Heartfile, true to the 2013 theme of International Women’s Day – ‘A Promise is a Promise: Time for Action to End Violence Against Women’ has been instrumental in reaching out to victims of violence in Pakistan. The story of a Heartfile Financing-supported patient I am about to share, although tragic, appropriately depicts today’s theme. Her story charts the depth of the implications of violence against women—a story to survive the grim details of abuse of the worst kind. Hers is just one of a thousand stories of women who are victims of domestic violence each day. If legal protection is provided to such women and perpetrators are prosecuted at the national level, this would be a movement and an achievement that will deter perpetrators and ensure safety for future lives of women in the country.
Her story is a shocking tale of abuse, survival and a woman’s unwavering will to live. At the mere age of twenty-eight, she survived a gruesome attack. As the cultural norms permit, she was married at the tender age of eighteen to her drug addict first cousin. She lived a decade of an abusive relationship as a constant victim of marital rape, during which she bore four children despite the constant physical and mental abuse. Day in and day out she imagined she could change him, that everything was going to be alright, and that things were going to look up.
Sad, depressed and alone, she lived in fear of her abusive spouse as their marriage crumbled in her joint household of her family, her in-laws were a silent witnesses to the hostility she endured and ironically the women in the family, often instigated her husband to beat her up and fully supported his behavior. They had concealed his drug addiction prior to her marriage and thus trapped her in a relationship and further strengthened the bond in the children she produced. She then chillingly foretold of her fate to her mother when she had lost her strength to uphold the violence and the abuse. She fled from him with his minor children to seek refuge in her mother’s home. She sought the protective guardianship of her mother against the violent and sadistic spouse. She wanted to take her life back and wanted to let everyone know that her spouse no longer controlled her. She stated that she had been robbed of her youth, her physique but not of her spirit as she expressed her will to live or the sake of her children. It was her children that motivated her and brought herself self-esteem back.
She had moved to her mother’s house 10 months prior to the attack by her spouse with her four children. The spouse would occasionally visit their children and plead for her to return. She had in the meantime filed for ‘khula’, a woman’s right to file for divorce. After fleeing her home, she thought that she had gone on a journey to escape abuse. Unfortunately, during one of his visits he retaliated with brutal force: he attacked her. The abuse turned deadly when he went ranting to grabbing a gun and shot her in the legs – point blank range.
Against all odds, she survived and lay straight on a hospital bed for eleven days. The mother of the victim had the heartbreaking task to send the minor children to the in-laws as there was nobody to take care of them as she herself was the mother’s attendant during hospitalization. The patient has a home-bound epileptic brother. These children were always terrified. Now they were a witness to the horror of their mother being shot, collapsing and perhaps gone forever.
The perpetrator is still at large while the patient bears the physical and mental pain of the injury and of the separation from her minor children. This man who should have been faced with murder, weapon offences and child endangerment charges is still free. She had suffered unnecessarily at the behest of a man’s perverted whims. Who would see what is right or wrong? Who would stand up for her? Would she be able to move past the trauma? Would her emotional and physical scars ever heal? Has the children’s mental wellbeing been forever damaged?
Her case depicted the gory authenticity that would horrify anyone. It haunts anyone with a conscience. Is there any sparkling of light and hope for her? The disparity would go on unnoticed in a male dominated society and women’s inability to change it. Life for her would continue unquestioned and unchallenged. Her story portrays a sense of loneliness. It is very gripping and strong. She shared the worst disturbing events of abuse, of rape in a frightening detail. The dark side of reality has been touched to the core. Women will continue to routinely be subject to the most unimaginable horrors. It is a saga of sadness. Her story reflects strongly an underlying misogyny which regrettably forms the foundation of the collective local culture. Her plight is deeply disturbing. The world needs to wake up and understand the plight of women in more conservative societies and in general.
She would have gone home untreated and maimed for life, had she not been noticed by Dr. Sania Nishtar during one of her hospital visits in relation to Heartfile Health Financing, our program which identifies poor patients in hospitals who run the risk of foregoing healthcare. Sania was struck by the painful look reflected in the patient’s eyes. The outcome of Heartfile’s assessment is reflected in the above sharing. The surgical procedure was financially supported by Heartfile Financing and additionally she was provided with a cash grant during hospitalization. Sadly, her leg couldn’t be saved and had to be amputated. She remained hospitalized for months thereafter and is presently back with her mother in a small village near Jhelum.
For her it has been a journey of devastation but she demonstrated a certain ability to hold on a glimmer of hope in the dimmest moment through the support of Heartfile. She is being provided a monthly stipend for two years which will allow her to settle down, sustain herself and commence a normal life.
A Woman’s Prayer for her Man
Dear God, I pray for :
Wisdom to understand my man;
Love to forgive him;
And Patience for his moods;
because God, if I pray for Strength,
I’ll beat him to death” – Unknown
A Heartfile Financing Volunteer