Video Producers: Atikaa Ahluwalia , Eina Ahluwalia
Voice-over: Atikaa Ahluwalia
(This was first published on 16 April 2020. It has been republished from The Quint’s archives over the release of Alia Bhatt-starrer 'Darlings', which deals with the theme of domestic violence.)
(Trigger Warning: Descriptions of sexual assault. Viewer discretion advised.)
“Baby, you don’t need to work. I will take care of you.”
“Listen, don’t go to visit your parents now. Won’t you miss me?”
“What is that dress? Whose attention are you trying to grab?”
The cycle of abuse is a social cycle theory which explains the patterns of behavior of those in an abusive relationship. Tensions build up, verbal/emotional/physical abuse occurs leading to the abuser apologising. Then, there is the calm before the storm and the process repeats all over again.
The eight-minute video – ‘Not My Story’ – released by sisters Atikaa and Eina Ahluwalia during the nationwide lockdown, gives one a glimpse into this cycle of abuse. The lockdown, implemented across the world, to curb the spread of coronavirus has also resulted in a surge of domestic violence cases across the globe.
“What is a lockdown for other people, is normal life for me,” a friend who had recently gotten out of an abusive relationship told the Ahluwalia sisters, pushing them to put out their latest content.
Speaking to The Quint, designer Eina Ahluwalia said when they reached out to victims of domestic abuse for sentences they heard regularly, most of their replies were similar.
“We reached out to people who have gone through domestic violence and asked them to give us sentences that they used to regularly hear. Once we got that, we put them in the order of how they would appear – and it was strange that how common the things were in all their answers. We strung them together and realised that this is what everyone who is in an abusive relationship goes through.”
'Let Us Understand Abuse’
Atikaa, who is the voice of the video, was also an abusive relationship for more than eight months, a few years ago. With the surge in the number of cases, Atikaa urges people to use this time during lockdown to understand abuse.
“Let’s use this time to understand what is abuse, what is domestic violence. Let us understand what are the signs of being in a abusive relationship as many people are not even aware that they are in one.”
She says that during the eight-month period when she was in the abusive relationship, it probably struck her only once that it wasn’t healthy.
“Abuse does not feel like abuse when you are in it. I consider myself worldly and intelligent but it took my family to convince me that I was in an abusive relationship.”
She adds that it is more important to talk about it during lockdown, when the threat perception has visibly increased.
“The very essence of abuse – be it verbal, emotional or physical – is to isolate the victim. Which is the essence of lockdown as well. The little amount of respite that anyone in an abusive relationship could be when they step out of the space, when they run an errand and now all that is gone. The ability to leave the abuser is not possible right now and the abuser knows that. Everything is in their favor and this leads to more abuse.”Atikaa Ahluwalia
“In this particular piece, we have only addressed emotional and psychological abuse - financial constraints, creating that inability to go out and therefore incapacitating person from going out anywhere.”Eina Ahluwalia
‘Listen, Don’t Gossip’
The duo who have been speaking about domestic violence since 2017, say that the response to this video has particularly stirring as many women have reached out to them.
“No person should be living with this kind of abuse, manipulation and control. This was made to create awareness to maybe a woman going through it and she listens to this and realises that this is not okay. When you listen to isolated sentences over a span of time, you don’t add them up. When you hear them in a string like that you can’t deny that yeah, that’s me,” said Atikaa.
It takes a village to support someone who is going through abuse, the duo said, adding that we need to change the lens through which we see such incidents.
“It takes a village to support someone who is going through abuse. As a society, we should stop looking at trauma as gossip. Start hearing more and gossiping less – especially when we are reeling under a lockdown,” they said.
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