My father is, in many ways, a man of extreme discipline and organization. When he retired from his official post as a manager of a reputed firm, one of his friends and colleague told me, " You should be more like your dad - hardworking and disciplined. You will go very far in life." I nodded and smiled.
In his personal life though, it was a different story. He was angry, abusive and unhappy. As a child, my sister and I witnessed repeated violence against my mother. Constantly living in an emotionally unpredictable environment, week after week, year after year, we developed a strong urge of shame and guilt within us. Each act of violence was newly appalling and hurtful as I felt helpless in my ability to protect my mother from a situation that seemed inescapable. My feelings of helplessness would turn into anger and guilt and I often felt responsible for idly standing aside, not able to protect my mother from the violent beatings.
Our house was small, and when you grow up with domestic violence in a confined space, you learn to be on guard, always gauging the situation, watching and waiting for the next incident to occur. We never knew what triggered the abuse in our house or what made my father so angry, hence we never felt safe. For many years, the guilt in me forced me to keep it a secret from my friends and relatives but eventually they knew.
Childhood experiences are often precious and deemed impactful. The one experience I remember most vividly about the abuse transpired many years ago but I remember it in great detail. After an entire evening of screaming and beatings, my mother decided she could no longer take it. She walked out of the house, with us in tow, and reached the police station. It was our first time and we felt shaken and scared. The officer in charge, sitting at a chair across us, stared hard at my mother. Without even opening his complaint register, he simply told my mother, " What did you do to provoke him? It is a private matter. Please go back." My mother left immediately and the beatings continued.
Years of witnessing violence against my mother played an integral role in shaping my views on relationships, family and larger systems. Children who grow up in violent and abusive homes often end up feeling lonely and ashamed. Every morning, while walking to my school, I used to have my head down, praying and wondering if any of my friends in the neighborhood heard the screams last night. I feel somewhere the shame lingers within me even today.
With time, my experience of growing up with domestic violence, has allowed me to explore gender roles and power dynamics in a meaningful and nuanced way. It helped me form perceptions and beliefs of women abuse. With time I realized that nobody deserves abuse, and violence is never an acceptable way of dealing with conflicts or problems.
Violence against any human is never a private matter. It touches many of us. Almost one in four women will experience domestic violence at some point in her lifetime. The abuse of violence is only protected by the shame of silence. Most people find the idea of violence solely a women's issue. But, it is in fact a global human rights issue. Most women and children- just like my mother and us, will continue to endure domestic violence, unless we all speak out against it. It requires courage and determination to speak out against years of systemic oppression, but if we do not, then the silence of abuse is only encouraged and perpetuated. I would never want any other woman or a human being for that matter to suffer and endure like my mother did. Hence I will always speak out against it, boldly and strongly. Will you ?
Take action! This post was submitted in response to Take Back the Tech 2013.