From Abuse to Empowerment

We may not always realise how often we take things for granted. Things like, freedom, respect and dignity for instance, that forms the foundation of any healthy relationship. It is sad that every day, hundreds of women all over the world grapple with domestic abuse day after day, year after year, relentlessly fighting their lonely battles, sometimes, even paying for it with their lives.

A few days back I heard about a close relative who is struggling to break free from an abusive relationship. I was in for a shock when I came to know how bad her situation is and the way the entire thing is taking a toll on her. My initial response was to reach out to her and reassure her that things would improve and that she should not feel she is helpless. I promised to find out ways and means to help her knowing that it wasn’t an easy task, given that we don’t live in the same city. To be honest, I haven’t had a moment when I’m not thinking of something to say to her to give her hope.

While I’ve been helping her, I’m also wondering what is it about women like her that they tend to fall victims to such abuse? Why do they continue to suffer psychologically, mentally and physically for days, months and years on end? Why does it take long years of suffering before they can even think of leaving these abusive men? Why is it that they keep hoping for a miracle? Frankly, I have no answers.

In my quest to help her with real-life stories of women who braved the odds, I began looking up resources. Among the many stories, is Lalthanzami’s inspiring story of courage and determination and how she, not only fought her own battle, but inspired other victims to stand on their feet too. It is an empowering story, coming from the North-East of the country, where I thought women face less prejudice than those in the other parts of the country.

The journey from abuse to empowerment is a long, lonely and difficult one. Women who find themselves on that road, may not often find that support within the family. But, the irony is that they alone can help themselves. It is they, who must discover the strength and courage to safely move away from an abuser. And yet, even as we help and support them in their efforts to regain confidence and control over their own story and situation, at a time when it might be the most difficult thing to do, we must remember it is their battle.

At the end of the day, it is their life, and they should be making their own decisions. By deciding for them, we take away their power and confidence, leaving them helpless and dependent. So, no matter how helpless they are, no matter how easy it feels for us to do so, we should never be doing it for them. What would you do?

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(Linking this with #microblogmondays and #mondaymusings.)

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14 thoughts

  1. It’s so difficult to understand why women stay on in abusive relationships. What I have discerned from speaking to a few people I know who were in such relationships is that they lack the confidence in themselves to leave. It’s hard to hold space for someone going through something like this without wanting to just sprint them out of that situation. But of course, it’s such a personal journey, isn’t it?

    1. It is, Shinjini. It is definitely the lack of confidence because women have been brought up to behave in a conformistic way and “adjusting” to abuse becomes part of her compromise and later, a part of her life. I would rather see broken marriages than broken relationships within a so-called happy marriage. A lot depends on how the woman responds after a few episodes of abuse. The onus to break free also lies with her.

  2. Its to do with the way our society, parents and peers advocate the “rightness” of bneing with one’s partner no matter what – and this advocated only to the woman and not to the man. So women put up with it in hopes of a miracle as going to their parents house is seldom an option or low self esteem to be financially independent or just the fear that what will happen to them if they leave. Staying in the relationship feels more secure than getting out of it – its a pathetic and sad truth of our society.

    1. Shalini, I agree. I think women bear the brunt of failed marriages and always feel they need to put up with the abuse because it feels “safer” as a known devil instead of an unknown one. They really have no support from families. I think it has a lot to do with their upbringing and their own sense of self-esteem and the fact that we live in a masochistic, patriarchal society where the social mores almost always favours the man rather than the woman. Don’t you think so?

    1. Yes, Suzy, I too am hoping that breaking away is difficult but if you see the damage it causes to the woman and the kids then, you see why breaking away can also be the best thing to do under the circumstance. Nobody deserves to live that way.

  3. I have an acquaintance who is in a similar relationship. I actually grew up with her and call her Didi. We were very close once. When I hear what she is going through and still enduring it, I cannot comprehend why. She is not only educated but is independent as well. Sometimes I want to shake her and tell her it’s not worth it but then I stop in my tracks. I can imagine what I would have done had I been in her place but I cannot know for sure. But still, I really wish women found it within them to leave such relationships and not keep giving chance after chance to one who won’t ever reform.

    1. Absolutely, Nabanita. I ask the same question, why did they not walk out the very first day they knew this person isn’t going to change? I am amazed at their patience and tolerance although it makes my blood boil to see that even after being so badly abused, they stay on in these abusive relationships waiting for some miracle to change the course of things and bring things back to normal. This, of course works in favour of the abuser and the vicious cycle continues.

  4. Such a heartwrenching post, Esha. There are so manywomen who suffer in silence,but as you said it is forever a mystery why they never strive to break free from the shackles, even though life would be a hell for them every minute of the day. I hope your acquaintance finds peace soon. I will pray for her.

    1. Thank you Maliny. I will be thankful to you for your prayers. Seeing a loved one suffer is very painful and I too, like you, would wish that she finds peace and comfort in herself and can leave the painful memories behind. I’m really feeling so helpless at the moment, hence the expression of angst through the post 🙁

  5. Great post, Esha. I will check out the story and I completely agree with the fact that God helps those who help themselves. If a woman chooses to suffer, no one can do anything. She herself has to believe in her strength and live for herself. Else, abuse is what follows.

    1. Thanks, Parul. I too believe that women need to take control back from others in order to change the course of their lives when such things happen.The more they depend on others, be it society or family, the worse their situation gets. Ultimately, it is their call, so I do agree with what you say.

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