In a bid to break the silence around domestic violence, we at Centre for Social Research are sharing stories of survivors of violence who have come to us for support at our Crisis Management Centres (CMCs). We have seen so many of them grow a new skin, begin once again to love themselves, become their own silver lining and find a way to shine in the darkest of darkness. Today we write to you of Lata (name changed) who has seen a lifetime of misery and unthinkable violence. In her mid-thirties now, she approached one of our CMCs in July, 2015, when it had newly opened and her tale is related below.
Marriage was not the beginning of Lata’s woes. As a child, she was forced into having sexual relations with various men by her step mother. When she got pregnant, she was sold off as a bride to Mahesh (name changed) about 15 years ago who continued to have forced sexual relations with her. Having done with her, Mahesh sold her off to his elder brother Ramesh (name changed). It was at this point that Lata finally decided to run away and hid in the fields all night. In the morning she took help from a vendor on the roadside who took her home to his mother to whom Lata vented her entire story. The vendor’s mother gave her some money and told her to use it to go home the next day as she would be safest there. With no other option left, Lata went back to her parents’ house where Mahesh and Ramesh soon came to find her, beat her black and blue and took her back with them. She was beaten some more and locked up in the cow shed where she stayed for a few days without food or water until the cleaning lady came in and found her unconscious. With the cleaning lady’s help, Lata was restored to normal after which she went straight to the police. The police raided Mahesh and Ramesh’s house on Lata’s complaint but they had run away already and could not be caught. One of the policemen then directed her back to her house from where she got caught in the vicious cycle again. This cycle went on until she ran away and came to stay near our CMC.
It was at this stage that Lata approached us. Broken and shattered she vented out her frustration and told us about her dire circumstances. Our initial counseling sessions centered wholly around providing her with psychological and emotional support as the very idea of having people to rely on was alien to her life devoid of trust and a completely battered self esteem. In need of financial stability, Lata began to work as a helper in the CMC. It has taken her a long while to stand on her own two feet and live her life independently. Even today she refuses to lodge a complaint against her step mother. She does not want to enter into that emotional whirlpool that uprooted her life again. She stands tall and confident today knowing that the team at CSR will back her and ensure no harm comes to her.
Now Lata wakes up in the morning and readies her daughter for school. She cooks and cleans and drops her daughter off at the government school in the vicinity. She then goes to the CMC, cleans, does a few odd jobs, and continues on her round to nearby houses where she is also a domestic helper. When we hold meetings with women in the community where we try to raise awareness about violence against women and encourage them to speak up against it, Lata makes it a point to be there and actively encourages the other women to live their lives on their terms. She returns to her daughter at home in the evening whom she hopes to bring up to be a strong, fearless and self sufficient woman untouched by the sufferings Lata has had to face. Lata now lives a life that is ordinary to any passerby but to her it is no less than a luxury.