Domestic abuse is real, is a violation of human rights, is ingrained into our society, and is closer to you than we think. Your female co-worker comes in with black and blue handprints around her wrist for the third time this week. Your friend on the cricket team has slumped shoulders and has trouble paying attention while playing. A renowned actress who shines on the silver screen posts harrowing pictures on Facebook of her tormented face. These aren’t just fabricated scenarios. These are reflections of the lives of men, women, and children all across the globe who silently suffer through this physical and psychological abuse every day.
It has been constantly reinforced by our society to not question and involve ourselves in the matters of others. And this deep-seated piece of advice has changed the dynamics upon which our society is built. This aspect of our culture is inherently damaging to those of us suffering from domestic abuse. Near and dear ones choose to turn their faces away rather than put a stop to the abuse taking place right in front of them. This behavior enables abusers to continue their actions without fear of retribution from anyone.
When you Google ‘domestic abuse statistics in Pakistan’, the first result is of a study carried out in 2009 by Human Rights Watch which estimated that between 20% and 30% of women in Pakistan have suffered some from of abuse. A few notable points come into mind reading this statement: Firstly, the most credible study on domestic violence in Pakistan was conducted 10 years ago. This shows the disappointing level of attention given to this matter in this country. Secondly, this statistic severely underestimates the level of abuse women face in this country, at the hands of their fathers, brothers, husbands, and even female relatives. Such is our patriarchal society, that much of this abuse goes unreported, due to fear of retribution and isolation from society. Some women in working-class families even consider this abuse normal behavior-a fact that is very worrying.
One incident of domestic abuse that recently came to light was when the infamous actor and singer Mohsin Abbas Haider’s wife Fatima came out with allegations and proof of facing domestic violence at her husband’s hands. Many people came out in support, provided additional evidence, but it was saddening to see how some people even took the abuser’s side, claiming the proof was insubstantial – a minority even claimed that perhaps Fatima should have not made this public and should have forgiven her husband. Moreover, hundreds of people criticized her for using social media to get justice. What none of these apathetic people understood was that social media may have been her last chance to raise her voice and get help. The desperation that she must have felt when she couldn’t have reached the police system and courts must have been tremendous. This sheds light on the horrific truth in our society: domestic violence is prevalent even amongst privileged households and society’s reactions deter many women from coming out with the truth.
Thus, it is of the utmost importance that we always believe the survivor, provide them with the support they need, validate them, and completely condemn the abuser. Children, from an early age, should be taught to identify signs of abuse and report them to elders. Men and women should be taught that in no circumstance should they tolerate abuse, and they should be given the assurance that they will be protected and given refuge if they come out with their stories. Strict laws should be put into place regarding the punishment for abusers which would also serve as a warning to those inclined towards such behavior. This is a solution that must stem from society itself. Society must change its views toward domestic violence, must condemn it instead of hiding it, and must always provide love, acceptance, and rehabilitation to the survivors.
This is an issue that must be given its due importance as this is the way a society progresses into a happier, safer, and healthier one.