French government, during the time of lockdown period, advised their people who were experiencing domestic violence and were forcefully held at home, to go to a local drugstore and ask the druggist for ‘mask 19’ which was code they assigned for domestic violence. According to a recent survey, the cases of domestic violence against women in India have topped the sexual assault and rape cases. As for men, 51.5% of men suffer from domestic violence in India. Domestic violence is an act to display one’s dominance over the other person. Domestic violence is not limited to the physical violence that is inflicted on the victim, it includes sexual, psychological, economical violence etc.
The cycle of domestic violence
Ways of staying safe and seeking help
1] Understand the gravity- The most important step to change something is acknowledging that the change is required. To break the vicious cycle of domestic violence, it was important to know that domestic violence is never a one-time incident. It is significant to understand the red flags that the abuser displays and that the whole experience was an act of domestic violence than to deny it.
2] Seek help-Once the victim accepts it, it is important to reach out to the appropriate sources for help.
3] Safe zone- Once the victim realizes that the abuser is turning violent, the victim has to find a safe piece of a house where he/she can hide safely until the help arrives. The place can a bedroom, washroom or any place whose doors cannot be broken easily. If the victim cannot find such a room then, the victim should try to keep the main doors unbolted so that he/she might get a quick chance to escape the house and seek help.
4] Involve the family- It was seen in a research that 77% of women did not report the incident of domestic violence to anyone. Usually, such incidents occur between a married couple and marital issues are advised to be kept amongst the couple themselves. By involving family or any close relatives into this matter could pressurize the abuser to behave in a decent way by fearing the family or fearing the status that the abuser has in the society.
5] Emergency contacts- Always have the emergency contacts like the police station, organizations, family member or friends who stay nearby on speed dial so that one can contact them immediately.
6] Signal for help- If you are someone who cannot convey to the others that you are experiencing domestic violence at home then you can use this simple hand signal which you can show over a video call to others without the abuser knowing about it.
7] Legal help- National Legal Services Authority provide free legal services for the appropriate candidates and they have increased their aid during the time of lockdown and have also shifted their work on online portal. Similarly, one can take help through various legal sources and free themselves from the domestic violence.
8] Mental health professional- No matter what kind of abuse one goes through, be it physical or sexual, it affects the psychological wellbeing of a person. This could hamper the thinking capacity of a person due to which he/she might not be able to take a strong step towards seeking justice. There is no shame in seeking help through a mental health professional, rather it might make you feel strong and confident to take any further decisions.
At times it so happens that you know that the other person is going through a very tough time because of domestic violence, but you don’t know how to help that person. These points may come handy while talking to the victims who could be your friend, family member or member of your social group.
- Know the red flags- Most of the times, the victim hesitates sharing any experience of violence that they have suffered. At such times start observing their physical and behavioral signs. Physical signs might be- Frequent bruises on body, blue or purple marks on neck or wrists, weakness etc. The behavioral signs might be- Increased anxiety, staying aloof, loss of interest in activities, getting nervous around people etc.
- Make them feel comfortable- After watching the red flags, try to ask them but do not probe continuously. Remember, going though such traumatic events makes a person very fragile. Let them open up to you at their comfortable speed.
- Be non-judgmental and be there for the victims- Avoid using sentences like ‘such things keep on happening’, ‘give it some then things will resolve on their own’, ‘do you think you could be doing something wrong and that is why all these things are happening?’. Be there for victims whenever they feel like talking to you or when they just want to sit in silence, make them feel that there is someone who is with them on this journey.
- Legality- Try getting legal help for the victims like contacting the police when you know that the abuse is taking place, in such cases your identity is kept intact.
Do not hesitate to break this cycle of domestic violence just because your abuser fulfils some of your needs or because the abuser takes care of the family, this does not nullify the act of violence. Nothing can compensate the violent behavior, be brave and help yourself to come out of this!
The domestic abuse national helpline number is 181 and women police helpline numbers are 1091 and 1291