Twice Abused.

When she didn’t report to work, everyone assumed that she had been abused again by her husband. Her female co-workers did not want to interfere as her husband was well known for his anger tantrums towards anyone who came between him and his wife and male co-workers refused to get involved fearing allegations of affairs that would be directed towards them.

I was new to the office and when her office cubicle was vacant for several consecutive days, I approached the sectional head.

“ You see, the problem is she is married to someone below her in educational status, “ she told me. “ And we don’t know his side of the story, she must be doing something to ignite him “ she further added.

 This attitude towards gender based violence is far more common than we suspect, a woman ( or man ) who is subjected to gender based violence is twice abused,  first at the hands of the abuser , second at the hands of the society. The very elements , upon it is entrusted to protect victims of gender based violence turn out to be perpetrators of emotional violence on victims.

In this real case scenario, her own co-workers sided with her violator. Of course , I agree , women / men who are victims of gender base violence can have their own share of faults. But no one deserve , to be abused,  to be stripped out of their basic human dignity, at the very hands that they trusted to be the last person to leave them ,in the event of calamity.

How can the society help a victim of gender based violence?

  1. Gender-based violence needs to be identified as a real issue in the social fabric that warrants real and constructive action to be curbed. Gender-based violence is conveniently swept under the carpet,  in social discourse. Children are not taught about gender-based violence at school despite at least several children of these classrooms coming from homes where gender-based violence is rampant.
    Despite, being aware that some colleagues and co-workers among us are victims of gender-based violence, it is not a topic that comes out when it comes to the discourse of increasing productivity among co-workers.
  2. Even if we identify that gender-based violence is a real issue, there is no consensus in the society as to how as individuals and organizations we could help victims of gender-based violence. One colleague of a gender-based violence victim told me that she was criticized in office for being instrumental in the separation of the victim from her husband and creating a broken home for three young children. “ I was the only one who listened to this girl, I took her home and cared for her when her husband turned violent and she fled home. At the end in her own volition when she decided to separate from her abusive husband,  others blamed me and created rumours that since I was a spinster, I couldn’t stand to watch families happy”. she continued amidst tears. “ I had to seek treatment for the trauma due to these unfounded rumours “
    Helping victims of gender-based violence does not mean that these well-meaning good sanitarians are home wreckers or that they are against the sanctity of marriage as an essential institution in the social fabric. Caring for another human being when the victim is violated at the hands of his/ her most intimate partner need not be treated with lesser reverence as on other occasions. 
  3. Gender-based violence needs to be identified in the proper context. Prevalent gender stereotyping says that women are beaten because they disobey their husbands,  to whom they owe allegiance or men who are breadwinners are entitled to beat their wives once in a while to vent their frustration:  this is not acceptable.
  4. Gender-based violence needs to be acknowledged not swept under the carpet when encountered.  Gender-based violence is not encountered only among the poor and underprivileged. Just because you are a female law enforcement officer doesn’t grant immunity against gender-based violence. A woman I know who is a female police officer, by day is a  victim of gender-based violence at night, at home from her Police officer husband.
  5. Gender-based violence, when not acknowledged and rectified has far-reaching consequences.  Children growing up in homes, where gender-based violence is perpetrated, learn that violence is the only way to drive a point home. They accept it as a fact that it is acceptable to abuse another human being.
  6. Society needs to arrive at a consensus, that it is not acceptable and correct to abuse a woman, whatever fault she perpetrates, outside due process.

We all have a role to play to ensure security where every man and woman is free to reach his or her potential and live a life of dignity.

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