In one of the many websites that discuss domestic violence, there’s a very pithy saying “Silence is acceptance. And to accept is to condone”.
Are we guilty of silence?
The media gives chilling reports of South Asian women being killed, thrown out of homes, children who are mentally disturbed, situations that we should never, never permit in our own neighborhood.
Yes, it’s important to speak out. It’s critical. We have to ensure, that in our own immediate community, basic human rights are not violated and our women and children have our protection to lead secure, healthy lives.
How can we protect them?
Domestic violence takes place behind closed doors. The sufferer is invariably isolated and terrified of seeking help. The abuser looks like any other person on the street. What can the community do?
In Washington DC, the South Asian communities of Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan, Nepali, Maldives origin are well established as citizens of the United States. People are confident and proud of their cultural heritage and practice their religions, observe cultural programs, events and festivals. Within this activity framework, there are innumerable forums and opportunities to launch a continuous program against domestic violence. At schools, clubs, places of worship, community centers, events.
- Raise awareness; remove the cloak of secrecy
- Publicly address social errors, family pressures and taboos that discourage corrective action
- Publish atrocities against women and children
- Express solidarity with sufferers and zero tolerance for abusers
- Publicize US laws that protect DV sufferers
- Actively detect domestic violence and seek intervention
Detecting domestic violence
Women and children who lead isolated lives are noticed by the community. It does not take much effort for a social worker to make an occasional check. Random checking can be easily instituted as part of the social activities of the diaspora. To counter isolation, you can keep regular contact. To counter fear, you can give reassurance. To give support, you can forward information about women’s support groups and organizations like ASHA.
It is not that difficult once the machinery is set in motion.
Don’t forget the children!
Children suffer terribly. Even when they are not direct targets, they witness and sometimes participate in violence, live in fear and confusion, drop school grades, become reclusive and anti-social. The scars they bear can be lifelong.
These are the children who will grow up to form a contributing part of the South Asian community. Can we help them - and nurture a peaceful society?
- Children are highly vulnerable - 30% to 60% of abusers also abuse children in the household.
- Boys who witness domestic violence are twice as likely to abuse their own partners and children when they become adults.
- Interestingly, many batterers learned violent behavior growing up in an abusive family.
- A civil society has responsibilities to protect its people.
- Civic, social, political and religious leaders cannot shut their eyes to the glaring ills in their community
- There are many programs that can be adopted to address and reduce the incidence of domestic violence
- The community – young, mature and old – must join hands and condemn domestic violence in all its forms