Archive for Violence against women

Banishing Silence: Stepping Into Truth

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 8, 2018 by tivaniam

At the age of 19, I was raped.

For 17 years, I kept it a secret, only telling a select few, until last year when I decided to write about it in my autobiography. The details of the incident are discussed in my book, but to me are inconsequential. The bigger issue for me is why I remained silent. Why women continue to remain silent.

Over the years, I’ve experienced sexual harassment verbally, physically and digitally and only recently elected to openly discuss these issues. Why? Because, for years, I was filled with shame, guilt, embarrassment, fear of judgment and ridicule and more importantly, the belief that I would be considered “less than” by any man who wanted to be with me.

It’s a generational pathology to simply do what was always done. And for decades women have been taught to smile and be silent out of fear of judgment and shame. We live in a society that teaches women to shrink, and to be ashamed of telling the truth. But for me, the moment anyone invalidates someone else’s truth, they dehumanise them. I had to learn, that when people start the rumours, when they judge, when they re-tell my story disparagingly, when they mock or ridicule or try to shame me, it’s never ever about me.

Writing has become my solitary place where I’m paying the most attention. It’s a place where my heart is wide open and I am the purest version of myself. It’s also where I am told to be silent, because truth is very inconvenient. I’ve always known that my silence never served me, and since beginning this journey of  truth telling, I accepted my life is the amalgam of brutal and beautiful and I needed to own that, unapologetically, if I was to make any difference in this world.

As women, we are taught that certain things are “unbecoming of a girl” and when we cross the line, there is a hefty price to pay. We weren’t allowed to speak about contentious issues like rape, abuse or sexual harassment, and we couldn’t be smart and draw attention to our intellect.

But silence either makes us too tender or too tough. This metastasizes into either ass-kissing and people pleasing, or conversely, aggression and anger. We become as sick as our secrets.

Fear of judgment, shame and guilt, is a nefarious act that holds us captive from speaking out. This tyranny of impoverished thinking has kept us prisoners in our own minds. We don’t speak out, because we want to be “normal” and accepted but we end up with the truth seeping out sideways through depression or addiction. We need to open our mouths more often to let the truth exist outside rather than allowing our bodies, minds and souls to rot by keeping it inside.

Offering my experience to the world was a form of truth-telling in a way that changed the trajectory of my life. My silence gave other people the power to decide my worth and plan my life for me. When you’re living in the echo chamber of your own mind, you cannot have discernment. When I chose to speak my truth, I did so for posterity’s sake, to change belief systems and give my daughter and the generations to come permission to do the same. No one will determine my story, only I will. My voice will change the world. If it makes you uncomfortable then it’s working. Truth sounds a lot like hate, for those who hate the truth.

In an era that promotes universal facades and pretence, telling the truth starts a revolution.

Insurgent women, it’s time to rise up. Be less concerned with judgment and more concerned with redemption. The time is up for remaining silent.

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#MeToo

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 24, 2017 by tivaniam

I recently shared a #MeToo post on my Facebook profile, because obviously, #MeToo.

For those who aren’t aware, the recent #MeToo social media campaign invited women from across the world to use the hashtag as a way to increase the scope of visibility of those who’ve experienced sexual harassment; from your everyday woman, to celebrities, to politicians. This only serves to highlight the prominence of what is endured silently. And now, women are choosing to banish the shame and fear, and speak out.

This has absolutely nothing to do with victimisation or creating propaganda or more divisiveness. This is about creating awareness and highlighting the change that needs to happen. This is about treating the cause with the reverence it deserves.

I’ve been sexually harassed more times than I can count over the years from men who chose to contact me, unsolicited and uninvited, commenting on everything from my legs; to my ass; to my hair; to my breasts; bartering first, then more insistently explaining why I need to have sex with them. This has not gotten better as I’ve gotten older – it’s become worse.

Today, I received a few of these messages on my public business Facebook page, of which two stood out. Man #1 commented on my legs saying he simply loved the fact that I “showed them off”. When his comment received no response, he messaged me back to say that “I’ve disrespected him by ignoring him”. Man #2 sent me a message saying “Hi honey, I want to get to know you because I like you and you are sexy and I am lonely”. I didn’t respond so he publicly posted his displeasure on my wall: “fucking moron bitch, you are an asshole”.

So this is the thing. It’s easy to harass and abuse power, exert control and dominance or physically intimidate women into silence about these things. I know that I’ve been very afraid to speak about my incidents over the years because a lot of these men were physically overwhelming and scary. Now with social media, virtual harassment is the common practice but not less scary. The bottom line is, hurt people hurt people and it’s about time we get to the real issues, of what’s behind the abuse – pain and fear – and start addressing these social evils that keep us all as sick as our secrets.

The psychology and sociology of these patterns of behaviour need to be looked at, individually first, because from there it has a ripple effect on the collective humanity. We cannot possibly move forward and make the shifts we need consciously if we see ourselves as separate from each other. To those men who choose to dishonour women: understand that by such behaviour, you prevent yourself from levelling up and you perpetuate these vicious cycles onto the next generation and the next generation. Your actions demonstrate your internal inefficiencies and that holds us back from progressing, if it’s left festering in filth.

Immediately, we can start to do better. This starts with being aware.

‘No’ means no.

‘No’ does not mean ‘try harder’.

Single does not mean available.

How a woman dresses is not an invitation for you to pursue her.

Respect boundaries.

Watch your language. There is a fine line between a compliment and sexual objectification or obscenity. 

Hear us. See us. Pay attention.

#MeToo

 

An Open Letter to Indian Men

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 4, 2017 by tivaniam

Disclaimer:

This post is guaranteed to offend someone and in that event, I invite you to take a long, hard look at yourself and consider why you find this offensive – perhaps there is some truth to what I’ve said, and if so, that’s the first step in changing patterns of behaviour that are harmful. Secondly, while this is directed to Indian men, solely from the standpoint of being an Indian woman, this does not preclude men from other races who adopt the same attributes.

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As a published writer, opening myself up to public commentary and judgment is par for the course. It’s something I signed up for when I committed my life to my craft: to live my purpose as a conscious writer.  I know I am not here to win points. I am here to create awareness through my writing by sharing candid and authentic stories of hope and redemption, based on what I have experienced in my life. This is the only reason I reference my past – not to focus on negativity, but to provide relatable stories that anyone can resonate with and be inspired enough to believe that life can change and get better.

Recently, a newspaper contacted me wanting me to highlight my story and journey with depression. I shared my story openly, and received some amazing feedback from so many wonderful men and women, who felt inspired and hopeful to overcome their own experiences. I’ve had a few people – men and women alike – tell me that I saved them from suicide, which for me was the biggest affirmation that I am living my essence and my soul’s calling.

That opened itself up to lots of interaction with a lot of different people. I received messages from broken Indian women, who are held captive by depression because they’re in abusive relationships with Indian men. The stories shared with me filled me with horror – stories of violence, degradation, humiliation and emotional abuse of the worst kind. It left me emotionally and physically depleted because I am totally ill-equipped to deal with this and all I could do was lend a comforting ear.

Over and above that, the brevity within which Indian men slid into DM’s on every social media platform that they could find me, to strike up random non-related conversations, ranging from complimenting my looks and my legs; to asking for my number; or pretending to need writing work done then asking for my number – culminated in this post. I realised that I may not be able to do anything for these women who are beaten down, but I can use my voice through the written word.

Indian men: many of you were raised in homes that predefined the role of a man. You were led to believe that being a man means negating your feelings and emotions and ruling with an iron-fist. You were raised in a society that promoted ‘manliness’ over sensitivity, relegating the latter to a solely female trait. You were taught to believe that you had to have a partner who was submissive and you had to be respected because you were born a male. Many of you were told that men don’t cry. And as a result, your emotions got suppressed and you became hardened, and suppressed sorrow can only turn into rage. Rage that gets taken out on those you love.

Indian men: many of you were raised as misogynists, considering women as second-class citizens, sex-objects there for your glorification and people of lesser intellect and strength.  This is why you continue to objectify women instead of seeing us in God-form and equal. This is why some of you can confront a woman through social media, commenting on what she looks like, rather than what she is looking AT or trying to achieve. Many of you violate women based on your internal deficiencies and illnesses. The way a woman looks, dresses or carries herself is not an invitation for you to proceed – violently or otherwise. And, ‘single’ does not mean ‘available’.

Indian men: many of you perpetuated the cycle of dysfunction that you were raised with, modelling the role of your own father who was absent or conditioned from his personal experiences and childhood.

Indian men: this is the cycle you will continue with your children – sons who become hardened and angry, and girls who learn how to become doormats.

But, Indian men: cycles can be broken. A new reference point can begin. It starts with you. It starts with talking openly and honestly about stuff that men are told never to speak about – feelings and emotions. I’ve witnessed first-hand the amazing transformations of so many Indian men, who were once plagued by cyclical dysfunction, but who were brave enough to transcend it and pave a new way for himself and his children and the generations to follow. We need to shift into a new way of thinking and Being in this world. We simply cannot operate as the generations that came before us. It is self-evident that they fucked it up. We have to begin afresh and create a shift in consciousness by returning to innocence and purity.

Indian men: my invitation to you is this. Change how you view the world and yourself in it. Let go of preconceived ideas and ways of conditioned thinking and indoctrination. Stop regarding men and women as being separate. Instead, consider all of us to be the same thread stemming from the same tapestry. Teach your sons and daughters that gender specific roles are an illusion – anyone can do anything at any time. Indian men, start believing that a house is made a home by both parties and that domesticity is not confined to a woman, neither is raising kids nor cooking. Understand that women can be the fiercest opponents in business and are capable of running our own finances and getting shit done.

Indian men: understand that violence of any kind is an explosion of the pain that is internal. Deal with the pain and not the trigger of what set you off.

Indian men, the time for restoration is now. The world needs more comforters, nurturers, peace-makers, truth-tellers and game-changers. Indian men, it begins and ends with you. What you do today can alter the course of generations that follow, which collectively is the change we need to see in the world. It’s time to step up and be about something.

Ray Rice and the ‘Shock’ Video

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on September 15, 2014 by tivaniam

Video footage of NFL star, Ray Rice, pounding his fiancée in an elevator has gone viral in recent weeks and caused an outcry within NFL and the American public in general. The incident which happened in February and was dismissed then as a ‘mild physical altercation’ has since proven to be severe as footage revealed Rice dragging the limp body of his unconscious fiancée (whom he has since married) out of an elevator. Viewers described this as ‘shocking’.

What is shocking to me is the uproar this has created simply because the victim in question happened to be engaged to and then married a professional footballer. What about the countless number of women who are beaten to a pulp daily by their less than famous partners? Everyday women with everyday monsters parading as men? A few months ago, a random South African woman made headlines for being stabbed 50 times by her estranged husband and left for dead in an office park. The story, encapsulated in less than ten paragraphs was visible for a day and then faded into obscurity. This was someone’s mother, daughter, sister and friend. A few weeks later, a woman was set alight by her drunken husband in a domestic dispute. She encountered 90 degree burns to her entire body and is now left in a vegetative state. This newspaper article made the third page of a publication and again, lasted for just a day.

The prevalence of abuse against women, despite the activism that we as a society promote, is still on the increase. One punch to one woman is too many. The question I find myself asking is what sort of men are we raising? The paradox of being successful in a career but wanting to be dominant within a relationship is something I don’t understand. It is reported that about 70% of women will experience violence in their lifetime, yet this incident with Rice proved to be ‘shocking’ to audiences – simply because people witnessed it personally, having seen the leaked video. Does this make violence more real? Do we need to physically see a woman being beaten to appreciate the full horror of it?

 

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As a mother to a little boy, I have a role to play in ensuring that he is raised to respect women in every way and form. The way a child lives will ultimately determine their moral compass – children learn what they live. Stop the cycle of abuse by ensuring that we raise men that are secure within themselves to not feel emasculated by strong women or who feel the need to resort to violence to intimidate women. More than that, women who are trapped within these abusive relationships need to know that there are ways to get out. You are worth more and deserve more than being dragged like a piece of luggage on a dirty elevator floor, followed by a half-arsed apology.

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