Stand up to abuse: Be a Superhero!

Rape Jokes Jim Sarabh


superhero campaign in Lithuania

An abuse survivor represented in a superhero image ( Picture Credit: Cosmopolitan.in)

The picture above is part of a campaign that is creating ripples in Lithuaina. It’s a Women Speak campaign called the #Supersheroes, where  a few gutsy women came out of closed doors as superheroes and got applauded for their bravery at exiting a relationship that was abusive. These Supersheroes want to be known as fighters not victims, as can be seen from the depiction. It’s looking at abuse survivors in a new light, not treating them as victims.

We asked Bangalore-based psychologist Meera Haran Alva what she makes of this movement in Lithuania:
“It’s powerful and inspiring. It reflects a shift from viewing a women as a mere survivor of abuse to  a fighter of the dark forces of society — an archetype of the warrior princess — emerging as a modern day super ” sheroe”…

As a psychotherapist working with women fighting abuse, I have come to understand the complexities and layers that underline the dynamics of abusive relationships —it’s a fight about power — men have abused their power privilege (defined in terms of their physical strength or financial standing etc…) This is changing. Women are challenging the definition of power and are in the process of reclaiming it.

It is controversial and perhaps simplistic to say, but abuse can happen only if it is allowed.

But when it happens, fighting it requires personal resolve and strength. Being a super shero is believing in the inherent power in women to fight — a women’s acknowledgement of this power.

To see herself no longer as a victim or even a survivor but as a fighter who is on a mission to battle this age long war of power — to restore the equilibrium of masculine and feminine power dynamics. To fight the injustice of social and cultural messages of ‘choice-lessness’…

(Statements like) ’You have to take it’  or ‘This is how your please your man’  or ‘Fighting means you no longer are feminine and that it is unattractive or unappealing’.”

It is controversial and perhaps simplistic to say, but abuse can happen only if it is allowed. 

But for many women it’s extremely difficult to leave an abusive relationship.  

“I believe that while we need to be empathetic to women who may still struggle to fight this battle and say ‘no to abuse’ and this may vary from a case to case basis — based on the individual woman’s life narrative. If she has grown up with abuse, she may not even have the vocabulary to know that is is abuse, let alone have the skills or ego strength to challenge it….

There are several steps to saying no to abuse — It may not always mean leaving an abusive relationship. That seems ideal but may not be the way for everyone…

In my experience, there have been instances when it has taken years for a person to even accept that what they are experiencing is ‘ abuse’ and that its not their fault or that it not what they deserve. I strongly believe psycho-educating people through the media like this campaign is essential

— we are sharing  real life stories of women to the world for them to acknowledge and witness these empowering, inspiring battles. Like the famous song of Maraiah Carey “There’s a (s)hero- if you look inside your heart…”

It’s now that we are discovering our power as women and as super sheroes on a mission….more power to every woman who needs it!”

I would also like to add that empowering your self doesn’t come only from a financial stand point… You can be a homemaker and still be empowered

Also Read: Why Maya Angelou inspires us all

Women in India might need to take inspiration from such a campaign. We might think of abuse as a concept far removed from us, but the reality is that many forms of domestic violence does take other forms, such as psychological, emotional, or sexual abuse which many of us don’t know about or often choose to ignore. Domestic violence or abusive behaviour is about one person controlling the other person in a relationship using a pattern of torture. But the fact remains that the victims often don’t report it or take any steps to get out of the abusive relationship. Well, the dark truth is people who are being abused do not see themselves as victims. Also, abusers do not see themselves as being abusive. However, it is imperative that women who are abused take a stand, and learn to say enough is enough.

Take the case of Preeti Monga, Founder Trustee and CEO of Silver Linings Foundation, which works for people with disabilities and women. She is a winner of Dr. Batra’s Positive Health Awards 2010. She is sight impaired, but took on the career of  an Aerobic instructor. But the most heartening fact about her is that she is an abuse survivor who has gone on to making a successful life.

The first 5 years of my marriage life were torturous, terrorized and abusive. In this time, I became a mother of 2 kids, and even they became victims of their father’s bad temper and abusive ill treatment

“My parents discovered my visual disability when I was just 6 years old. Since then I have suffered too much to explain. After a disastrous life, I got into a married life at the age of 21 which turned out be more disastrous soon. After 2 hours of signing the marriage register, I discovered that this was the biggest mistake of my life! I had married a compulsive liar, an alcoholic and an abusive man. The first 5 years of my marriage life were torturous, terrorized and abusive. In this time, I became a mother of 2 kids, and even they became victims of their father’s bad temper and abusive ill treatment. I kept trying to make things work, but with no success; it just got worse!  If I wanted to gift them a quality life, I knew I had to seriously do something about getting the children and myself out of the mess we were in.  I was left with a broken body, a shattered soul, no qualifications, no money and a huge disability. And then I realized that I had to first become economically independent, and that meant finding employment. After  that step, I took divorce, slowly everything got sorted out and here I am today.”

Another superhero is Barkha Dutt  who openly said that she was sexually abused as a child and regrets not coming out in the open earlier. The award winning journalist also suffered with a violent relationship in college where her boyfriend would beat her up. Dutt recently recounted the horror at the Women in the World Summit in New York, “When you’re a child — I was younger than 10 years old— you bury it. You bury it and you try and forget it. I am 44 years old, but I feel like I am eight years old again. I can see that man’s face in my head every time I talk about it.”

Barkha Dutt, an abuse survivor

Hers is a survivor’s tale: Barkha Dutt

Even though the Protection of Women Against Domestic Violence Act was passed in 2005, not many women come forward to report such cases. According to the Naskar report, the reasons why most women in the region remain silent after facing sexual violence is that young girls are often encouraged to not report these crimes is because rape would mean the loss of virginity and that is a massive obstacle in finding a groom for the girl. It’s an archaic thought that needs to be countered at the very grassroots level. And more often than not, it’s the women who will need to do it. For themselves.

On being asked the relevance for our society here in India, and to weigh in with her perspective on whether things have changed, she sounds an optimistic note.

“It is important in every society — this prevails in all parts of the world… more so in some then others… I have witnessed tremendous changes both personally and professionally and see great hope! Statistically I have so many more women clients who are seeking help and have taken a stance to say no to abuse in their homes or workplaces.

I would also like to add that empowering your self doesn’t come only from a financial stand point… You can be a homemaker and still be empowered…. It ultimately comes from one’s own resolve, ego strength and motivation to want to fight this battle…most importantly to know that ‘you can’ — giving yourself that permission to value yourself is the way forward!

You already are a super shero- you just need to change into that suit when you are ready! ”

So there you have it ladies. The power to say no lies in your hands. And so does walking out of an abusive relationship. It’s time to be a superhero!

This article has been updated to amend quotes

Feature Image Credit: op-edaily.com