In early 2011, as part of my work, I went to Pune to document our partner’s work with survivors of violence primarily domestic. I spent the whole day with the lawyer activist discussing the topic and trying to understand its various aspects. I saw and heard the cases which had just come in while I sat there in the office. Then I went out to talk to a few survivors themselves and know of their stories.
At the end of the day, while waiting for a cool cab to take me back to Mumbai, I finally got some time to review what I had seen and heard throughout the day. And it was then that it hit me. I stood there clutching my stomach as wave after wave of nausea coursed through me. I was suddenly desperate to come back to the warmth of my home. Next day I went to office and told my manager NEVER again to send me for work on this theme.
That one day in a tier one city made me realise a lot of things. That all this while I, like others, had happily chosen to ignore this issue as something which happened only in the lower income strata. That violence can take such ghastly forms and proportions that it becomes unbelievable. That we live in a society so SO sick, that it has begun to scare me. That people, rather men, can go to any extent for greed and power....it doesn't matter if it’s your 70 years old mother, 12 years old daughter or a newly wedded wife.
Over the years I have come to question why we talk about violence as only a women’s issue. When the focus is just on the women as victims or survivors, the perpetrators or the men are relegated to the background and their behaviour accepted. It’s left to the women to survive and try and lead a next to normal life.
Well, I do not think it’s an issue related to women at all. For me, it’s an issue related more to the society in general and men in particular. Isn't it strange that in most of the cases of violence (in any form), the perpetrators are men? It’s the men who are violent not only against women, but they are violent against children and other men too. So, shouldn't we as a society start to see and accept the problem in its right perspective? And more importantly, shouldn't men start to introspect as to why is it that only they tend to behave like that? Women, who are survivors of abuse and violence even as a kid, do not grow up to become perpetrators themselves. The same sadly can’t be said about men.
Over the years, I have gained tremendous respect for all the women and men working tirelessly on this issue under so much of negativity and surrounded by so much of despair.
The lawyer activist had told me that one learns to build a defense mechanism else they could be easily pulled down.
As for me, I am just not brave enough. And for the sake of my emotional sanity, I prefer to stay away.