*Content Note: domestic and emotional abuse*
I never thought it could happen to me. As a child, I grew up in a fairly safe, upper-middle-class community. I found myself doing an excessive amount of extracurriculars and was always well-taken care of by loving parents. I am Guyanese, but I’ve never visited Guyana nor resonated with the stereotypes that plague our community. Although I am aware of the intergenerational barriers of domestic violence, substance abuse, and mental health, I never pictured myself intimately interacting with each. I can name so many women who have been killed or abused extensively by domestic partners but have never truly felt their stories within the depths of my heart—until now.
I met my abuser in September of 2018. Naive and gullible, I loved the bad-boy persona he exuded and the overwhelming wannabe ‘gangster’ persona he portrayed. I found myself confused at first, knowing this wouldn’t be a man that my parents would embrace. I played along, listening to story after story of his time spent in jail, his ex-girlfriend’s parents hating him and kicking him out of their home at the tender age of 14, and we laughed the severity of his actions off.
[Read Related: The Damaging Narrative of ‘I Would’ve Told’]
I am culpable for blanketing the grimness of the situation because after all, I saw a future with him, right? I quickly realized just how wrong I was. His rage was frequent, violent, and aggressive. He would force me to apologize, threaten to ‘violate,’ and insult me, turning the deepest secrets I shared with him into ammunition. He quickly commanded control of my social media, rectifying his authority by claiming that was what “a stable relationship” was like.
On the worst nights of my life, he forced me to slit my skin in anger and during the early stages, threatened to call my parents and reveal our relationship if I didn’t press the glass against myself. I caved, wearing the defeat on my skin, on that night and still to this day. He forced me to eat a tissue on another occasion, simply stating that I “had no right to be crying or wiping my tears” and that a tissue “wouldn’t kill me, I was just being dramatic.” I constantly found myself expressing aggression towards my friends, family, and those I loved.
I isolated myself from them, lost my confidence, and often stuttered as I spoke, a far cry from the girl who loved public speaking before this wave of terror hit. I always wanted to leave but didn’t know how to. I defended him in the face of my family, protecting him from their judgemental glares and assumptions.
On the night he tried to kill me, I was ignoring him. I didn’t want him bothering me because my cousin was getting married and I didn’t want my family to meet him. He somehow tracked me and showed up, directing me to a dark street corner where he proceeded to strangle me.
I was never hit as a child, nor was I physically punished. I was astounded that this was the first time someone had ever put their hands on me in anger. The magnitude of this night and his abuse was something I never truly grasped until I decided I was done with our relationship.
Victim blaming is real, especially in our community. His friends (both male and female) ridiculed me, laughing his vile actions off. My father blamed me, too, for “loving an idiot” and for “embarrassing him,” but later realizing his faults and the lasting implications of the stereotype he branded me with, in anger. I lost myself and the girl I once was in the face of all the hate I received for being a victim of abuse.
There is something to be said about the frustrating reaction of police to domestic violence. I was interviewed by 3 officers who initially promised me safety and the issuance of a warrant, but nothing was done. My report was essentially discarded and no further action was taken. After exhausting every single domestic violence line in NYC, I finally gave a report. It took me days of tears, frustration, and angst to realize that although women are constantly blamed for not going to the police, many do.
In instances where women have been critically injured or killed by their abusive partners, there is often a communal assumption that the woman did not try to leave, or seek legal help. The truth is, the system can be exhausting. Police simply are not receptive to our pain and immediate needs as abused women. A 3-5 day wait time should not be a reality for someone who has received numerous death threats, is being stalked and repeatedly harassed online, regardless of whether the threats were validated. Our community needs to do better, as a collective and I hope this story helps procure change.
As for myself, I am currently on the path to recovery. It is important to own the independence in affirming your truth after a year of being told you were a lie. I’ve always been the narrator for stories that aren’t mine, however, the anonymity of this article allows me to share my truth in my light, from my heart.
I hope that these words reach the gullible girl that I was, loving a man that didn’t deserve the peace I’ve attained. I hope it protects more women who are currently undergoing the thralls of an abusive partner. I hope we can rise up as a community and bring on the necessary changes to our society and its definition of abuse. Although change is inevitable, this change is integral in protecting our women and children from partners who justify their torture in the name of love.
If you suspect you or someone you love is experiencing abuse, the following South Asian organizations are available for assistance:
SOUTH ASIAN RESOURCES BY STATE
P.O. Box 1021, Huntsville, AL 35807
24-hour Hopeline: (256)-509-1882 and toll-free crisis line: (800)-793-3010
Phone: (256) 698–4446
ASAFSF, Arizona South Asians for Safe Families
P.O. Box 2748, Scottsdale, AZ 85252-2748
Hotline: 1-877-SAFE-711 (1-877-723-3711)
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
ASAFSF is a registered, nonprofit, community-based organization providing support and services to victims of domestic violence in the South Asian community in Arizona.
P.O. Box 697 Santa Clara, CA 95052
Helpline (888) 8 MAITRI (800.862.4874) Mon- Fri 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM
Office: (408) 436 8398
Fax: (408) 503 0887
Cultural displacement, conflict resolution, and domestic Violence – Transitional House services available.
Orphans & Battered Women Foundation International, Inc.
2680 N. Vista Glen Road
Orange, CA 92867-1739
Office: (714) 637 1613
Fax: (323) 725 6969
17918 South Pioneer Blvd. Suite 206
Artesia, CA 90701
Hotline: (888) 724 2722
Office: (562) 402 4132
Fax: (562) 402 6096
P.O. Box 361301
Milpitas, CA 95036-1301
Office: (408) 657 9569
Awareness about mental health, emotional health, and overall well-being in the South Asian community by providing culturally-sensitive information as well as helpful resources and tips.
South Asian Network
18173 South Pioneer Blvd. Suite 1
Artesia, CA 90701
Helpline: (800) 281 8111
Office: (562) 403-0488
Fax: (562) 403 0487
P.O. BOX 271650
West Hartford, CT 06127-1650
P.O. Box 12337 Atlanta, Georgia – 30355
Office: (404) 876 0670
Toll-Free: (866) 725 7423
Toll-Free: (877) 672 5742
Helpline: (404) 842 0725
Fax: (404) 876-4525
4753 N. Broadway, Suite 502 Chicago, IL 60640
Crisis line: (800) 717 0757 Illinois only
Out of State: (773)334 4663
Office: (773) 334 0173
Fax: (773) 334 0963
DV organization – shelter services available.
Chicago/Illinois/ Ohio/Michigan/Indiana areas
Phone: (312) 409 2753
The South Asian/Middle Eastern lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women’s organization.
ASHA Asian (Women’s) Self- Help Association
P.O. Box 34303
West Bethesda, MD 20827
Hotline: (800) 799 7233
Office: (202) 207 1248
Counselors Helping Asian Indians (CHAI, Inc.)
4517 Redleaf Court
Ellicott City, MD 21043
Office: (410) 461 1634 Ext 2
P O Box 1345
Burlington, MA 01803
Office: (866) 4SAHELI
Michigan Asian Indian Family Center (MAIFS)
28650 11 Mile Rd Suite 218 Farmington Hills, MI 48336
Hotline: (888) 664 8624
Office: (248) 477 4985
Helping DV victims, widowed/divorced spouses, mental depression, and medical illness patients, and elderly persons.
24-Hour Multilingual Helpline: 1.888.888.7702
9 Mott Street, Suite #200
New York, NY 10013
Monday, Wednesday-Friday: 9 am-6 p.m.
Tuesday: 9 a.m.-7 p.m.
Islamic Center of Long Island, Domestic Violence Committee
835 Brush Hollow Road
Westbury, NY 11590
Office: (516) 333 3495
Fax: (516) 333 7321
11-45 Union Turnpike, Lower Level
Forest Hills, NY 11375
Office: (516) 487 0929
Fax: (718) 459 2971
Saathi of Rochester
P.O. Box 92
East Rochester, NY 14445
Office: (585) 234 1050
1012 Oberlin Rd, Raleigh NC, 27605
Office phone: 919-831-4203
Office fax: 919-839-6203
24/7 Crisis Hotline: 1-877-NC-KIRAN
DV organization – Promote the self-reliance and empowerment of South Asian women who are in crisis through outreach, peer support, and referrals in a confidential manner.
South Asian Women’s Empowerment and Resources Alliance (SAWERA)
P.O. Box 91242 Portland, OR 97291-0242
Helpline: (503) 778 7386
Office: (503) 641 2425
DV organization provides free referrals to South Asian women domestic violence (DV) victims seeking shelter, legal help, job placement, childcare, and counseling.
An-Nisa’ Hope Center
P. O. Box 1086, Spring, TX 77383-1086
Tel: (713) 339-0803 Fax: (281) 719-0355
Services include education and career training, shelter, medical and legal assistance, and outreach. Promoting a new beginning through outreach, education, counseling. Bridging the gap with: training, job placement, medical, and legal aid. Other goals: providing a safe and healthy, Islamic environment
P.O. Box 3665
South 5th Street
Austin, TX 78764
Office: (512) 703 8745
DV Organization – to work toward preventing abuse in family relationships, to break the cycle of violence, and pursue a cycle of peace.
P.O. Box 22291
Seattle, WA 98122-0291
Toll-free: (877) 922 4292
Hotline: (206) 325 0325
Office: (206) 568 7576
DV organization – provides translation and interpretation services, referrals to shelters, counseling, medical services, legal and immigration services, community outreach, and training.
DV organization – provides a safe and supportive environment, promotes awareness and acceptance, and fosters positive cultural and sexual identity for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning(LGBTQ), and additional gender or sexual minority South Asians in the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Area.