Acknowledging the courage & bravery of survivors of violence
We all have a story to tell, and if it involves pain, we need to tell that story. Each time we tell it, the event loses power and we gain strength – the strength to go on, the strength to be ourselves, the strength to give hope to others.
‘She slapped, yelled, pulled my hair & shoved me out in the courtyard in front of all the stone hearted people who were supposed to be my family, but in reality were just hateful smirking spectators. While my mother in law kept yelling abuse to my parents, my husband slapped me repeatedly on the face like a rampant beast. My little baby girl, my only child, laid hungry and weak on the bed, looking at me. I looked into her eyes, while the thrashing continued, and that was the moment when I realized, she’s watching every bit! She will think it’s normal to get tortured and that was the moment that helped me to see the truth. I decided to be a rebel. I decided to give my daughter a life free of torture.’
These are the words of Hira, who was later thrown out of the house, to bring better dowry and ‘manners’ from her parent’s house. Her little baby girl was forcibly kept by her mother in law, to make sure she returns in time, fulfilling all their demands.
‘When I reached my parents house, my soul and body all scarred and tattered, all I felt was the need to hold my child in my arms and the thought that she wouldn’t be able to survive, could not let me breathe properly.’
Someone from Hira’s parental family had seen the ‘1043’ helpline streamers on the road and the call made there brought Hira to the Human Rights Crisis Centre.
‘I couldn’t believe that I didn’t have to pay money for any service and that I were being taken care of without any reference and without paying a single rupee. It seemed too good to be true.’
Hira’s in laws and husband were contacted and told about the recent laws and her legal rights. They were too ignorant to understand the gravity of the situation and wanted to drag the issue till their demands were met. Also, till then, they refused to hand over the baby to the mother.
Hira was counseled to lessen the intensity of her trauma. The Cente Team decided to provide immediate legal aid to her to recover her infant daughter. A habeas corpus writ was filed and Hira got her baby back. Since there was no chance of improvement in the mindsets and behavior of her husband and his family, Hira filed cases for dissolution of marriage, recovery of dowry articles and recovery of maintenance allowance of her daughter, through the Centre.
Hira, the survivor, shared what she went through to give hope to all those women who were present at the occasion, who were suffering and could not find the light at the end of the tunnel.
Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Human Rights Crisis Centre, Lahore, organized a little gathering for acknowledging strong women & survivors for their courage & bravery. These victims of violence showed perseverance & compassion to come out of their problems of life with the help & support of the Centre.
The purpose of the activity was to share the emotional and material ups and downs of the journey of combating abuse, with other destitute women, to spread the spirit of hope& courage. The women were sensitized about their social and legal rights and responsibilities, the pro women laws and the available forums to redress their grievances.
The Crisis Centre Team takes pride in being compassionate service providers as they know that their efforts and services are making deep positive impact not only on the women, but their children and family members too. Women emerging as survivors, resolving their conflicts, overcoming obstacles and empowering themselves to brace the hardships of life should be lauded at all forums as they give us, the society, hope of a better tomorrow.
While we work with victims of domestic violence, it is important to remember that the perpetrator, the one who committed these acts of violence using power and control was 70 times more likely to be raised in a home where there was domestic violence in any form, be it physical, mental or economic. That perpetrator was a child who witnessed or was a victim of that violence, lived in that fear and had absolutely no power or control over what they endured or were exposed to.
How do we step into their shoes and work through the healing process, to ultimately realize the end of the cycle of abuse? By empowering the victim, facilitating the healing process, and advocating for healing for the perpetrator, we can integrate compassion into our everyday work; work that can ultimately make the world, and our own communities, a safer, happier, and more compassionate place for everyone.
Written by Rabia Usman – Rabia heads the Human Rights Crisis Centre for Women, Lahore. She has been working for community development, gender empowerment and mainstreaming and as a service provider against gender-based violence since 2006.