In September 2020, a woman in Andhra Pradesh recorded a video of her father slamming a dumbbell into her mother’s head. Within a week, a case was registered with the police and her father was arrested. But until there was clear evidence of horrific physical violence, the woman and her sisters say that the police dismissed their repeated complaints of physical and sexual abuse by their father, asking them to adjust.
Such inaction, and normalising of abuse and violence not only by police, but by the community and family, makes it daunting for survivors of gender-based violence to seek support, forcing them to remain silent. With the pandemic, violence against women has escalated across the world, while access to help has worsened.
The International Foundation for Crime Prevention and Victim Care (PCVC), a Chennai-based NGO working to support women who face domestic violence, wants to change that. As part of their continued efforts to build help-seeking behaviour among women facing violence at home, PCVC has launched the “Shut Up Pannadhinga” campaign, with support from US Consulate Chennai and The News Minute.
Watch the campaign video here (best watched on mobile):
The aim of the campaign is to spread awareness about Dhwani - a 24/7, multilingual national domestic violence hotline. Women can reach out to Dhwani by dialing 1800 102 7282. PCVC also extends support services for persons from the LGBTQI+ community.
#ShutUpPannadhinga is a part of the ‘16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence’ campaign, a yearly movement, which is particularly significant this year as many of us continue to grapple with the pandemic and its fallout. The campaign begins on November 25, which marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
According to Rashmi Singh, Executive Director for Programmes at PCVC, the early days of the nationwide lockdown that began in March saw a steep fall in calls made to their hotline seeking help. “We realised that during the lockdown, the entire family was in the house all the time. For a woman to make a call, you need the space and time to be alone,” Rashmi said, adding that subsequently with lockdown easing, the calls shot up exponentially.
While the lockdown has now been relaxed, Rashmi says that women’s mobility continues to be limited. In the aftermath of the lockdown, many women who have lost their jobs are finding themselves in a vulnerable state, with less power to negotiate with their partner, she adds.
The 16-day campaign, which will continue till December 10, seeks to to embolden victims to break their silence and seek help. “We also want people to understand better what kind of behaviours constitute violence, especially some of those forms which are not often talked about,” says Rashmi. While domestic violence itself is often brushed off as a “private matter”, other forms like sexual and emotional violence also tend to go unreported, and the campaign attempts to encourage people to seek help when they are made to feel unsafe in any way.
Addressing the fear among survivors that help from civil society organisations can only mean moving out of the house, or taking legal action, Rashmi says, “‘The idea is to create a trusted space for women to come and share their experiences, and to explore ways to negotiate respectful and equal relationships with their partner.”
Taking into consideration the victims’ concerns over their children’s safety and keeping their marriage intact, the campaign presents options for support services that can give victims the confidence of having an alternative to their abusive home.
If you are a woman facing violence at home, or if you know of someone who is, then call Dhwani at 1800 102 7282.