Domestic violence is not just a problem of the lower and middle classes. It is very prevalent even among prominent people. For many it came as no surprise that Aam Aadmi Party MLA Somnath Bharti was involved in a case of domestic violence. The red flags were all there for those who know what to look for.
However, the signs of domestic violence (DV) are not always so obvious and a lot of women don’t report that they’re being abused. Even the woman’s own family is not always supportive at such times, because of the shame and guilt that surrounds such issues. Another concern that women face is how to prove domestic violence in India.
But, there is hope for women. On Sep 4, 2015, a Times of India news report stated that the Bombay high court set aside that part of a state government circular which prohibited counselling and mediation in domestic violence cases without a court order.
What this means is that domestic violence cases can now be resolved out of court, with the help of NGOs, counsellors and police, who will be allowed to counsel a woman “with regard to the course of action which she can take including joint counselling/mediation with her spouse/husband or her family members/in-laws.”
The guidelines further state that a violated woman must be informed about her right to choose her future course of action and that she must be guided with regard to her legal rights under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act.
Naaree.com caught up with Barkha Bajaj, the Executive Director and Head counselor for Aks Foundation, which deals with domestic violence situations in Pune, to find out the options available to women suffering from domestic violence.
How severe is the problem of domestic violence in India?
It is quite severe – 80% of our calls are of domestic violence. Also, a lot of violence in India is not looked at as violence. As it is a patriarchy a lot of violence against women is expected and accepted.
What has been your experience with women who call in for help with domestic violence situations?
They need support more than anything else. There is a lot of self-blame, confusion, guilt and shame as they love their partners but are also fed up. A lot of them feel helpless and hopeless as they feel stuck in their situations.
How do the Aks Foundation and other organisations go about helping such women? What kind of support can women look to you for?
We provide 24/ 7 support through our crisis lines. Within Pune we also provide legal support and advocacy where our volunteers go with the survivors to the hospital or police station.
One line is dedicated for counseling services. We also liaise with other NGOs or look for lawyers in the city if the call is outside Pune.
What is your advice to women who are suffering from domestic violence and dowry demands? What is the first thing they should do when faced with such a situation?
If they want to leave, the law is strong and they should use legal channels. However, the first thing is to tell someone they can trust and get support. Don’t hide it and suffer alone.
How can women be aware of signs of controlling men and those prone to Domestic Violence? Can we take clues from how his parents treat one another?
Well there are red flags for eg:
– Extreme jealousy
– Isolating behaviors
– Controlling- who she sees, what she wears
– Intimidation and threats
– Emotional manipulation- making you feel guilty all the time
Power and control wheels are available online – which show you strategies used by perpetrators.
(You can download a printable copy of the power and control wheel here to help you understand what you’re going through)
Women often overlook red flags, thinking they can change the man once they are married to him. What would you like to tell such women?
We can only change ourselves and we cannot change someone else unless they want to change. Trying to rescue and change someone is a lost battle.
What change in mindset is required, for women and their families, to avoid getting into a situation involving domestic violence?
Education – gender sensitization, talking about gender in general and gender based violence. This should be part of all school curriculum.
What parting advice would you like to give young unmarried women in India?
Know the signs of power and control. Domestic Violence is about power and control so be aware. Also, if you feel in your gut it’s a bad decision – get counseling. Also, financial independence is important. 🙂
See our related post: Working Women Less Prone To Domestic Violence, Say Legal Experts
For women involved in a situation of Domestic Violence, please contact the helpline of the Aks Foundation in Pune below. They are available 24/7.
Domestic Violence Helpline In Pune
Aks Helpline Numbers: 8793088814 to talk to our volunteers anytime.
For legal advice, call: 8793088815
For psychological counselling, call: 8793088816.
The following organisations can be contacted in Delhi:
Women’s Organisations In Delhi
Sakshi Violence Intervention Center: (0124) 2562336/ 5018873
Shakti Shalini: 1091/ 1291 (011) 23317004
Shakti Shalini Women’s Shelter: (011) 24373736/ 24373737
SAARTHAK: (011) 26853846/ 26524061
All India Women’s Conference: 10921/ (011) 23389680
JAGORI: (011) 26692700
Joint Women’s Programme (also has branches in Bangalore, Kolkata, Chennai: (011) 24619821
Dial 1091 for Women’s Helpline in Bangalore/Bengaluru
Toll-Free No: 1091 (24/7)
Established in 1999 by the Bengaluru City Police, Vanitha Sahayavani provides immediate rescue and support for women in distress.
Accessible through toll-free number 1091, Vanitha Sahayavani provides free tele-counseling, police assistance, crisis intervention, services in case of domestic violence, harassment and abuse. Vanitha Sahayavani operates from the Office of The Commissioner of Police – 24/7.
DIAL 1298 for Women’s Helpline in Mumbai
DIAL 1298 Women Helpline, a toll-free women-dedicated service managed by Ziqitza Healthcare in Mumbai has successfully helped more than 38,000 women in distress through its network of 80 partner NGOs.
Launched in 2008 with the support of 10 NGOs, DIAL 1298 Women Helpline offers women across socio-economic strata legal, psychological, psychiatric, trauma, medical and other kinds of counseling through its associations with a variety of women oriented NGOs.
The Helpline addresses a wide range of complaints including dowry harassment, eve teasing, abuse, domestic violence, cyber crime, divorce and maintenance, sexual harassment at workplace, among others.
The helpline was initially launched with the support of 10 NGOs and now works closely with over 80 NGOs in and around Mumbai. DIAL 1298 Women Helpline is a referral helpline service. Any woman who needs help can DIAL 1298 and it will connect to Silver Innings Foundation.
The foundation will refer the caller to an NGO that will either address the issue at hand and provide counseling or negotiate with the family members to resolve the issue. In instances where the woman requires immediate assistance, then the call will be forwarded to 103 Police Helpline.
Tip: If you are facing domestic abuse, DON’T look to take “revenge” on those who are trying to harm you.
It is a futile and endless journey and will leave you and your loved ones much worse off than if you just pick up your things, leave, and focus on building a new life for yourself and your children.
Get a job or build a business, and put all your energies into healing, not into punishing or getting back at your errant spouse. Moving forward and healing your own wounds is the ONLY way to get your life back.
The best “revenge” is to build a successful life without your abuser.
If you’re not yet married or are looking to marry again, read How To Avoid Marrying An Abuser.
If you work with a Domestic Violence Helpline in India, please post your contact information and comments below. We will add it to this post.
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