Sudha (name changed) was 18 years old when she got married. During the initial days of her marriage she realized that her husband was an alcoholic. His alcoholism had led him into several debts, and Sudha faced the brunt of all this. Her husband regularly took any money she had and she was expected to silently bear the abuse he was putting her through. As things kept building up, one day unable to take things any more, Sudha set herself ablaze with the kerosene at home. This incident took place just a month after her wedding.
Faced with more than 50% burns, Sudha’s journey of recovery began in 2010, and is still ongoing in many ways.
Sudha’s story is not an exception. About 91,000 women reportedly die of burn injuries annually in India, and it is estimated that 12 lakh women have suffered from burn injuries as a consequence of domestic violence.
The connection between domestic abuse and burns among women is undeniable. In several cases like Sudha’s, self-inflicted burns are the result of a period of domestic abuse, and in many other cases, the partner or the partner’s family inflicts burns. However, the road to recovery that the women have to embark upon is filled with challenges. Burn survivors need holistic support for all-round recovery – including physical, psychosocial, and economic support.
The services available within our hospitals are very limited in scope and range. Most of them don’t have facilities to support physical recovery needs of physiotherapy and appropriate wound care. Also, these spaces do not offer domestic violence-informed and trauma-informed care.
Post the incident, survivors become very extremely vulnerable due to our social structure and mindsets. The violence they face after the burns within their homes also tends to increase. Families look upon them as a burden, and they find very little support to help them rebuild their lives.
There is a lot of stigma attached with the burn survivors, which acts as a deterrent to the normalization of their lives post incident. Survivors have severe difficulty in finding jobs, renting houses or even traveling in public transport. They have to constantly put up with stares, questions & curses from others.
A lot of them also face struggles in reconnecting with their children.
The International Foundation for Crime Prevention & Victim Care (PCVC) is a Chennai-based non-profit organization that has been working with women burn survivors in their road to recovery & rehabilitation. PCVC’s residential recovery and healing centre for women burn survivors in Chennai cater to the 60-80 women every month who get admitted in the burn block at Kilpauk Medical College Hospital. Since 2006, PCVC has offered support to nearly 4500 women burn survivors. Currently, the recovery and healing centre has 8 survivors.
The centre provides complete physiotherapy and wound care to all survivors free of charge. Apart from regular access to individual and family counseling sessions, PCVC’s recovery centre offers other forms of therapy including art therapy. PCVC’s work extends to all aspects of recovery, where survivors receive support for economic rehabilitation in terms of finding appropriate avenues of employment as well.
Currently, PCVC needs your help to continue providing this support to the survivors. They are raising funds to support the physical rehabilitation for survivors. The physical rehabilitation is a long journey in itself, and sometimes take years for certain individuals.