Date: 16th October 2021
Host: Sree Kumar, Founder & CEO, The Critical Dialogue
Guest: Nageen Riffat, Founder, Nyn’s Dreams
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It was such an engaging and deeply moving and emotional session with our guest, Nageen, on the TCDLive Weekend Lounge show. We were blessed to have so many turned up and also registered their support of the cause.
Behind the scenes
I was talking to Nageen Riffat, Founder, Nyn’s Dreams and Award-Winning Speaker on Women’s Empowerment and Author of the best seller #HerRhythm – You are more than your survival story”
Her story literally shook me to the core, and I couldn’t get myself to even imagine the trauma this powerful lady had to endure, two young boys in tow, with no guarantee of what was in store. I said to her “How could GOD be so unkind to such a wonderful woman? – Why was he a mute spectator, watching his creation being battered and bruised and left to fend for herself all alone?
“Sree, GOD helps those who help themselves, was her spontaneous response”.
“I tell you it was the worst experience in my life, a bad dream but it was also the best experience in my life . . . It made me a stronger person, and I feel like what I have gone through, I can pass along to others, and I feel like I have this intuition when I’m around people that are in those situations, and I try to make it evident but not obvious, that I’m there for them if they need anything.”
Globally there are so many women who have been silently suffering or have been victims of domestic violence. And a limited few who have not just recovered from the aftermath of domestic violence but who went on to rebuild and rebirth their lives.
When it comes to DV the victims/survivors inevitably experience trials and tribulations of recovery. They are forced to contend with so much stress in the aftermath of domestic violence that may include recurring symptoms of trauma (like depression, anxiety) but also of the perpetrators who make persistent attempts to control them. Controlling by stalking, breaking into their homes, harassing and threatening their employers, friends and family.
This has a deep impact on their ability to make decisions, concentrate and remain focused, and process their emotions.
But there are also women who not just survived but gone on to define their own path, find meaning and purpose in their life and have now become a beacon of hope to several thousand worldwide.
While not much data exists in terms of how they were able to win back their life, leaving an abusive relationship and working toward recovery, those who have shared their journey are really making a difference.
Their stories are filled with how their road to recovery took a tremendous amount of personal strength, self-awareness, resilience, emotional intelligence and self-control. The common theme is that they stopped playing victim and waiting for someone to come save them and started taking charge of their life.
In The Critical Dialogue #TCDLiveWeekendLounge show this weekend, we spoke to Nageen Riffat on the topic “Recovery and Resilience in the aftermath of domestic violence”
We asked her to share her story of not just how she rid herself of the traumatic relationship but also about her road to recovery through resilience.
God helps those who help themselves
Nageen began the show by sharing her story from early days of her childhood, about what shaped her dreams, the influence of her dad and how growing up as his adorable princess she dreamt of living a life truly made of those dreams.
She said, little did I realize that those very dreams were going to be shattered post her marriage.
Her deeply moving tale of woes, inner-conflicts, domestic abuse of both the physical and the emotional kind and her slow and painful road to recovery, resilience and transformation is what made the show invaluable. There were lessons to be learnt at every stage, at times as a host I felt that I just let her be and continue, but honestly there is so much to her story than mere survival, as she wrote in her book #herRhythm – you are more than your survival story.
I tried to keep the focus around topics that I thought would really be beneficial for fellow women around the world. Those included:
- How living in denial doesn’t help your cause?
- Reclaiming yourself – need to invest in self-care
- The power of belief
- Repurpose your life – start dreaming again
- Decisions and choices that EMPOWER
- Forgiveness – how that helps in recovery
- Stand up for your rights
- Re-birthing – find renewed purpose, meaning, and energy to succeed
Honestly, as much as I thought it would remain focused on these topics, we veered towards some more basic and pertinent ones that deserved attention. As is always the case with the TCDLiveWeekend Lounge experience, we always remain open to bring to table that which matters even if it demands of us at times moving away from pre-fixed agenda.
The idea of “Dialogue” is just that after all, isn’t it.
We started talking about how;
- Cases of domestic violence go unreported – Nageen shared that over 90% of the domestic violence cases go unreported, not just because at times victim/survivors themselves are unaware that they have been subjected to abuse but also because of the cultural stigma that is attached to it.
- What stops victims/survivors from reporting cases of domestic violence – She said that many do not report because they don’t want their family name to be dragged to courts or litigations. They do not want their own kith and kin, friends and colleagues to end up facing the wrath of the abusers. This is particularly the case when the perpetrator is a person of high influence, both in terms of money, muscle and connections. The problem she said was at times the victim/survivors family themselves are to blame as they don’t want to get involved and invest their energies in pushing the victim back into the fire. Instead of trying to stand up and fight for their kin, they at times can be perceived to be more siding with the perpetrators and their families. That is the sad part, she said. This really has a deep psychological impact on the victim as they become highly untrusting of others and withdraw into a cocoon to suffer in silence. As Nageen said, it starts to impact so much that it goes on to impair the thinking and decision making faculties of the victim/survivor.
- It’s not just physical, the psychological abuse goes unnoticed – Nageen spoke about how it was not just about the physical abuse victims/survivors are subjected to but the intense emotional/psychological abuse they are subjected to that often goes unnoticed. She said while the scars from physical abuse are visible and are a grim reminder of what she had gone through each time she goes in front of the mirror, it is the emotional trauma that is hard to overcome. Especially when you have no one to talk to and are alone, it comes to bite you again and again, not allowing you to forget your past. She said, physical scars may heal over time but the emotional ones take a long long time. You can never completely heal from them though you can work towards reducing the negative effects of those on your psyche and on your life ahead.
- Why are married women with children less likely to report against the perpetrators of violence? – When you have innocent lives who are dependent on you and expect you to be the protective blanket around them, you cannot afford at times to be seen as vulnerable. Your instincts naturally are to bear with the abuse, lest it start touching your children’s life. The perpetrators of domestic violence can emotionally manipulate children, physically threaten them to get their custody. For them, not being able to get custody of their kids is the first and a great sign of their failure, which they would not like a bit. They would go to any extent to ensure that the victim/survivor is physically and emotionally isolated. They can threaten, use coercive force, and even be prepared to kill, just so that they win. The fear they instill in the victim is just enough for them to remain silent.
The other interesting point she raised was that when you have kids and you want them to grow up in a good family environment, you keep trying your best to make up with the perpetrator with the hope that this is just a passing phase and one day things will turn out to be good. What she said was profound and very important – you cannot afford to live in denial. You have to accept that you have failed in your efforts to make this work. It’s time to move on. When you are faced with the choice of either ‘giving up’ or ‘standing up’, she said make the choice of standing up to fight another day. That is what made her to be what she is today – A true woman of substance.
- If the abusers would have grown up in a family which condoned such acts – to this question, she was not wanting to sound like she is empathetic to the perpetrator. She said, it is sad that it does happen most of the time that women in the family of the abuser, do not even realize that another woman like them is getting violated. They either are mute spectators or contribute to the problem. She said, such women fail to even realize that they are mothers, sisters, daughters themselves. It is so damn difficult to fathom that they could become party to domestic violence. She went on to say that unless women in the violator’s family, his kith or kin don’t take a stance, this kind of violation is not going away any time soon.
- The effects and impact of covid-19 pandemic in an increase of domestic violence – Nageen spoke about women and especially working women, who have been victims of subtle forms of abuse, the psychological kind, which has been on the rise post pandemic and work-from-home scenario. The only time a victim/survivor used to get to be with themselves was either in the shower or during their commute to and fro office. With work-from-home, that luxury has also been taken away. There is very little time for self-care which these women get with expectations of them being super-woman who could work almost 18-20 hrs. A day, supporting family, children, parents, work and much much more. The exhausted mind has no time to think of rejuvenating for self-care. She said, she had to wear a mask throughout the day, at office – to show up as a confident and decisive person, with children – as a strong and powerful lady, with husband – as a caring and affectionate partner, with in-law – as a devoted daughter in law, with parents as a loving caring child, with friends as a – bubbly enthusiastic person, Phew! You never really are you!
- The need to sensitize and build awareness. Nageen spoke at length about how women must invest in their self-care and build their self-worth. They must work hard to develop competencies that could help them not just take up jobs but also become self-reliant in the face of adversity. She said, the very fact that she was well educated and had a successful career helped her to escape from the clutches of an abusive relationship and gave her the confidence to make a life of her own in an alien land. Today, she goes about conducting sensitization programs, workshops and skill builders and works with NGOs and community centers to empower women to stand up and be noticed. She kept repeating throughout the show that self-care was the key.
- How organizations the world over can support She talked about how organizations can support the victim/survivor of domestic violence by not just being sensitive to their needs but also to provide them with the time, space and necessary resources to not just recover but get a life of their own making. She highlighted that while she was fortunate to have colleagues and an organization that supported her through that face of trials and tribulations, often she comes across women who have been let down by the very company or colleagues with whom she would have spent years working. Organizations must come forward to employ and promote more women in the workplace. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the true sense.
The show definitely highlighted, and did not miss the fact that there is a great need for women to come out in support of women, if we want to see any significant change – whether in families or in the workplace.
The key takeaways
Support, Educate, Empower, Develop (SEED) as I would like to call it, is important in helping women fight against abuse and violence. This needs to be backed by creating a fertile ground that has Social and Institutional support, Community support, and more importantly a cultural revolution of sorts. One small step at a time.
TCDLive Weekend Lounge show is committed to bringing to dialogue all such topics that deserve our attention.
May the world become truly inclusive!