I checked my Facebook messages this morning--I had deactivated it for a while because I hate social media, and ended up having to reactivate for the podcast and for the Vidya Project--and went through message requests and filtered messages. Most of the time, it's creepy men from abroad or messages I can ignore.
Today was different. I had four or five messages from abuse survivors who had listened to our latest episode.
My heart has been both uplifted and heavy all day.
Every time I wonder if the podcast makes a difference, reminders like this shed light that these problems truly do happen...and they happen way more than we think. The anonymous survivor who spoke on Episode 7 was JUST like me--smart, educated, kind, in love--and that a situation turned on her despite all of her instincts that it was going well. Seeing as I'm not that different from a lot of smart, driven, kind women out there, it means this survivor is just like all of us.
It also is staggering to me how much progress we have left to make as South Asian communities when it comes to treating our women better and raising our men to meet standards. How is it so acceptable that men can do what they want to women, with no regard for consequences (namely, because there aren't any)? How come parents support abusive men so much more than the abused women?
I read a tweet recently from 2018 that resonated. Something I heard a lot growing up: Girls, boys mature more slowly than you. Make allowances for them. Something I never heard: Boys, girls mature more rapidly than you. Look to them as examples of intelligence and leadership.
At the end of the day, there's a culture of blame, shame, and creating accommodation made for girls, whereas boys are told that they have to measure up and stick to their guns. Imagine how different it would be if boys were raised to look at their South Asian partners as equally capable and worthy of compromise. It would make for a lot more successful power couples...and a lot more respect.
And the shame--families insisting that "Log Kya Kahenge" is an acceptable mentality when it comes to an abusive situation. As if isolating someone is an acceptable practice. It needs to change. Yesterday. The trauma that comes with being isolated has effects that will last long after an abusive partner finds the courage to leave.
Men face abuse too. I've seen it with my own eyes, witnessed it amongst family friends who had to say it quietly because they doubted whether people would wonder if they lied that their spouse could beat up someone bigger than them. The abuse of men isn't okay either.
I wish it was as easy as saying teach your kids respect for your spouse and set an example. I wish there was a clear cut answer. But the first step is acknowledging that there is a problem...that no one talks about this because the pervasive South Asian culture is to sweep problems under the rug and project a perfect image outwardly. This insanity of looking perfect, appearing competitive, and hiding problems is an enormous aspect of why people feel they are the only ones out there who struggle.
That, in turn, feeds a vicious cycle--when people want to seek help, it's still "Log kya kahenge," and once they've left and gotten divorced, that's what they'll hear forever. They're marked as the divorcee, and then anyone who does associate, is by association, marred. At every step of the way, these victims are re-victimized, made out as liars, and forced to endure the psychological damage over and over again as they try to convince a community hellbent on disbelief that their safety and sanity was violated.
Victims should not have to be doubted that they were victimized.
And there are so many people who do experience this, that it should be encouraged for them to raise their voices and say that the world needs to change. It should be shouted from rooftops that these victims have suffered and that they will prevail because their stories are believed. And it's up to us, as allies and as people who have the potential to aid our loved ones in escaping these situations and drawing boundaries, to prove that we as South Asians can do better.