The effect of domestic violence is not only physical, psychological or emotional but also impacts upon physical, social, interpersonal and financial domains. The survivors are compelled to live a poor quality of life and they have to financially become dependent on their mayeke (parental home). They also have less societal interaction due to the social shame of anxiety, fear of going out, lack of self-esteem, confidence, isolation, lack of confidence and self-blame. Shirin profiles the case of Jyoti. She and her infant girl-child were tortured inhumanly at her in-laws place. Here’s the story of the restoration of dignity, with the intervention of PVCHR, in the regular column, exclusively for Different Truths.
Domestic violence is a pervasive social issue characterised by the perpetration of physical, sexual, and/or psychological harm by a current or former intimate partner (Saltzman, Fanslow, McMahon, & Shelley, 2002).The National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) Report reveals cruelty by husband and relatives, in 2015, accounted for 34% of cases, rising 6% over the last four years, from 106,527 cases, in 2012, to 113,403, in 2015. As per the state and union territory-wise data, Uttar Pradesh has seen the highest number of women rights violation cases so far, in this financial year at 6,110 1 . These deleterious consequences call attention to the need for further examination of factors that may alleviate these harmful impacts for survivors recently exposed to abuse.
The effect of domestic violence is not only physical, psychological or emotional but also impacts upon physical, social, interpersonal and financial domains. The survivors are compelled to live poor quality of life and they have to financially become dependent on their mayeke (parental home). They also have less societal interaction due to the social shame of the poor relationship. Due to which they develop many psychological symptoms such as anxiety, fear of going out, lack of self-esteem, confidence, isolation, lack of confidence and self-blame. “I feel so bad that do not want to go to anyone or any place. Never feel like attending marriage or any other function. I feel like repenting in a corner of the house, as I fear what will happen to me and my four year old daughter,” says 23 years old Jyoti.
The survivor’s doesn’t disclose abuse or seek social support because they may feel stigmatized if others know of their abuse, they may see violence in the home as a private matter, or they may fear retaliation from their partners if they disclose the abuse. Even if abused women seek social support, they may not receive the support they need because potential support providers may blame the victim or feel uncomfortable discussing this sensitive topic. Here’s what Jyoti had to say:
“I never shared anything that I faced in two months in my in-laws house. Every time I thought the situation would become better. Every night, I slept with tears. My life had become a living hell. During that time I became pregnant but they never thought of giving me any relief. They made me work for hours and then offered very little food that was insufficient for me. I used to fall down out of weakness and hunger but they never asked why I was becoming so weak with every passing day.
“After some time, my father came to take me. He said to my in-laws if he could take me to home for a few days. Hearing this, my father-in- law started abusing my father. For long a time, heated words were exchanged between the two and then my mother-in- law stood up to say, ‘Take away your witch, your inauspicious daughter.’ And I came back with my father, weeping. Daughters always feel happy after coming back from their in-laws house but I never felt anything was making me happy.
“I used to think, ‘What were my shortcomings that I got such a terrible treatment from that family.’ Neither my husband is interested in me nor is he paying attention towards the child, who is going to take birth soon.
“After sometime, a daughter was born to me and the information was sent to my in-laws house. But no one from came to see the child. I thought if not for me, they could have come to see the child at least. Whenever someone knocked at the door I used to run and see hoping it were someone from my in-laws family but when I found it was someone else, I used to return with tears. My mother and my Bhabi (brother’s wife) always consoled me saying that things would get better soon.
“Then on March 1, 2010, my mother-in- law and sister-in- law came to take me and my father told me to go with them. But when I came to my in-laws house they repeated their torturous behaviour. My husband never used to see the face of our child for she was a girl. All of them used to curse me for giving birth to a girl child. What was my fault or that of the child, if she was a girl-child? They didn’t allow her to have milk. My mother-in- law used to say, ‘Give her flour with water instead of milk.’
“Her words made me cry and I pleaded with her, ‘Our daughter is just two months old and if I do this she would die. You may not give food to me but please allow my daughter to have milk.’ It was then the turn of my sister-in- law to curse and torment me. She would say, ‘Your father hasn’t given money for her milk then how could you feed her.’
“When I used to breastfeed her, they snatched her from me and put her on the floor and compelled me to work. My sister-in- law used to spit on me and made me clean her footwear. When my husband was at home they used to poison his mind and instigate him against me and made him beat me up blue-black. They threw my child on the floor instead of playing with her and cursed my parents. My father-in-law used to say, ‘We will take you to court and your father will not be able to do anything.’
“Even then, I hoped against hope that things will get better soon. But nothing got better. It worsened with each passing day. One night my husband dragged me down from the first floor, while thrashing me and all other family members of his, including my mother-in- law and sister-in- law too came there. My father-in- law tried and forced me to drink acid kept in a bottle, while my husband kept on beating me. I was crying and asking mercy at the feet of everyone. None had any sympathy for me. My father-in- law said, ‘Go and get money from your father else we will kill you.’ I replied, ‘Father, how would my parents bring more money?’ But they continued to torture and torment me and our daughter.”
In 2012, Jyoti approached to PVCHR through its volunteer. Jyoti was psycho- socially supported through testimonial therapy. The testimonial therapy is a short psychological approach to trauma that utilises the testimony method. The testimony is the truth telling and emotion pain sharing of the survivors with which truth is an important aspect of the process of justice. The testimony is viewed within the broad framework of social construction and provides valid information of human rights violations, without humiliating the witness. More often than not, it resulted in the survivors overcoming of depressive symptoms and cope with a difficult situation. Survivors rediscover self-worth and dignity. They regain self-esteem through the recording of their stories in a human rights context, as such, private pain is reframed with a political meaning.
In the Indian context, it has acquired the psycho-legal form that emphasises denunciation of human rights violation and initiates advocacy for justice. It has three elements:
1. Private: Psychological rehabilitation of the survivor leads to a certain degree of restoration of the physical and mental state. This opens the possibility of his/her participation in a community movement and ultimately becoming a human rights defender.
2. Legal: The testimonies provide a lot of subjective information about the plight of the victim, which help the court to take into account when the bail application of the victim is considered. The human sufferings are never recorded in the court proceedings. However, these references of human sufferings often go in favour of the victim in front of the well-prepared.
3. Political: Within testimonial therapy, public ceremonies are organised to honour the survivors of torture. These ceremonies provide an opportunity to bring back the survivor to the same community/society that has isolated him/her for being tortured.
The testimonies are read out in the presence of the villagers, invited guests, local politicians, elected representatives, and local media creating debate and discussion at the local level because it contains human sufferings, institutional malpractices, and failure of constitutional guarantees. Testimonies can be used as urgent appeals and for advocacy work.
The ceremonies honouring the survivors after the process of testimonial therapy was such an empowering and endearing moment and milestone in the lives of the survivors. It was a real recognition of the integrity of the survivors as human beings that they possess value in every community and in society and they have right to be honoured in his/her community.
The society provides acknowledgment and understanding of the survivors’ suffering and the necessity for healing and reparation. This was a celebration of their breaking of silence towards achieving empowerment, such as ‘The Kajari Mahotsav’ was able to facilitate the elimination of the caste feeling as both the upper and lower caste are able to participate together in said festival. With the Right to Information also discussed in their folk school, the leaders are well utilising it for their purpose. During the festival of Kajari Mahotsav, Dalit women have provided solidarity to the upper caste women, who were facing domestic violence.
This psycho-social support model of PVCHR is multi‐dimensional and multi‐layer programming that covers all the three significant pillars of work – that of healing and rehabilitation, achieving and having access to justice and prevention so that the practice and phenomenon of elimination of domestic violence.
Jyoti’s testimony with the covering letter was handed over to the district probation officer, Varanasi under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005. The case is also filed under section 125 Cr. PC in the family court and she is receiving the maintenance of 10,000 INR. Her story was also part of the submission report during the visit of Ms. Rashida Manjoo, UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against women with specific on domestic violence.
Now, Jyoti is continuing her education. She is pursuing postgraduate and her daughter is in class fourth.