Tanushree Dutta THE SILENCE BREAKER in conversation with Toppick Anchor Swati Goyal

Toppick Media Editor May 06, 2019 601 Views   0 Comments

The voice that launched a movement.

As per World Health Organization (WHO), 35 percent of women worldwide have experienced either physical or sexual abuse in their lifetime. Unfortunately, 70 percent of these crimes are committed by somebody known in the family and less than 60 percent off these cases are ever reported. To bridge this gap, we have formal institutions like CHETNA that help combat domestic violence through social advocacy, education and outreach. As part of their raising awareness campaign we had an opportunity to speak to their keynote speaker, the pioneer of “MeToo” movement in India, the victim turned survivor – Tanushree Dutta.

Swati:  Taking your memory back to 10 years, you were a victim of workplace harassment and despite you raising your voice against it, it was largely unheard and failed to make an impact. But the same words after ten years, fueled the revolutionary “MeToo” movement in India. What do you think was different in the world then and now? What changed?

Tanushree: It all started with the “MeToo” movement in US that created awareness across the world and particularly in India. For the first time in India, there was desire to have a similar movement. Ten years ago when I shared my harassment experience, a lot was written and spoken about it. 

However, due to lack of support and lack of desire to change, it failed to get the traction to create a movement. But this time around, people were ready for a change, ready to be part of this movement; all they needed was a little stir. I was visiting India after two years to enjoy a vacation and someone prodded me with the question “Why do you think the MeToo movement has not happened in India?”. My response jogged them down the memory lane to the incident that happened with me 10 years ago, only this time it was meant to create history! Before I knew, the “MeToo” movement in India went viral and I was in middle of it all, too late to look back, too late to stop and I am glad I did not! 

I was honestly amazed at the overwhelming support we received and I alone cannot take the credit for it. I was just the face of the movement but the real credit goes to all the women who came forward with their stories. Also, the powerful media houses that supported this movement and helped make it become a national movement! A lot of these women who were speaking up were threatened with court cases and I remember discussing this with one of my journalist friend that this is not only unfair but would also dampen the spirit of the movement. That’s when we came up with the idea of pulling out from Twitter, the list of lawyers/advocates who had offered to provide their services for free and post it on national TV. Now all the women slapped with court cases were being defended by lawyers for free; now this is what we call coming “together” for a cause! My journalist friend, these lawyers – they were all the unsung heroes of the movement, the people working “behind” the scenes who were indeed the “backbone” of the movement.

Swati: Do you think there are certain professions or certain demographics that are more vulnerable to these crimes?

Tanushree: I don’t think it would be right to segregate victims based on profession or demographics. Rather I feel, it’s a clear case of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. We all have equal chance of being caught up in these situations. Sometimes we end up marrying the wrong person, sometimes picking the wrong project to work on or sometimes choosing the wrong person to work with! One shouldn’t consume himself with feeling of guilt or self-blame. End of the day, we have to understand that life is bumpy. Things go wrong, and when they do we should stride forward in future and work on making the future a better version of the past.

Swati: It is unfortunate that these crimes happen and even more unfortunate that most of these are brushed under the carpet either due to fear or ignorance. Can you educate our viewers on what resources they can reach out to if they find themselves in similar situation? 

Tanushree: Today’s conference hosted by CHETNA was about domestic violence and I shared my experience on workplace harassment. These two situations are very different; one happens in an intimate relationship in a marriage and the other happens in a non-intimate setting where you barely know the person. But I tried to equate the two in that in both situations someone decided to cross their boundary and hurt you emotionally and sometimes physically.

When this happens, one should look out for local institutions that support violence victims and seek help. Victims of such crimes need financial, moral and emotional support. These incidents leave scars that need years of therapy and coaching to heel. Institutions like CHETNA provide a 360 degree support in all these aspects to help victims turn into survivors and be ready to face the life head on!

Concluding thoughts
We spoke to “Tanushree Dutta”, on her journey in fighting workplace harassment. If you are victim of domestic violence or are feeling vulnerable do not hesitate in reaching out CHETNA on their confidential helpline at 888-924-3852. Once again, our sincere thanks to CHETNA for empowering women and helping us create safer homes.

CHETNA is a non-profit organization for the prevention of domestic violence in the South Asian community of Dallas-Fort Worth and the surrounding areas. It is primarily a volunteer based organization founded in July 2005 by Ila Sarkar and Anu Agarwal.

CHETNAs Mission:
CHETNA recognizes the unique challenges that South Asian victims of domestic violence face, and provides culture-specific services to empower and support the journey from victim to survivor. CHETNA aims to prevent violence through advocacy, education, and outreach.

CHETNAs Vision:
Preventing domestic violence and helping create safer homes. The South Asian community in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex consists of over 1000,000 people and the community is constantly growing. It is also a diverse religious and ethnic population. The domestic violence statistics on the South Asian communities are very limited. This is primarily due to cultural and language barriers. It is known that South Asian victims of domestic violence and abuse face many additional barriers compared to an average domestic violence victim. Multi-faceted and intricate challenges like language, immigration status, lack of family support, cultural and/or religious barriers and multiple batterers (simultaneous intimate partner, family and in-law abuse) keep South Asian victims in abusive situations for longer periods of time and prevent them from seeking outside assistance. 

CHETNA provides information and services to South Asians in the Dallas-Forth Worth and surrounding areas during times of crisis through Case Management, peer support, counseling, community education and outreach.  CHETNA has been set up to provide victim’s services in conjunction with existing resources and works with the domestic violence organizations in the Metroplex to reach out to the South Asian community; making them aware of the wide variety of services available to them. They also network with other South Asian organizations within the state and the nation.

CHETNA Helpline : 1.888.9CHETNA
CHETNA Email : chetna@chetna-dfw.org

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