‘Enough, I will not bear this anymore’


Narika puts the focus squarely on domestic violence at its annual fundraiser

“When a woman gets married, seeks blessing from parents and friends, she only wants one thing: a happy married life. I was not aware of what is domestic violence, what is emotional abuse, until the police officer who saw me in the street at night mentioned it to me.”

Those were the words of a domestic violence survivor who shared her painful journey with more than 400 guests who attended the Narika’s Starry Night Gala held at the Wente Vineyard, Livermore, California September 25.

Founded in 1992 by a group of immigrant women, who saw the need to support survivors of domestic violence, says the Narika team has seen an 86 percent rise in the problem since the pandemic shut things down.

The gala raised over $200,000, intended to establish a permanent facility, transitional housing for the domestic abuse survivors and its Self-Empowerment & Economic Development (SEED) program, which is designed to foster economic independence and self-reliance.

Priya (name changed) told indica News, “Domestic violence can happen to anyone. It’s not that you are educated, earning or not. The problem is that people judge you; they give unnecessary advice to the survivors.”

Asked what gives her strength to take a stand, said, “My parents. They give me courage.”

She described her experience.

“I never thought this could happen. The abuse — emotional abuse — started soon after marriage, and then came the physical abuse,” she said. She paused before describing how her husband left her at her parent’s place in India and returned to the U.S. without telling her, and filed a divorce suit against her.

Her parents thought things would get better if she returned to the U.S., But when she did, he pushed her out into the street at night.

Priya, who has worked at multinational companies such as Google and Paypal, is now is looking for a job.

According to Narika board member Manju Mishra, “Domestic violence against women has become an epidemic, and it needs to stop.”

Manju Mishra

Mishra said that Narika works like other domestic violence agencies, “but we need to reach out and spread the word, to let South Asian community know that help is available for them when in need.”

She said the media could help create awareness about domestic violence centers and the help they offer. According to its annual report, between January and June 2021, Narika has offered 385 consulting client services, and had 109 survivors participate in its programs.

Bindu Oommen Fernandes, Narika’s executive director, described the 86 percent rise in domestic violence in the last year, and said, “We all experienced grief and loss and uncertainty. Yet, we all experienced it differently, based on our access to money, resources and networks of support.”

Entrepreneur Sukhi Singh, CEO of Sukhi’s Gourmet Indian Foods and one of Narika’s founding members, told indica News that while she herself had never suffered domestic violence, thanks to a supportive husband. But she said there are men and families — made up of educated people who work in well-known companies — who are involved in the rise of the problem.

On the rise of domestic violence, Singh said, “The Indian male chauvinist mindset is there, even among the educated.”

She said there was another form of torture practiced. “They do not allow the woman to grow and be independent. Women have to take permission to spend her own earned money. So it’s not like domestic violence, but it is mental violence: controlling behavior.”

She said she had a message: “If you change your sons, make them respect women and see them as equals, it would help.”

The gala also had a sale, the proceeds of which will go to support the group. The items included donated paintings, jewelry, clothing and other items.

Veena Mishra, a senior member and supporter of Narika, told indica News she is also a member of a senior citizens’ group called Hamara Manch, which meets every Wednesday and works on crafts, including knitting.

Pointing to some knitted mobile bags, purse, scarfs, she said this is her first time at the gala selling such material, and added, “I would feel fortunate if by selling I can do something for domestic violence survivors.”

The Mona Khan Dance Company offered a theme-based cultural song and dance, based on the song sequence, “Sakhi,” from the Amir Khan’s TV show.“Satyamev Jayate.” The lyrics expressed Narika’s mission and message: “Aansun ke sang naa bahungi sakhi, Ab naa mein gumsum rahungi sakhi, sehne se behtar kahungi sakhi.

The underlying message: Enough, I will not bear this anymore.”