I was 23 when I got married. I was still getting over my previous relationship when I decided to get married. We were only engaged the first time he slapped me. My friends were sleeping in the next room. I was too shocked and ashamed that I had to lock myself up in the bathroom to cry. The wedding preps were halfway through and I didn’t want to be a disappointment and didn’t want to get humiliated for the choice I made. This very same man who used to cycle 25 km across the city to meet me for 10 mins, who I thought was my best friend and the love of my life, turned out to be a violent, abusive partner.

I come from a family where my dad wakes up before my mum to make coffee, my brother and I had a weekly roster to do everyday chores to help mum. After marriage, I realised that’s not how things work in all families. I went into a family where women were expected to do everything and I was constantly criticised for not being good enough, not being as multi-faceted as his sister, for not keeping bindi, for not waking up before my husband even though I made sure I did the cooking and cleaning, did all that I could to be in their good books and prove that I am good enough, but it was never enough. Before we moved back in with his family it used to be just the two of us in Bangalore.

Also Read: Around 137 Women Killed Globally Everyday Due To Domestic Violence

I don’t know about other families but physical abuse, sexual abuse or sex Ed are not dining table conversations at my place or in most families I know. I have seen my parents yell or argue but I have not seen them physically hit each other and that was also one of the reasons why I was too ashamed to open up to my parents or go to them for help. Until then I had heard about domestic violence through movies and books/stories and I thought it’s not something that happens in educated families, living in a big city. I thought it was just me and what was happening to me is not as big as what they show in movies and that I shouldn’t be calling it ‘physical violence’. Even when I told his family about it, I was told that I must have done something to provoke him and shouldn’t bring it up since he apologised and made up for it by taking me on a vacation.

I have seen my parents yell or argue but I have not seen them physically hit each other and that was also one of the reasons why I was too ashamed to open up to my parents or go to them for help.

After my marriage ended a lot of people, including my own parents, asked me why I did not tell anyone about it. What they don’t understand is that it’s not easy, it comes with a lot of shame and fear. There are a lot of other factors involved and it’s not as easy as they make it sound. Back then, making him look good and not wanting to be the reason for a family rift was also one of the reasons why I never spoke about it. I was also scared that my family may not understand and would trivialise the issue. In spite of all of this, I still wanted to go back and ‘fix’ the relationship because of family conditioning but after I got out, I met some amazing people, who made me see why I shouldn’t go back and why I deserve better. When I started telling people that it was abusive, seeing the shock on their face was very surprising and confusing at the same time because by then I had convinced myself that it’s normal for things like this to happen in relationships.

Back then, making him look good and not wanting to be the reason for a family rift was also one of the reasons why I never spoke about it.

I started getting help and started talking about what happened in my marriage, the more I spoke about my story, people were comfortable in opening up to me with theirs, eventually started a support group called Project Kintsugi to help other women dealing with divorce and mental health issues, started #KintsugiWarriors to create a safe space for women to share their domestic violence stories, I became a Human Book with Human Library, I told my story over 25 times to 500 odd people, I was invited to colleges/institutions to address women/students. I truly believe that I have made a difference or at least left a mark in 50+ women’s lives through Kintsugi, stopped people from ideating suicide/ self-harm. And with the help of therapy, I learnt and I am still learning to be comfortable/confident in my own skin, to accept the way I am wired and not be apologetic about it, learning to appreciate my own company and not beat myself up for every small thing that goes wrong, learning to be kind to myself and be more self aware.

I started getting help and started talking about what happened in my marriage, the more I spoke about my story, people were comfortable in opening up to me with theirs.

Also Read: Stop Criticising Women For Staying In An Abusive Relationship

Talking about divorce and domestic violence has been life-changing for me in terms of self-healing and also helping other women in their respective healing journeys.

Indu Gopalakrishnan runs a divorce and mental health support group. The views expressed are the author’s own.
Picture Credit: Outsider
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