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Domestic violence: A trauma

By: Farishta Khattak

Domestic violence occurs between people in an intimate relationship. It can take many forms, including emotional, verbal, sexual, and physical abuse, as well as threats of abuse. Abusive relationships always involve an imbalance of power and control. An abuser uses intimidating, hurtful words and behaviors to control their partner. It might not be easy to identify domestic violence at first, as even though some relationships are clearly abusive from the outset, abuse often starts subtly and gets worse over time.

You might be experiencing domestic violence if you are in a relationship with someone who insults you, tries to control how you spend money, where you go, what medication you take, threatens you with violence, or blames you for their abusive behavior. If anything of this sort is happening to you, you are being subjected to domestic violence and should leave your abusive partner, or at least start planning how to do so. An abuser will continue abusing you if you stay silent every time they hit you, abuse you, or torture you.

Domestic abuse is happening everywhere around the world, whether it is Pakistan, India, the United States, Ethiopia, or any other country. It is not limited to a specific geographic context, and whether we talk about it or not, we cannot deny the fact that it is happening and many women are suffering from it. Furthermore, they will keep suffering if we continue ignoring it and refuse to acknowledge that it is a real issue.

Pakistan is a developing country is where there is still much work to be done to achieve gender equality. According to a study carried out in 2009 by “Human Rights Watch”, an estimated 5000 women are killed per year from domestic physical violence, with thousands of others left disabled. Many girls get married at a very young age where they have no idea what is happening to them, making them vulnerable and more prone to violence. Often, they cannot take a stand for themselves as they are financially and emotionally dependent on their husbands, making them think that they will not be able to survive without their partners. These thoughts can be traced to socio-cultural norms in Pakistan, which are mostly patriarchal, highlighting that work needs to be done to remove this dependence of women over men.

Most of these young girls are from undeveloped areas in Sindh according to UNICEF and oftentimes when they get married their parents relinquish all responsibility to their husbands, leaving them with no other choice but to stay in abusive relationships where they are regularly subjected to physical abuse. The violence that these women face all their lives leads to great trauma and leaves a huge hole in their life. This trauma costs them their mental and physical health, and sometimes, even their lives. Domestic violence does not only affect the women that are the direct targets of abuse, but also the children who live in the same household and witness the abuse.

Children who see their mothers being tortured are mentally affected and they start hating their father and someone who they should see as a hero, they end up seeing as a villain. It becomes a gap in their lives and when these children grow up, they continue the cycle of abuse by doing the same to their wives because they saw the same happen to their own mother. Due to the normalization of abuse in their childhood, they think that it is okay to beat women and torture them, just because they are fragile and are dependent on them. Hence, domestic violence not only damages one person but a whole generation. One is too many.

In order to tackle this issue, The Ministry of Human Rights (MOHR) Pakistan has started a free, nationwide helpline to report domestic abuse cases. People can either directly call the helpline at 1099 or they can simply use the mobile app “Helpline 1099”. Last year, on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25, the Government of Pakistan stressed their commitment and dedication to working towards tacking domestic violence and promoting women empowerment, which is a positive step and more platforms should be developed in order to protect not only women’s rights but also human rights in general.

I, as a woman, know the kind of expectation society has from us and the particular way we are expected to behave. Our society has attached honor to women and has made them their puppets. Like the world revolves around men and women are just mere puppets. While men have their fair share of the blame for the situation, women are also a part of this society and they must raise their voice and take a stand for themselves. They must get separated from their abusive husbands when they are called names and are character assassinated. Many parents think that their daughters are better off dead than to leave their husbands no matter how abusive they are and how much they are being tortured as women should stay silent and compromise with their husbands regardless of the fact if they are suffering from abuse. A divorced daughter is better than a dead daughter is a message that people need to understand.

My final question is why? Why do women have to be confined to their homes? Why can’t a man control his anger? Why can’t abusers think about the consequences that they will have on their family when they abuse their spouse? How long must women suffer in silence?

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