Hi Prachi. I’m from Vadodara and live in a multistory apartment building. I have a wonderful neighbor on the same floor as me and I like her very much. But she has a painful secret. Her husband beats her up and is very abusive. She has two kids too. I know what her husband does because I have heard them fighting all the time and one day as I was coming home from the market I heard her shrieks because their door wasn’t properly closed. In front of everyone she is always smiling and pretending nothing is happening. I have tried to hint at it but I’m scared that she will think I’m interfering in her personal life. What can I do to help her? Especially when she won’t admit that something is wrong. How can I discuss this with her? I don’t want to lose a good friend by offending her. Please help me, its driving me crazy!
Rachna A., Vadodara
Dear Rachna, it must indeed be very frustrating to witness such an act of domestic violence and not being able to do anything about it. See, any victim of domestic abuse does not speak up for a number of reasons:
- She lacks confidence
- She doesn’t have the support or means necessary to take a step against her abuser
- She believes it is her fault and that its okay to be punished for it
- She is scared for herself and her kids and doesn’t know where she will go if she leaves him
Do you think your friend could have any of these reasons for not admitting to what’s happening in her home? You could try broaching the subject with her indirectly. Make up a story of someone you know who was being abused by her husband and how ‘she’ took steps to get out of it and is free today. Again and again remind her that she has your support. What is her family situation? Do you think her parents would stand by her side? Unfortunately in India, most parents of girls teach their daughters “to live the way your husband will keep you. That’s your home now, now this.” Without familial support abused women are lost. You could get in touch with NGOs that help such women like www.bellbajao.org and get their contact numbers or business cards. You could pass on the card to her saying that lots of them arrived in your mail and you’re handing them out to everyone in the neighborhood. She may tuck it in somewhere for the future.
Do get back to us after you’ve tried a few times and let us know the progress. We hope we could help. Witnessing domestic violence can be very painful and traumatic for the observer but we are glad that you have the courage to speak for your friend.