By Neluka Liyanage
Domestic abuse was never something that was on my radar. Sure I knew that travelling on public transport in Sri Lanka made you fair game. Sure it was an obstacle course when trying to pass a group of boys. Sure there was the fear of rape or being mugged when walking down a lonely street in the dark. Sure you expect this from strangers, but being beaten and raped by someone who promised to love and cherish you, how exactly does that work?
Ever since I heard, I have been angry. So angry that it could happen in a country with a 95% literacy rate, where education is so highly valued. That it happens so frequently and is yet so underground. That there is no support structure, no way to leave and no way to stay. Where people turn a blind eye. Where you could call out for help and no one would come because it’s a “family thing” or a husband exercising his prerogative. It seems to transcend social classes & education levels and instead it goes right down to the common denominator of what makes a person.
I’m done being angry and I want to now do something. What can we do to make sure that it’s not OK to abuse a loved one? I really want to understand what makes a perpetrator continue and what makes a victim a silent sufferer.
Many have posted that women need to set a better example to their sons that no one deserves abuse and that its wrong. They also need to be an inspiration to their daughters. It baffles me when people call women the weaker sex. When I see the way women protect their children, it makes me wonder why we don’t use that courage to protect ourselves. There are a myriad of reasons why women don’t leave. Children, dependency, society, fear. At what point does the fear of leaving outweigh the fear of staying?
I have been thinking about why men abuse those who they love. Is it that they believe it is their prerogative to treat what they own how they like? Could it stem from their own abuse, or their own anger, their own self esteem? Are they merely continuing a cycle? By not accepting that the control they desperately seek to achieve by hitting someone is actually making then smaller, don’t they become just another pawn? Where is the help for them? Don’t they deserve to a chance to combat their demons too?
It has been said that society is a collection of individuals so when society judges isn’t it really just us judging? Don’t we then pass sentence and condemn a further generation to violence? Today it’s your neighbor and tomorrow it could be your daughter. Can we then as individuals disown abuse and readjust our moral compass? Will we be able to applaud those women who break the cycle and those perpetrators who seek help?
I once saw an accident where immediately a crowd of people gathered. Helping the victim and making sure the perpetrator didn’t get away. Yet when a man hits his wife there is a deafening and never ending silence. All our lives, our parents and our teacher tell us, don’t tell lies, don’t hurt others, do unto others as you would like done unto you. Isn’t it a lie to pretend to be an upstanding citizen when your home is a prison? Isn’t it the worst crime to hurt those who trust in you? All our religion all our values, what is the point of passing these on when they are so illogical and one sided?
It is not OK to hurt those you love. It is not OK that someone is able to slowly suffocate a life and yet lead a blameless life. It is not OK that a woman cannot seek help from the authorities because it’s her fault. It’s not OK that to gain power you make someone else powerless. It’s not OK that we don’t disown the abuser but rather the abused.
What will it take for this not to be OK?