My Take: Why gender based violence goes beyond physical abuse

I have a secret love for the theatre, the lights, the people, the emotions, the stage, the creativity, the setups, and the reality therein. It is because of this secret love that I find myself seated in a director – fashion fold-up chair at the center of the Players’ theatre, watching different people and groups play out their various interpretations and conceptions of gender-based violence.

According to me, it is all monothematic, because a large percentage of the acts highlighted almost all the physical forms of violation we know, and it seemed kind of cliché. I say this because for many years now, hasn’t the society fought tooth and nail against teenage pregnancy, early marriages, female genital mutilation, child labor, vulgarism, and forced delinquency?

I am not against all these in the slightest bit, but as I sat in the audience, one act after another, I kept on thinking to myself that gender-based violence runs deeper than cuts and bruises on the surface. The violence is an intimate affair with the person subjected to it.

As I thought this, brief flicks from my life in the past year played through my mind. I was taken back to the time when I decided to let my guard down for a bit and get into a romantic relationship, ‘explore new horizons’ and see what happens. I kid you not, I was so not prepared for the aftershocks, and so one thing led to another, and one year down the line, I was completely the opposite version of my former self, except that I kept being an introvert. I could not account for my actions. I ruined my reputation without a care in the world. I had no goals. I studied for the sake of it. I lost a considerable amount of weight. Sometimes I cried myself to sleep. Sometimes I blocked out myself from my surroundings. I willed myself to more pain just so I could numb all the other pain I was feeling, and I could not let myself talk to anyone about it. I was depressed, and this is what emotional abuse does to a person.

For me, there was no physical activity involved, and yet I was ruined. It was barely a year, and I felt wrecked. I thought of how much more emotional damage people subjected to severe forms of physical and verbal abuse over a long time had to bear. What made a vibrant girl take her life overnight? What about a young man who thinks of a thousand ways to destroy everyone’s life because he was neglected? The father who wallows in depression daily because society expects too much from him, because he is a man? Or the woman who slit her wrists because of the pressure relatives put on her because she is a wife? The little boy or the little girl who has become a bully or defiant because home is hostile? Maybe these things have become normal, too normal that they are shrugged off so easily.

People rarely find out the root cause for these, but I say these are escalations of people’s emotions being violated, so much so that they seek ways to be heard above the busy schedules, the rules, the tough economic times, and the demands of the society. These are manifestations of the scars and wounds that fester within, casting their stench to all those around. And I say, in as much as awareness against verbal and physical violence has been created for the longest period, people have to be made aware of the existence of emotional abuse.

It should also be an agenda on the radar so that victims and survivors do not feel too belittled, or judged, or condemned when they are going through it, and want to talk about it openly. And as the theme was on that day, I echo to you, stop Gender-Based Violence. Stop GBV. And take care of those many hearts that yearn to be touched and saved.