Helping hands rescue victims of family violence

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Venkat Raman
Auckland, October 15, 2019

Sucharita Varma, at the core of family values (Picture by Angie Ong)

As Kashmir Kaur spoke about her life and suffering at the fundraising dinner of Sahaayta Counselling and Support Services held on August 23, 2019 at Ellerslie Events Centre, it looked like an Indian film which abounds in villainous plots, some of them leading to the murder of the daughter-in-law.

It is ironic that parents long to see their sons married, men and women start relationships but soon thereafter, the saga of violence commences and ends when there is interference of the law or organisations of Sahaayta.

In the case of Kashmir, the extremities that she suffered were perpetrated by her parent-in-law, brother-in-law and sister-in-law. Born and raised in a loving family in Punjab, she was married to a man who was mentally incapacitated following an accident, of which she was not aware until she came to New Zealand.

She suffered physical violence and verbal abuse for five years before she got an opportunity to get to Immigration New Zealand through a nurse at a hospital. The Police and Sahaayta were involved and thereafter life began to change.

Today, Kashmir lives with her husband with her legal status secure as a Permanent Resident, while the perpetrators of violence face charges.

Indian Newslink will do a separate feature on her torturous life shortly.

There are hundreds and thousands of women like Kashmir Kaur who are victimised by men and families everyday.

Rising Menace

Family Violence is a rising menace throughout the world and New Zealand is no exception. Every three minutes or so, someone, somewhere in this country is harmed and the Police field calls about this problem more than anything else.

The Government brought into being the Family Violence Act 2018 on July 1, 2019, redefining Family Violence with provisions for pressing criminal charges and prosecution of perpetrators and swift carriage of justice.

But it does not go far enough to address the real problem: Supporting victims in culturally enclosed communities; and victims who ensnared by the very system that intends to protect them. There is therefore a need for organisations that understand female victims (who are by far a majority), helps them to seek palliatives from their despicable predicaments and enable them to become economically and emotionally independent.

One such is the Auckland based Sahaayta Counselling and Social Support Services.

Established in 2013, it works not only with women, but also with men, older people and children to uplift their status, health and wellbeing.

Sucharita Varma and Zoya Salim Kara, who combined their earlier expertise at the South Auckland Family Violence Prevention Network (a report on which appeared in Indian Newslink July 1, 2012 issue) to form Sahaayta, have brought comfort and solace to a growing list of victims, while also working with offenders to reform and recommence their lives with love and peace in their families.

A volley of emotions

“Our clients experience grief and loss, anger, low self-esteem, relationship conflicts, stress, anxiety, depression, abuse and trauma to name a few. Sahaayta provides holistic and culturally-sensitive counselling and support services in Hindi, Fiji Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, Gujarati, Marathi, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam and English. Programmes and Workshops for personal and professional development for individuals and corporates are also held regularly,” Ms Varma said.

Today, Sahaayta accounts for 23 Councillors and Volunteers who offer an extensive range of programmes and solutions to suit almost all people. These include Sahaara (Coffee Groups for Ethnic Women), Soch (Community Education and Awareness), Ahimsa (Non-Violence), Sitaare (for Children).

The services through these programmes relate to Migration and Settlement, Grief and Loss, Anger, Self-Esteem, Family Violence and Abuse, Trauma, Anxiety, Stress Relationships, Conflict resolution, Communication and Parenting.

Special Awards

Sucharita Varma was presented with the Raman (Ray) Ranchhod Commemoration Award for Excellence in Counselling and Reducing Family Harm and Zoya Karim Sara with a Community Award for Services to Safer Communities at the Sixth Annual Indian Newslink Sports, Community, Arts & Culture Awards held on June 24, 2019 at Ellerslie Convention Centre in Auckland.

Changing force of Law

Closer attention by the forces of law and order would see a decline in family violence worldwide. Over the past few years, coppers in almost every country have abandoned what is known as ‘the tea and sympathy approach’ to abuse. These days, the Police treat violent partners in much the same way as the American authorities treated Al Capone: “If we can’t get him for beating up his wife, what else can we get him for?”

We should not underplay the importance of introducing tougher laws to bring the perpetrators to justice.

For, what is a society if it features homes that are less safe than public places, say a pub, where brawls are common?

We certainly do not want our homes to become watering holes with fountains of violence erupting beer after beer.

We would like to see organisations like Sahaayta to be well-funded and strengthened to service our communities better.

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