keeping a computer file or notebook with positive affirmations that make you feel good about yourself. Repeating one of those affirmations to yourself each time your partner puts you down.
  • Thinking of a friend you can always count on to help you feel good about yourself, and calling or texting them to say that you could use a pick-me-up.
  • Preparing a thought to counter each of the put-downs your partner uses. For example, if someone insults my intelligence, it would help me to say to myself, “I’m smart as hell, and I’ve got the coping skills to prove it.”
  • Ignoring the put-downs (and finding something positive to focus on instead).

Don’t worry if right now you can’t come up with any options for some of your needs. It’s a great first step just to identify the need, and as you learn more about IPV, you may come up with ideas.

Keep Your Options Within Reach

Now that you know your options, you can do any necessary preparations to make sure they’re always available.

For the put-downs, if you think positive affirmations would help, then search the Internet or books and compile the ones that resonate with you. If you’ve thought of a friend to provide pick-me-ups, memorize their number or post it somewhere to remind you to reach out.

Decide where you’ll keep this plan, so you can look at it and remember your options when you feel stuck.

Our lives and relationships change over time, so revisit this plan often to adjust for changes. It might help to keep a journal, for your own record of the relationship’s patterns, your struggles, and your tools for resilience.

Now you know what you need and how take care of your needs, and you’ve got your strategies ready to support you.

Your Choices Are Yours – And Yours Alone

You already have too many false messages saying you can’t make your own choices – from your partner’s force, coercion, or manipulation to resources that tell you that your only option is to leave your relationship now.

So here’s a reminder that you have you have the wisdom to make your own choices.

This is about keeping yourself safe, not taking on being responsible for stopping the abuse or getting your abuser to change – that’s not your obligation.

As Carmen Rios wrote in her article on why survivors stay, “Leaving and staying aren’t the factors that cause abusive behavior; abusive behavior causes abusive behavior.”

Give yourself credit for everything you’ve done to survive so far, and use that incredibly adaptive power of yours to build yourself more options for much-deserved self-care.

Maisha Z. Johnson is the Digital Content Associate and Staff Writer of Everyday Feminism. She is also an apprentice editor with Black Girl Dangerous and a blogger for Pyragraph, and she facilitates empowerment groups with incarcerated women as part of Fired Up!, a program of California Coalition for Women Prisoners. Through her own project, Inkblot Arts, Maishataps into the creative arts and digital media to amplify the voices of those often silenced. Read her blog or follow her on Twitter @mzjwords.

Leave a comment

Bruised and Broken

Image courtesy: Amnesty International’s social media campaign

Image courtesy: Amnesty International’s social media campaign
The recent breakdown of Rati Agnihotri’s marriage after a 30-year innings has led to a lot of speculation. She is a close friend, but I was afraid to call her. I was worried that it might not be what I was hoping it was — a spat blown out of proportion. I was afraid to hear that she was indeed subjected to violence and abuse. Sadly, my fears turned out to be true. She had been through 30 years of abuse and violence for the love of an only son. She hadn’t wanted him to grow up in a broken home. No little portion of her endurance lay in the hope that most women subjected to domestic violence harbour, that the trauma will magically melt away and the man they married and loved actually lives within the monsters that beat them violently.
I had met Rati 18 years ago on a flight back from New York. She never seemed to age through the years after that. Some years ago, she hosted a party to celebrate the launch of her son Tanuj into the movies. She looked radiant and was her usual ebullient self, greeting her guests warmly. Happiness does that, I had mused, looking at her youthful face. How deceptive looks can be. Now I know what a harrowing life of mental and physical abuse she has been living for three decades. I’ve known her all these years and never guessed even when she would make excuses not to come for birthdays and dinners: ‘I’m accident prone Nisha, I’ve hurt my ankle… I’ve hit my head on the door in the dark.”
What transpires in the minds of women like her, who live through years of such a tortured existence? Shame and a sense of failure — a stigma that society never fails to stamp upon them. The spunkiest of women become timid thinking, “What will people say?” Even parents very often take an ostrich-like stand, telling their daughters to “be patient to avoid conflict” because “all will be well in time.” Trust me, it will not. Habitual abusers are pathological offenders. Get out while you have the youth and energy to start over. Never mind what people say.
There is a syndrome known as the Stockholm Syndrome where the victim of abuse gets habituated to bondage and does not eventually want to get out of the situation. Even if this extreme condition is not the case, depression, helplessness, indecisiveness or financial dependence also create a sense of inertia and non-action seems the easier way. Indeed any determined action requires courage and conviction to face the consequences. As we stand today, there is a grave need for awareness and self-reliance. And if the victim is brave enough to walk out on her abuser, her actions should be lauded and not frowned upon by those around her.
 The author is a luxury consultant. Mail her at

Leave a comment

Domestic abuse goes online

UNITED NATIONS (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Online domestic abuse has become a growing threat for women around the world, with their partners using the Internet, smartphones and tablets to harass them and track their every move, experts said.

While technology has presented new forms of abuse, it has also yielded solutions to help battered women seek assistance, said the experts, who urged women not to allow abuse to deter them from using the Internet or social media.

“We can’t allow technology to (become) another way to silence women,” said Michaelia Cash, the minister assisting the Australian prime minister for women, at a panel during the U.N. 59th Commission on the Status of Women.

An Australian national survey found that 97 percent of domestic violence support workers said the women they assist experience technology-facilitated abuse, according to Julie Oberin of Australia’s Women’s Services Network (WESNET).

Moreover, offenders are resorting to increasingly aggressive ways to exert complete control over victims, for example through “revenge porn”, in which rapists record videos of the abuse to blackmail victims.

However, technology can and must also be part of the solution to online gender-based violence, panellists said.

In Australia, developers have created apps that help women who face or are at risk of domestic violence seek immediate help through their phones.

The Aurora app, for example, contains emergency contacts, information on domestic violence and links to support services in Australia’s New South Wales state.

Oberin said women should not be discouraged from using the Internet or social media such as Twitter and Facebook, where a lot of the abuse takes place.

Doing so would be ineffective and build another barrier to gender equality, she said.

Many women and people working in domestic violence prevention and response have only recently started to recognise online abuse as a serious threat.

“When we started asking for funding for cyberthreats and violence in the early 2000s, people thought it was ‘cute,'” said Cindy Southworth, the executive vice president of the U.S. National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV).

Nearly half of Americans under 35 have been bullied, harassed or threatened online, while women make up 57 percent of victims, according to a poll conducted last year.

The poll indicated more than two-thirds (67 percent) of those harassed online knew their harasser in real life, while in the under-35 age group, that number rose to 72 percent.

Getting tech companies to cooperate initially proved a challenge, Southworth said, as service providers assisting battered women were perceived to be hostile towards technology.

Now, Twitter and Google, among others, have turned to NNEDV when developing safety improvements for their products, she said.

Another challenge has been educating women to use technology safely and respond to abuse, while avoiding at the same time inadvertently “creating a how-to guide for offenders”, Southworth said.

(Reporting by Maria Caspani, Editing by Alisa Tang)

Leave a comment

One World News – Life after death: Anna Marie Lopes

Anna Marie Lopes: Started a life after death

Anna Marie Lopes is a domestic violence survivor and works for Maitri India, a New Delhi based non-profit organisation that works with vulnerable population of India like migrant workers, HIV individuals, abandoned widow mothers, underserved women and children and domestic violence survivor.

Brought up in Dubai, Abuse was not unknown to Anna as she grew up looking at her father and mother. At the age of nineteen, she met her ex-husband through a couple of common friends and soon they were married off as the groom’s family was in a hurry. Anna wasn’t even asked if she was ready nor she could stand up for herself.

Anna Marie Lopes: Started a life after death  - one world news

Slowly, she started to understand the true side of her husband to which initially she was ignorant. She spent her initial time in adjusting to the circumstances whereas he was busy having fun instead of helping her. “He was never there to support me and never would I voice out myself. He was always ignorant to what I had to say and would in turn give me a set of rules I had to follow- don’t wear such clothes, don’t wear so many jewellery, don’t put on so much make up etc. to adjust with his family. It started upsetting me because he wanted to change me completely to be his wife” says Anna.

Soon she expressed her will to quit the marriage but the moment her husband came to know about it, the abuse started to escalate. “It started with him breaking my phone. He would physically abuse me, try to choke me, hit me with a belt and do such things but the very next day he would behave as if nothing has happened and say that I shouldn’t be doing things which can provoke him. Because he knew I didn’t want to continue this marriage, he started isolating me- he stopped me from talking to parents, friends, took away laptop and even if I would use the laptop he installed spyware software to monitor all my online movements. He didn’t let me complete my education and kept my papers under his custody. If he has to go somewhere, he would lock me inside”

Anna Marie Lopes: Started a life after death  - one world news

Anna also found out about his affair with a minor and when she objected he would abuse him even more. In 2011, the abuse took a sexual form where Anna even experienced marital rape. “My health was deteriorating and I was undergoing depression and anxiety. I couldn’t help myself to come out of bed and even tried to suicide but it didn’t work.”

Anna Marie Lopes: Started a life after death  - one world news

Finally In 2012, his parents wanted her to apply for US visa and that’s when she had the passport with her but they didn’t give any supportive documents because of which she was not given the visa. However, the embassy again asked her to apply for the interview and its then she decided to take a chance and leave.

Anna Marie Lopes Started a life after death -4

“I applied for interview online but selected a date which was a month far so that I have my passport along. I immediately called up few friends I could trust and told them that I have some money under my bed- take it and book a ticket because I have to leave. My friends called up Maitri and told my situation to which they responded to bring me here. Thats how I took off finally and came to delhi.”

As soon as she landed, with the help of Maitri she got legal counselling and guidance and appropriate measures were taken regarding the safety. And last year even divorce came through.

“Life has been tough because it is not easy to start from scratch when you have no support after such traumatic event, especially from family. However, thanks to Maitri who supported me all through and made me what I am today.”


How did you came out of it?

I came out of it with help of friends. My family wasn’t supportive. My dad wasn’t aware of the situation whereas my mom who knew of it was not supporting because she wanted me to stick to the marriage no matter what. She wasn’t able to understand psychology of this man and how far he could go to hide his villainous side.

No one could actually understand magnitude of the problem. So, there was always this sense of rejection that I felt from my family. I wanted to go back home but there was never a time when she would say come back home, nothing of such sort would happen again. Thats the reason why I have to leave the country entirely.

Are the situations same even now?

My father is supportive now but my mother isn’t. She has very religious outlook on life probably that’s why she is unable to look at things practically and naturally. There have been times when I wanted to commute to her what has happened with me in detail with or without evidence and let her know how much I needed her but she still chose to stick to her mindset.

The saddest part of all is the fact that she is still in touch with my X-husband. All this has left a big scar on me because even after knowing what he has done to her daughter she is keeping relations with him. She says he has changed but she doesn’t understand that this all is just a facade to show people that it’s me who is to be blamed.

How did you tackle all of it?

I was with people who educated me on what should be done. Once I was in Delhi, I immediately hired a lawyer so that my X-husband could not drag me into anything.

Also, I went to local police station and crime against women cell where I informed about the situation and how I am intimidated about the fact that he might find me and do some harm. After all this, I worked towards my divorce. To support myself financially, I worked with Maitri. Started to go for therapy to come out of the effect the abuse had on me and I am still going for it.

What impression has this entire episode left on you for the opposite sex?

I think it is true that whenever I see a man now, for me it is hard to trust and to think best of him. There is always a part of you who cross-questions that what if he turns out to be the same? Doubt and suspicious remains but I think it is only a good relationship that can over-lap all of it.

What has been government role in your situation?

Honestly, it’s been disappointing. As far as, my lawyer is concerned he was absolutely supportive and amazing but when it comes to Delhi police and crime against women cell they weren’t as sensitive as they are supposed to be and were looking for reasons to not help even when I have Indian passport, which was discouraging.

So, what do you do now?

I use my experience to communicate and spread awareness about domestic violence issues. I speak about how to prevent and end domestic abuse through various social platforms and talk to various women who have been through the same issue and portray their story in a better way.

Any message to women?

Never give up and never settle for less. Many women think they deserve the abuse and they are the cause of it which is really a wrong thought process. Look for a gap to reach out to someone who can actually help you to get out from the situation. Never stop looking for help as it is definitely avaible.

What have you learnt from this situation?

I am stronger, can evaluate relationship better, know how to discern and identify wrong and rights, learned to stand up for wrong things and value what I have.