Domestic Violence: The Hushed Pandemic
She was born into this world with a lot of dreams and expectations. While she was growing up-studying, cooking, cleaning, getting married, obeying her husband were some of the things expected of her. She got married at the age of 19. Her husband was 8 years older than her and worked in a multi-national company. He was well-educated, apparently affectionate, and cheerful. She felt that he was the best match for her.
On the night of their marriage, they developed an extremely strong emotional bond and knew that they could speak with each other for hours. She was so mesmerized by her husband that she could never fathom what fate had in store for her. Two days after their marriage, she didn’t wake up on time after a long, tiring night and couldn’t prepare and pack his lunch. When she woke up, he had already left for work. There was a note left on the side table. It said, “Let’s talk about this after I come back home.” She didn’t think too much about it and carried on with her daily chores.
Nine hours later, he came back home. It seemed like he had a busy day at work. She approached him to know more about his day and what he meant by the note he had written. All she received in return was verbal abuse. The atmosphere in the house took a huge turn. From trust, emotional bonding, and mutual respect to distrust, emotional damage, and disrespect. He blatantly abused her, her family, her values, her manners, her character, and whatnot. She burst into tears and didn’t understand what went wrong. She kept following him throughout the house trying to understand what she did wrong.
A slap, a punch, a kick, a red cheek, a black eye, and a hairline fractured ankle. She sat down in pain and agony, not knowing what to do. Her parents had taught her to do everything that her husband asked her to, to obey his commands, to meet his demands, and never to disrespect him. She did exactly that. Even with a red cheek, a black eye, and an ankle with a hairline fracture, she gave in to his desires in bed. She let him do whatever he wanted to.
This incident took a huge toll on her. She felt scared most of the time in the house she wanted to be at her “home”. She heaved a sigh of relief at 9 AM every morning and was frightened and anxious as the clock approached 7 PM. That house was not her safe space when he was around. One month into the marriage, she decided to run away. She had packed all her bags, collected all the money, and was ready to runaway in a day or two. That day, her country imposed a complete lockdown owing to COVID-19. Her world came crashing upon her.
Her husband worked from home for two weeks. Following that, he was laid off by his employers. Frustration, anger, uncertainty – the aftermath of unemployment during COVID-19. Five months of repeated physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. Recently, she got admitted to the hospital. She suffered from a cerebral hemorrhage. Adding to that, she contracted COVID-19 due to her long stay at the hospital, and recently, it was announced that she was no more.
While staying home was a compulsion and a necessity for all of us, it was a nightmare for some. “She” could have been you, me, a friend, a family member, a close relative, a distant relative, a colleague, an acquaintance, or a stranger irrespective of their age, gender identity, and nationality. Some of us have the luxury of living around people whose ideologies don’t resonate with the story above, whereas some of us have been held captive in houses where people believe and perpetuate what was portrayed above.
Domestic violence. Physical abuse. Emotional abuse. Sexual abuse. These are some of the words that I have been extremely familiar with. Why? Because of the multiple narratives that I have heard on these burning issues. Since when? Since when I reached the developmental milestone of reading, writing, and comprehending. Hence, considering the importance of mental health and safety a priority.
COVID-19. Pandemic. Lockdown. Quarantine. These are some of the words that all of us have become extremely familiar with. Why? Because news around this topic has been flooding news channels and newspapers ever since. Because we can’t get out of the house to meet our friends, to go to parties, to travel, to live a “normal” life or to just be free. Since when? Since the beginning of this year and hence, considering 2020 as one of the worst years of our lives and believing that COVID-19 is the major pandemic around us.
We are actively working towards preventing and eradicating COVID-19; billions have been spent by the healthcare industry across the globe. Although I completely understand that this pandemic has brought with it a lot of anxiety, depression, stress, and uncertainty, multiple other long-standing issues need our urgent attention, too. Something that has plagued the globe for centuries and needs education, prevention, and eradication is not being addressed with the same importance. Every year, multiple people lose their lives to toxic and abusive relationships. Statistics surrounding these facts attest to the importance of addressing these concerns. If the statistics in the pre-COVID world were not enough, the recent research studies across the globe are indicative of the rapid increase in domestic violence since the lockdown.
I highly appreciate the efforts put in by certain organizations that are actively working to address the issue of domestic violence. However, there is a long way to go for us. Let’s come together and stand against the atrocities committed on people inside their homes. Be aware of what’s going on around you and report actions that violate basic human rights!
We need to understand that mental health is as important as physical health. Domestic violence takes a massive toll on physical health as well as the mental and emotional stability of an individual. If you or someone you know has experienced any such atrocities, please contact national helpline numbers (https://www.shethepeople.tv/news/india-domestic-violence-helpline-numbers-during-the-lockdown/). For mental health support, please seek professional help.