A baby step back to innocence


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Category: Reflections 01 Dec 13

If you looked at her eyes, you would think she was already old or homeless. The corner of one eye is bloodshot. The other eye has a bruised aubergine, ‘baigan’ circle that covers a cheekbone. Her face is lopsided.  Her mouth is twisted, downturned.  A 25-year-old-man allegedly tied a bed sheet around her neck to hang her. Before that, he beat her and threatened to kill her.

Amanda Mootilal is an 18-yearold girl, who got pregnant at 15.  She has a two year old. She’s still a child. The days of a school uniform, of choosing nail colours, of giggling, of adolescent wonder, of pouring over math equations are still close. Her eyes are wounded and deeply shocked. Somebody she loved and trusted tried to kill her. She got away, but only just.  ‘He may be back’ is what her eyes say, and ‘I could be dead’ and ‘what did I do wrong?’ This is an open letter to her.

Dear Amanda

Firstly, it’s not your fault. You do not deserve this. Nobody does.  Somebody threatened to kill you.  Somebody tried to hang you. Somebody beat you up. He was criminal. You can never ‘provoke’ brutality. Brutes exist. They may be themselves victims—wounded, neglected, insecure, brutalised, humiliated, as children. They may be psychopaths with no empathy, or they simply may not know the difference between right and wrong. They may be lashing out.  It doesn’t justify brutality. They remain brutes the unhuman, the inhumane. They are monsters of the deep. Nobody, no matter how close you are to them, has a right to damage you.

The battering must have started long before you were pinioned, the bed sheet tied around your neck, before the terror you felt, before you escaped death by hanging. I’ve spoken to many women like you, Amanda. They are Indian, African, and European.  They are rich and poor, educated, cultured, working illiterate, and housewives. It’s not just an ‘Indian’ cultural thing. There is a Domestic Violence Act, but women like you may be ‘stuck’ financially, or too bowed down to leave. They don’t have anywhere to go. They may have a small child like you do. They are afraid if they leave they will be killed.  It’s like cancer. It’s arbitrary and can get at anyone.  I’ve seen too many women with slings on their arms and bruised eyes who have ‘accidents.’ Repeatedly.  Their eyes well up easily, too easily at a small kindness, wobbling tears, wiped dry before anyone can see. I found some old numbers.  Between August 2 and 3 almost 10,000 women filed cases of domestic abuse. I suspect updated numbers may show that up to 30,000 even 40,000 women in our country are being battered physically, emotionally or both.  People around you tell you to walk on eggshells. They say, “Don’t say anything to annoy him.” By saying this they make it your problem. It’s not your problem, Amanda. It’s a man who is so damaged that he crosses the line repeatedly between being human and being an animal.  When anyone crosses that line, uses his physical or economic power to damage you physically, the argument is over. Nobody can or should argue with a beast. He makes himself inhuman.  For some women it starts with a shove. Then another, harder shove. Then you could get put out of the car. You could get choked. Anything could trigger it.  You get called names so often that you forget your own name.  You look for reasons. He suggests reasons. You put too much pepper in the food. You didn’t put enough. Your dress was too short.  Another man paid you a complement.  You came home too late.  You spent too much time at work. You didn’t work enough.  You wasted money. You questioned him in some way about work, about a woman, about where he was. You stayed because of the Stockholm syndrome where victims feel attached to their captors, see an absence of violence as a kindness. You may also get flowers, or money to buy a dress.  He is extra loving.  But then just when you relax, you show some ordinary annoyance, you show some kind of independence, or if he’s feeling bad about himself that day, you get shoved again, maybe kicked, maybe have a sheet tied around your neck. Maybe killed. It was never about you.  The people around you who enable domestic violence, Amanda, are among the most criminal.  The ones who witness the violence dismiss it as “cultural,” “husband and wife business,” say you “provoked” brutality or shove it under the carpet due to a perverted sense of pride. Everyone knows that bullies are cowards.  Sometimes all it takes is a person close to the family to say, “stop!”  For now you’ve been saved.  Someone said, “stop!” The system doesn’t always work but it did for you. It’s a baby step back to innocence, back to hope. Grab it.  Heal. Don’t look back. 

_ Victims of domestic violence should call the ‘Victim Support Unit,’ a police initiative with 24 trained social workers throughout the country on 628-4277 extension 12634.


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur