Survivors of domestic violence open up about their experiences.
SHE spoke calmly and you would not have noticed her missing finger if she had not pointed it out with a shrug. Her stories are horrific - losing a finger and being assaulted in a car park as “punishment” but she related them matter-of- factly, which renders her story all the more stark and terrible.
This woman’s story is one of the cases highlighted in Survivors Speak Up, a video produced by the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) in conjunction with their 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence campaign.
“You read about domestic violence, but it’s just not the same when you’re talking to the survivors in person,” says WAO advocacy officer Sally Wangsawijaya, who conducted the interviews with the survivors.
Putting this video together was Wangsawijaya’s first project since joining WAO, and it was her most intimate encounter with survivors of domestic violence.
“Sometimes, it takes many years before the victims build up enough courage to lodge their first police report. And getting them to talk about it – you can literally feel what they’ve gone through – was very intense.”
The video was first unveiled at a recent roundtable session organised with the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry to improve the response mechanisms on domestic violence in the country.
For the first time, the public will get to put a face and a voice to battered women. “The point of the video isn’t so much about what had happened to the survivors, but more so on what you can do if it happens to you too,” explains Wangsawijaya.
From a sneak preview of the video, the video highlights the victims’ painstakingly navigating the system to protect themselves against their abusers; from lodging a police report to seeking help from groups like WAO to obtain an Interim Protection Order (IPO).
The video shows how helpless women living with violence are when their calls for help are answered with an echoing silence. In two of the three cases featured in the video, police reports did little to get her the intervention she needed.
“The statistics show that domestic violence is on the rise, but the severity of the situation is often underestimated. It is still a taboo subject in our society and many cases go unreported. The spirit of the video isn’t about pointing fingers or blaming any individuals or agencies for not doing their jobs. It’s more about identifying the weaknesses in the current system and how we can all work together to further improve on it,” says Wangsawijaya.
One of the challenges of making the video was finding survivors who were willing to talk about their experiences.
Most feared for the safety of their children, or did not want to bear the stigma of being an abuse victim.
“The women featured in the video wanted to share their stories. Beyond getting people to understand what they went through, they also wanted to appeal to the community to work together to address violence. After going through so much abuse, the survivors are still strong.
“One of them still face threats from her husband, but she’s no longer scared. She is finally stepping up for herself and for her children. I think stories like these can be very inspirational for a lot of people.
“WAO felt that producing a video would be much more impactful to help the public reassess the situation. The video was also made as a part of our effort in monitoring the effectiveness of the Domestic Violence Act.
“We don’t want to be, in other words, a band aid – to just listen to the stories of the victims and have it end there.
“We intend to take the stories one step further and use them as a means to improve the current system in protecting the abused,” says Wangsawijaya.
Watch “Survivors Speak Up” on YouTube.com/womensaidorg
Heart-wrenching: WaO advocacy officer Sally Wangsawijaya was moved by the stories she heard while making the videos.