Each of us has a story to tell. And when pain is involved, we need to tell it; again and again. For each time we do, whatever happened to us loses its hold over us and we gain strength — the strength to go on, the strength to be ourselves, the strength to offer hope to others. “She slapped me, shouted at me and pulled my hair before shoving me into the courtyard in front those who were supposed to be my family. In reality, they were just smirking voyeurs, out to enjoy the show. While my mother-in-law kept up a verbal tirade of abuse against my parents — my husband began slapping me, again and again like a rabid beast. My little baby girl, my only child, lay hungry and weak on the bed, her eyes never leaving me. I caught her gaze, whilst the beating was still going on and it was then that I realised that she was taking it all in. She would grow up to believe it is normal for women to be treated in this way. It was a moment of truth for me; the moment I chose to rebel so that my daughter would be able to live a life free from violence.” This is Hira’s story. She was later thrown out of the house by her in-laws and told not to come back until she her parents gave her a better dowry and taught her better manners. Not only that, she wasn’t allowed to take her small daughter with her — her mother-in-law saw to that. This was security to ensure that she returned as soon as possible after meeting all of their demands. And while our work is with the victims of domestic violence — it is important to remember that the perpetrator is 70 times more likely to have been raised in a home where this is prevalent; be it physical, emotional or even economic abuse “When I reached my parents’ house, with my body all scratched and bruised, all I could feel was the need to hold my child in my arms, to know that she was safe. The fact that I couldn’t left me unable to breathe properly.” A member of her extended family had seen the streamers on the road that had the Human Rights Crisis Centre helpline number — 1043 — emblazoned across them. That individual made the call and brought Hira here to us. “I couldn’t believe that I didn’t have to pay anything for this service and that I was being taken care of without handing over a single rupee. It seemed too good to be true.” Hira’s husband as well as her in-laws were contacted by someone from the Centre and told about recent laws pertaining to the rights of women. Sadly, they appeared undeterred, not grasping the gravity of the situation. They also refused to return the baby to her mother. Hira was given counselling to help her cope with the trauma of what had happened. The Centre provided her immediate legal aid, the priority being to get her daughter back as soon as possible. A habeas corpus writ was filed and Hira got her baby back. Since there was no chance of any behavioural changes on the part of her husband and his family — the Centre helped Hira filed cases for dissolution of marriage, recovery of dowry articles and recovery of maintenance allowance for her daughter. Hira is a survivor. She has agreed to share what she went through to offer hope to all women who have known suffering and who cannot find the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. The Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Human Rights Crisis Centre in Lahore organised a small gathering recently to honour women; strong women who have survived against the odd through their bravery and courage. Each one of these victims of violence has shown immense perseverance, not to mention equally immense compassion for others. The Centre is proud to have helped them on their journey. The purpose of this gathering was for everyone to share their experiences, the emotional as well as material ups and downs, as they embarked upon the long journey of saying no more abuse. It was about spreading messages of the hope and courage and the resilience of the spirit. It was also a chance for the Centre to sensitise women about their social and legal rights; the pro-women laws and available forums in which to redress their grievances. We, at the Human Rights Crisis Centre, take pride in being compassionate service providers. Especially given that our efforts have a profound impact not only on the women who come to us — but also on their children and other family members, too. Women who emerge as survivors, resolving prevailing conflict, overcoming obstacles and empowering themselves to tackling any hardships that life might throw their way again — should be lauded at every possible forum. For simply put, they give us the hope of a better tomorrow. And while our work is with the victims of domestic violence — it is important to remember that the perpetrator, the one who commits violence by way of exerting power and control, is 70 times more likely to have been raised in a home where this is prevalent; be it physical, emotional or even economic abuse. Meaning that the perpetrator was once a child who either witnessed or was a victim of such violence; having no control what he or she was exposed to or endured. How, therefore, do we step into their shoes and work through the healing process, to ultimately realise the end of the cycle of abuse? By empowering the victim, facilitating rehabilitation for both victim and perpetrator, by integrating compassion into our everyday work; work that can ultimately make the world, and our own communities, a safer, happier, and more humane place for everyone. The writer heads the Human Rights Crisis Centre for Women, Lahore. She has been working in the fields of community-based development and gender empowerment for more than a decade Published in Daily Times, October 29th 2017.