When Hofstra University’s Windmill Magazine accepted my fiction short story, ‘Life Spring’ to publish in their May 2017 issue, I exchanged some rather interesting emails with the Managing Editor, Keaton Tennant, about why this issue is such a hot button both in India and across the global Indian diaspora. Particularly, in the South Asian diaspora in Silicon Valley, where I spent some seven years living and working among smart, educated women who faced domestic abuse from their husbands.
Keaton asked me to write a short essay to accompany the short story, which I was happy to do. Since I sent off the essay, there have more new stories emerging. On the one hand, I’m glad to see there is a growing awareness and women willing to speak out. It is heartbreaking, nevertheless, to find how much this is still going on.
During my years of living and working in Silicon Valley, I met some first-generation Indian immigrant women who, despite their professional achievements, were struggling with their husbands’ anger issues, which ranged from public berating/humiliation to private beatings and more. The usual coping mechanisms for these women are to either make excuses for the men (high-stress jobs, alcohol, etc.) or to blame themselves for being somehow responsible. An Indian woman will rarely walk away from her marriage, especially if the husband is doing well professionally. Her own family is likely to view that as both her failure to hold her marriage together and her short-sightedness for her own financial wellbeing, immigrant status, etc. Additionally, as a society, we certainly do not make it easy for single women to thrive, especially if they also have to raise kids on their own.
Putting aside my anecdotal evidence, here are some statistics from two South Asian non-profit organizations in the Bay Area: Maitri received 4,330 domestic abuse calls in 2016, 2x more than in 2013. Narika receives 65%-70% calls annually from South Asian tech women. These are but a fraction of the actual cases because many women don’t call. The stakes are too high as a good number of them moved to the US after marriage, so they depend on their husbands for everything and often have no other support system.