Stop domestic violence: A pandemic horror story

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Aldina Braganza

The lockdown and working from home is more challenging for some especially young children, teenagers and women who suffer domestic violence. Disturbing data published by the National Legal Service Authority (NLSA) reports a spike in the number of cases of distressed women during the lockdown period.

Domestic violence includes all types of abuse, which could be physical, emotional and verbal. The most disturbing and unfortunate aspect of such abuse is that it involves people they should trust the most and happens in a space they should feel the safest.

Many such victims live in the fringes of avoiding abuse by finding escape from their hell hole at their workplace, school/college campus, which become a haven of gentle retreat. They buffer their agony within the comforts of their colleagues, peers, friends and mentors. Come COVID-19 and this situation changed. Domestic violence victims feel they have got stuck in their nightmare; unable to get out. What makes domestic violence worse is the close proximity with the perpetrator. Additionally the increase of frustrations due to a lack of control over the turn of events or loss of income, makes the violence even heinous. 

Domestic violence is the least reported abuse because of the stigma and shame that accompanies abuse. Such violence is not a straightforward equation. The perpetrator is often the sole working member of the family and registering a case against your own provider would mean loss of their own sense of security. A strong and compassionate warrior against domestic violence, Auda Vieagas heading Bailancho Exvott in the south and also coordinating the one stop centre in the south echoes these thoughts, “Registered cases often become cold in the court of law because of this very reason,” she reiterates.

‘Who will look after my children?’ or ‘I am doing this for my kids’ are some common tolerance excuses from women whose husbands are beyond cruel with their abuse.

Greater denial and unacceptance exist when a child is being abused by a relative of the family. In many cases it could be the uncle/aunt or sometime even father, brother or grandparent.

Families are afraid of the loss in relationship and family status quo, thus rubbishing the abuse as their child’s imagination.

If you are a victim/or know someone being abused please understand that your silence is the reason it continues. The shame that you fear so much is fleeting. It will go away after sometime. You will be surprised that our society has changed for the better in this regard.  There is an awareness about domestic abuse now than before.

The system is with you today and to file a complaint is just a phone call away. One stop centres are set up in north Goa and as well as south Goa. You can file a case, get medical attention, counselling and collect evidence all at the same place. The initial part might be difficult, that is to report the abuse, but the latter keeps getting better.

Sometimes the abuser might create an illusion that he is a very kind and loving person. He might have even thrown it at you, trying to convince you that nobody will believe you when you report. But this is no longer a reason for you to fear. Today there are plenty of ways to find out if the person is truly abusive or not and more importantly a woman’s narrative gets more weightage in the court of law.

Many times women face extreme abuse and put their children in danger because they are afraid of the consequences. Don’t be afraid. It will be tough but it will be a life of dignity.

Maybe this is what your spouse needs as a wakeup call. Maybe he needs to hear you say ‘No! Enough is enough!’ When you call out a bully, he loses his power over you. This is a big turning point in the relationship. In fact you may just about create a balance of respect between you and your spouse

or relative.

If you know of anyone facing abuse then please interfere. People believe that one should not. However, your interference will help someone gain justice, fall asleep without the fear of being threatened or pain, sometimes the scar a young girl or boy will carry for the rest of their life, you will be able to stop it from being deep.

In Goa, alcohol abuse turns decent humans into instinctual beasts. Interventions like alcoholics anonymous and rehabilitation centres are all probable ways

of intervention. (Writer is a clinical psychologist, psychotherapist and the officiating principal at Carmel College for Women)