I am calling myself Shravani. Shravani means “new beginnings”, and that is what I feel defines my story after finding Operation PeaceMaker. I have been given a new beginning after 9 years of hopelessness.
The story of my new beginning started the moment I really thought I reached my end. I thought there was no way out of the abuse I had faced for 9 years, and that there was definitely no place for me in this world. I grew up with loving parents, but I never knew my life meant something.
My parents are old now, and poor, but they are still generously involved in our community. They try to help others whenever they can. My father was always very doting, taking me anywhere I needed to go on his scooter and looking after my needs. I was very sheltered. They are good people, but they raised me to be very shy and to look at a woman’s life as something handed to her that she must just accept.
As a woman, I thought I must accept my lot in life. Whatever happens, just accept it quietly. Moreover, as a woman who has no brothers, who has two mentally challenged sisters and who suffers a physical disability from polio myself, I thought I should never question what I’m given. So when a man came to ask my parents for my hand in marriage, we all celebrated that anyone would want to marry me! Then I realized why. He had strategically chosen me because he knew I was the type who would never stand up for myself, and he wanted someone who was easy to control.
From the first day of marriage I faced physical, emotional and economic abuse. He knew I was shy. I was afraid of society; too afraid to even walk alone on a public sidewalk. He made me terrified to step out of the house. He would tell me that I was built provocatively and I was especially likely to get harassed and taunted by strangers. There was nothing I could do. Nothing to change myself to stay safe. So I stayed at home, under his thumb.
I had a lot of patience, but I reached my breaking point after 9 years of fear, shame and pain. I decided to exit by leaving this life. I bought insect poison and resolved to take my own life and that of my children. Who would want the children of a worthless woman? I knew I couldn’t leave them in my husband’s care, and if I wasn’t there for them then no one would be. I tried taking my own life three times within a few months, but the poison wasn’t strong enough.
That’s when I met a PeaceMaker and came to Operation PeaceMaker for counseling with Pearl at the Red Hills Counseling Centre. I can’t forget the impact of Pearl telling me that my life, as a woman, mattered. She took a Rs.100 note, crumpled it then asked me how much it was worth. I told her it was still worth Rs.100. I got it! Even though I had been crumpled for 9 years by abuse and violence, my life’s value still hadn’t changed. That is the moment I decided I was going to do something. For the first time in my life I felt that I could do something, and I decided never to entertain the word suicide in my life!
I went home and told my husband he had to stop treating me like my life didn’t matter. I stood up to him. He threatened to leave me, and when I did not back down he packed his bags and left for his sister’s house. But his sister refused to let him stay with her. It made him furious to think he could be shelterless, and challenged by women! So he went to the train tracks and called me from there to threaten ending his life. I told him “Thank you for living these 9 years with me. I will thank God for crossing our paths and consider this the time up on us being together”, and I hung up. He came back home defeated. What could he do? He knew I had help from Operation PeaceMaker if I needed it.
He chose me for my weakness, and never expected that I could be strong. The trust is, he is a weak man. He never thought I would stand up to him. When I decided that was not an option, that I will live, and I will fight for a better future for my children, there was just nothing he could do about it. He thought he was being masculine by being controlling and abusive. He is too proud to come in for counseling with Pearl, but I hope he will some day. There is no abuse in my life any more, I am going out of the house to work, and my husband has started to provide a little for our children, but there is a long way to go before I am satisfied.
My family has changed since I found help, and they have been a witness to the change in me. I am training my children to be courageous and assertive. Now if my husband and I argue behind closed doors, it will take my daughter and son maximum 30 minutes to come knock on the door. They will knock relentlessly until we let them in, and they will tell my husband to treat me well. The abuse my sister faces is even worse than what I went through, but she hasn’t gotten any help yet. I plan to get her into counseling as soon as possible.
I want to tell every person reading my story, “TAKE COURAGE!” In Telugu the word is dhairyam. I may cry when telling my story, but they are tears of joy!
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