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Ep 32: National Domestic Violence Awareness Month- How can you help?-Sushma Malhotra, Chetna DFW

Updated: Jun 27, 2023


Hello, This is Sirisha, welcome to my podcast!

How do we detect signs of domestic violence? What resources are available? Let's shine a bright light on this important issue to raise awareness to eliminate it. Tune in to listen to Sushma Malhotra from Chetna DFW who discusses how to find resources, how to identify signs of domestic violence and creating a safety plan. She also discusses how we can help and shares success stories to show that there is a light at the end of this dark tunnel.

*****Please be advised, this episode has some graphic descriptions,**************

Sushma Malhotra has more than 37 years of experience in the Banking industry. She is Senior Vice President, Relationship Manager with Southwestern National Bank.

She is on the board of CHETNA since 2006 and is Vice President of the India Association of North Texas, 2022 Board of Directors. Board member of the Asian Chamber of Texas for the last 6 years and Chairperson of MEED Center for 3 years 2020 - 2022. She loves travelling, reading, cooking, and gardening.

CHETNA is a non-profit agency specializing in holistic services for South Asian victims of domestic violence. CHETNA was incorporated in 2005 and serves the Dallas-Fort Worth area and surrounding counties. CHETNA recognizes the unique barriers and challenges that South Asian victims often face, and strives to provide culture-specific programs to assist survivors on their path towards healing and well-being.

If you know someone who is experiencing domestic violence and needs assistance you can reach the following resources.

National Domestic Violence Hotline. 800-799-7233

Hours: 24/7. Languages: English, Spanish and 200+ through interpretation service Learn more

Chetna DFW : Monday thru Friday, 9 AM to 5 PM at 1-888-9CHETNA (24-3862)

Additional resources are linked below

Safety Plan (Provided by Chetna DFW)

Domestic Violence Resource List in US (Provided by Chetna DFW)

Domestic Violence & Sexual Abuse (Click on Link-Provided by Helping Survivors)

Addiction & Domestic Violence Resources (Click on Link-Provided by Boca Recovery Center)

Come, let's #paintlifetogether!

Please don't forget to share, subscribe and leave a review.

Podcast & Social Media Links:

Follow on Instagram @womencareerandlife

Below is a transcript of the episode, slightly modified for reading.


[00:00] INTRO [Jump to section]

[00:50] Meet Sushma Malhotra & Chetna DFW (Ending Domestic Violence)[Jump to section]

[05:03] South Asian Culture...Calling Chetna [Jump to section]

[08:02] Domestic Violence Helpline -Next Steps...Safety, Health, Legal [Jump to section]

[11:06] Signs of Domestic Violence... Physical, Emotional, Verbal, Sexual... [15:48] Safety Planning is Paramount [Jump to section]

[18:46] Safety Plan...Gathering Documents etc... [Jump to section]

[22:15] Staying Safe...Precautions to take [Jump to section]

[25:57] Help a Friend-What can you do? [Jump to section]

[33:15] Social Isolation... Outreach... [Jump to section]

[37:34] South Asian Community...Unique Challenges [Jump to section]

[38:28] How do you identify Domestic Abuse [Jump to section]

[42:48] Impact on Children [Jump to section]

[47:38] Men Experiencing Domestic Violence [Jump to section]

[51:18] Domestic Violence Impacts all Stratas of Society...What can you do? [Jump to section]

[54:01] Men as Allies to End Domestic Violence [Jump to section]

[55:30] Success Stories [Jump to section]

[01:00:11] Note to your 21-year-old self... [Jump to section]

[01:01:34] Food for Thought ….Key Takeaways [Jump to section]


[00:00] INTRO

Sirisha: Hello everyone. This is Sirisha and I host the Women Career and Life podcast just like you. I've travelled very paths, stumbled a little, picked myself up, and learned a great deal on my journey. Many of us face similar questions, but we don't always get to have a conversation with our friends up peers. In this podcast, you will hear real stories that you can connect with on the challenges of navigating career and life.

You must be wondering who I am in my everyday life. I'm a career woman, a mom, and an ever-reader. I'm also a road-tripper. I gardener and even a fashionist on some days join me and my guests as we have an open and honest discussion on career change, trade-offs, and working across boundaries. You get the idea., It's a perspective you simply may not hear anywhere else.

[00:50] Meet Sushma Malhotra & Chetna DFW (Ending Domestic Violence)

Sirisha: Today's episode is a little different from the ones that I've normally done. I'm gonna focus on the life aspect of women, careers and life. October is national awareness meant for domestic violence, and I've got Sushma Malhotra who works with Chetna in Dallas, which enables and support South Asian members who are struggling through domestic violence. I think this is a very important topic that needs a spotlight. Please be advised that this episode has some graphic descriptions. By the way, I know I'm a few days late, maybe about three days, but I wanted to wish all the listeners celebrate Happy Diwali. I see a lot of coincidence in that because Thewas all about shining light and lighting the path towards good.

In some ways, that is the topic we are addressing, though it is not the significance behind Bali. You wanna make sure the listeners understand Chetna is specifically addressing the South Asian community in a local community, but for those of you, the topics we will be talking about today are not limited to the South Asian community or a locality in us. There will be things, we'll be talking about resources. About signs, how to have a conversation if you see someone experiencing it. So stick around though. Some of it might have a local touch. There is a broader context around it that you might learn something that can help someone else. +Ishma, thank you for joining us today. I know you work in the banking industry and do this as well, so your plate's pretty full. So thank you so much for taking the time to be here and welcome. I'm looking forward to learning more about what I and others can do to help address this. So I wanted just to take a few steps back, what got you involved with Chetna, Can you give us some history about Chetna and your intersection with it?

Sushma: Hi Sirisha. Thank you so much for having me on this podcast. And like you said, we just had our Diwali Festival, so I also want to wish everyone a very happy and prosperous dal. I hope this Dali, the Festival of Lights, lights up everyone's life because some may be in darkness and they do need help from others to light up their lives and live a very normal, peaceful life. Sirisha, you brought up a good thing about that. This is a broader subject. It happens in every c. and everyone gets affected. So Chetna is a non-profit organization. It was started in 2005 by a few volunteers. Good Samaritans from this local community were given the case, not the case, but they referred a person who was going through abuse and needed some help, some guidance on what to do next. Small. They talked between them and then two of them stepped forward and they formed the organization and it was formally incorporated in 2005. So that is how it started. And interestingly, the name Chetna, it's a Sanskrit word, it stands for consciousness for awareness. And that was the main focus at that time. It was not to just resolve some issue, the social issue, but it was mainly to give it a focus to people to know about it. That is the main thing that people are not aware that such a thing happens in our community. So that is how we, this name was given to the organization. I got involved in 2006. I had, I'm like you said, I'm a banker and I had gone for some networking meeting. I was meeting a CPA and he started talking that, Oh, like we have this organization. And this, we help the victims of domestic violence and some very good people are involved in it. And would you like to know more about that? And that is how he just introduced me to the co-founders and I just started volunteering since then. So I'm one of the co-founding board members of the Board of Chetna. At that time, we didn't have any formal board as such, but then we started forming a board, and then we had all the titles and designations, and we added more board members and started looking for more volunteers to help. So that's how it formally started at that time.

[05:03] South Asian Culture...Calling Chetna

Sirisha: It looks like it came at the right intersection. It was a problem that someone was trying to address a solution. I like the name because it's also about awareness, right? On how you can support others as they're battling through this issue. So how does Jayna work? Like how do people find you?

Like how do people reach out to you or how do you find people who need help and what are the sort of steps and resources that are structured around it?

Sushma: The local statistics are that one in three women are victims of domestic violence. So this one in three is a huge number and this is only the statistics that is there for in the mainstream, whereas every culture is slightly and our South Asian culture is even more different. Why? Because we are very much family oriented. We have always thought, that it's a taboo thing. We don't talk about it. We are very reserved people. We don't know how to go out and talk about our internal problems now was, formed just for that, for the South Asian people at that time because we knew that we are culturally very different and the problems that the clients faced are very different from the mainstream. But yes, it happens in every community and at all social economic levels and how people are reaching out to us. Mostly word of mouth. We do try to do outreach. We have been going to local organizations. We do send our newsletters and we connect with people, We connect with other agencies. But basically, this in our community is mainly word of mouth. A lot of calls that we receive are from either friends, a friend a relative or someone from work or somebody else just knowing someone that may be going through this abuse. So it's basically that when people get to know, they either tell that person to call us, or many times they've even Googled for a local agency that is dealing with domestic violence in the DFW area, and that is when they find. So it's because it's a very taboo subject in our community. It's very difficult to openly talk about it. So it takes a lot of courage for the people to reach out to us. We have a helpline, which people can call, so usually we do get calls on the helpline. Sometimes people have also reached out to some of our members like our board, and they tell us that they know this person who needs help. So can I give you a number? So that is how also people have been reaching out to us.

Sirisha: So maybe you can share with us what is the helpline number, but what are the resources? So if someone approaches you, what are the next steps? And this could be specific to Chetna, but also more broad. How. The concept of agency or a support system helping someone who's going through this work.

[08:02] Domestic Violence Helpline -Next Steps...Safety, Health, Legal

Sushma: Our helpline number, is 1 8 8 8 9 C H E T N A or 1 8 8 9 2 4 3 8 6 2. And I will give you some other resources too later to share with everybody. When people call us on our helpline, there are different types of calls. Some people just want to know if are they going through a situation of domestic violence and abuse. Sometimes they don't even realize that they don't know, but they do feel that something is not normal. So when they call us, there are, as I said, there are different types of calls. They just need the information about the resources we can give. And some people don't even know that there is, there is help available and they have that can help them. So we give them, first of all, is. To know that they are safe. Safety is of utmost importance. If someone is calling us through a crisis when they are actually, they've just recently experienced violence or they feel that they will not be safe, they can be harmed physically, that is a different type of call and the resources have to be different and I will talk more about that later. We would then give them help with counselling because they need to have talked to a therapist and understand the problem. After all, they are, there are a lot of issues and they are not sure of what to do their next steps. They don't know what can be done. They do not understand the law of the land. They do not see that. They only see, or maybe they've been told that if they take help it'll be worse for them and that they will be deported. There are so many things that they're going through, so we take, give them counselling and we give them legal health resources... There are some which are like Catholic Charities, Legal Aid, and Lawyers Without Borders. There are so many organizations that give free legal help as well. So for everyone, that is what we start with because most of the time they want to understand how they can maybe separate or maybe they need to find out their status issues. So generally we want most of them, they want to know, and have some legal advice. So once they start with all this and also take some counselling, they understand more, they understand better, and that's when they know what is the next step for them there. There are several resources available, even free counselling. Sometimes there are very desperate calls. Maybe they are having societal thoughts, so that is another issue. So we need to make sure that we can identify that and we can report it accordingly. In many cases they have a case means their child is a witness or a child could be, maybe can be harmed even if it is not directed at that child. So we usually refer those cases to Child Protective Services or cps.

[11:06] Signs of Domestic Violence... Physical, Emotional, Verbal, Sexual...

Sirisha: This is a very weighty topic, right?

There is so much impact on the family, not just the person experiencing abuse. It's a big dynamic that impacts a lot of people. But I wanted to take a step back. You made the statement early on where you said when people call, they do not know if they're going. violence. What sort of ways is violence experienced?

In my understanding, it could be financial, emotional, or physical. There are so many ways it can be. So what are some of the ways that someone who's experiencing it or someone who's a third party can recognize the symptoms of it to see what the next steps are?

Sushma: Yes, so domestic abuse can in many different ways. We usually only understand, or I would say the law enforcement, they see domestic violence only when they see some bruises or it's been that they've been battered. But it is not just physical, it is emotional, verbal, financial, sexual, and social isolation. So these, all these facets become, sometimes all these are mixed up together and the situation is really grim. They have no way of getting out of it is they just, they are just living in fear. So if you imagine, I always say that when we say domestic is something our own, our safety net. So when we are in the house, we know that we are safe. Whether it's whatever is happening outside the world, we are still safe in the house. But if a person is not safe inside their own house with their loved ones or their own family, then you can imagine that house is no more a haven for them. This domestic violence issue is to be taken very seriously. It is an... And when we talk of an epidemic, I know we just went through the pandemic of Covid 19 and how it changed our lives and this epidemic has been going on for years. So this needs to be addressed in a very strong way so that we can prevent this from happening. Sometimes we talk that, Oh, I wish that we could close shop, that this problem was resolved. There were no more cases of domestic violence and we didn't have to exist anymore. But that is not happening. We are getting even more busy now with so many more calls coming in. So that means this issue has to be taken up at much higher levels when we, and also when we talk about the abuse and the violence, many of our clients are facing emotional and verbal. Sometimes verbal is even worse than physical. I'm not saying the physical is better or, but verbal, it's actually, it hurts so much more. It hurts even deeper. And then along with that, they don't have the independence, especially the financial independence to do anything. They are so dependent on their abusers that they don't see a way out of it. They see that they're helpless and that can be even birds because then they are isolated from the rest of the world. So they are confined in their homes and they cannot take help even when they want to call someone. Many of the times they are being monitored. They're someone behind them listening to their conversations where whichever websites they go to, are being monitored. So it's, the abuse is not, in one way, it happens in so many different ways that the person gets entangled in that and getting out of those situations requires a lot of courage. So whenever people call us on our helpline, we want to be there to be the first ones and make sure that we can pick up that call because we don't know who's calling and at what moment they're calling, what is going through Will. Did they just go through something? Are they fearing that something worse can happen? So we always want to be there for them to listen to them. And I would also tell, talk about some of the calls that we receive. So there are different calls like I was saying in our headline. So we get calls, which are totally in crisis. They may be locked, locked in another room. They may be calling from a bathroom, or they may have gone to the garage, or they may be just standing outside the house. And finally, they dare to call us. So, in those calls, we have to be very careful because we want to make sure that they are safe.

[15:48] Safety Planning is Paramount

Sushma: And this is the first thing we ask them, are you in imminent danger right now? And do you need to go to a safer place? So that is the time we tell them it's best to hang up and call 9 1 1. And we tell them, If you cannot call, we'll call. Just give us a little bit about your location and we quickly ask them for their address, where they're located and many times they're in such a situation they don't even know what to say. They forget their apartment numbers if they're in an apartment or they forget simple things. So we have to get all the information and then we call nine one. But we do encourage them to do that so that police can come immediately to rescue and if that is not the case, if they are not in imminent danger, we tell them to gather their things, make sure that the other person doesn't get to know what they're doing, and they have to make sure that they have their documents and the children's documents, the passports, their IDs, their vaccination records and also make sure that if they are driving, they have a car that there is sufficient gas. And they always keep a spare set of keys with them. So there is a lot the, we, For us, safety planning is very important because that is how they can plan to do something. And there are some calls which are, like I said, a friend may be calling for somebody saying that my friend is going through this situation, but she doesn't want to make the call and I'm very concerned about her. So, what is the way that we can help? So we try to get the information about what the abuse is and we tell them how to get help at that time. We do prefer the person to call us herself so that we can understand the situation better and, uh, we can help them through giving the proper resources that they need at that time and we talk to all the mainstream shelters and we try to get them a place over there. Unfortunately, there are times when the shelters are full. They don't even have a room that day. So, we have to kindly contact them almost every day to find out if they have a space. And we also talk to the local saunas, the people who own hotels, motels, that if they, And we just get a room for a few days for them because safety is the main concern, right? So, We always want them to be safe. That's the main issue. Otherwise, if, for some calls, we would just give them the resources, we'll share the legal citizen also for counselling help, or even if they need to just find out what their status can be. So we also talk to attorneys and we give them a free consultation so that they can ask all the questions.

[18:46] Safety Plan...Gathering Documents etc...

Sirisha: That's a lot of very relevant information because you talked about different scopes. As you said, someone is in crisis. It's a whole different situation when their safety is at risk. It's an escalation that needs to be dealt with but wanted some more clarity on when they're putting together a safety plan, gathering their documents, and gathering their keys. I suspect a lot of people do not know where that stuff is kept or even have access to it. So what do they do then? And say that kids are in school or they're unable to contact them or they don't know this information. And a lot of the population in your case, the immigrant population, may not even need to know what documents are there. They don't have access to it. It creates much more complications. What does that look like?

Sushma: Yes, that is very true. It's a situation which is like high risk and we always, when somebody calls and we know that they are not going to leave the house right now. So we do tell them to plan that in case the next time the situation escalates and they need to leave, they need to be very sure that they carry all the required documents with them. So we usually tell them to make a list of all the things, especially all their IDs, and their passports, and I know you said that they do not know where they are. Maybe those are under lock and key and, or even if they have access to it. And if they move something, the other person may get to know that something is going on. So we tell them that whenever it is safe, make sure that they can make copies of those documents and either they can take pictures and save them. But very being very careful that when they take pictures, that phone cannot be shared because their phones are also monitored. In many cases we tell them, just take, make copies, put them in a bag, and maybe leave it with their neighbor's or leave it with a friend so that at least they have the copies of their documents and they don't lose that. Many times, their emails are also hacked, so we tell them to be very careful about what they email, and their text. Even when they call us, we tell them that now you go back and you delete this number that this was called, and when we call them, we have to call them, we always go as an unknown caller also if people are visiting our website, on the website, there is a button too. There's a, they can click and that will take them away from the website and no, and that history will not be there... So that is also, we explain to them that this is the next thing they need to do. Make sure that they delete all history if they have been going on any websites like ours or any other organization that is related to domestic violence and this is only to keep them safe so that the other person who's monitoring their emails, their calls do not get to know that they're trying to get help because that always escalates the situation. Safety planning is not, other than having the documents, we tell them that always keep a handbag with the duplicate keys of the house, duplicate car keys, and also any other thing that they think is important to them. We tell them to put that bag somewhere or hide it in the car itself. And have something that you can hold onto that the other person cannot know or just best is to go and give it to a neighbor's or a friend.

[22:15] Staying Safe...Precautions to take

Sirisha: That's very important information. Leveraging others. It was interesting and important to find out that you have ways in your system to click and clear histories because you cannot leave a trace.

In some ways. They're going into hiding in their own house to protect themselves, to have a safety plan to rescue themselves at a later time when it's safe to do. What makes them decide to take that step? When they've created a safety plan, is there a trigger or do they come up with a plan on when to do it?

Sushma: There can be a trigger. There may not be a trigger. They may have been thinking about it for a long time, but they may not have talked to anyone about it, so they may not have had the resources there. That is also one thing, so we always tell them that whatever resources we give them, and if they're noting it down on a piece of paper, they need to make sure that they can hide it in their handbag somewhere so that when the time is there, then they can call and take the help and also the numbers that we give for the shelters is that they, let's say the abuser is in the house all of the time, and now the abuser has just left for an hour or two. So that's, that is the window between which some people have put everything together and just left the. because while the person is there, they cannot do anything. So these are the windows that they need to make use of whenever they can to if they are not calling a friend or they're not calling the police. So that is, they need to make sure that they can leave during that time. The other thing would be that if they have those, their documents, it just gives them the confidence that, okay, now they have the stuff that they need and even though they're leaving the house, it's not easy. It does require a lot of courage from this side to make that decision. And believe me, like the national statistics is that it happens after seven times that people leave the house. But I would say in our community, it's not seven. It may be the 10th, 11th, or 20th. Because the safety net is different for them. The mainstream people over here, know that they have other friends, they have relatives. They may be going to work and they have co-coworkers who can help them out. But in the case of the South Asian community who are immigrant community, they do not have that many people that they know and because of this, they are being isolated. They don't even get to know a lot of people in this. For them, it's even harder to leave their house because they have nowhere to go at times. So unless, until they don't find a safe place like a shelter or some other place that is arranged for them, they are very hesitant to leave, especially when they have small kids. Even a shelter always sounds for them. It's like an unknown, unheard-of place. It's like becoming homeless. A lot of them have this concern that, Oh, I don't wanna go to a shelter. I'm not homeless. I have my own home. Why should I leave this? So for them, we always advise them that, No, we don't tell you to leave, but we always tell you to be safe. Be safe yourself and keep your kids safe. So it is only for your safety that we are telling you that you need to go to a safe place. Otherwise, we do not advise anyone that they need to stay or they should not stay or any such advice. We leave the decision to them because ultimately it is their decision. It's when the time comes, it comes for them, right? They need to make that decision for themselves. We are only helping them in that process.

[25:57] Help a Friend-What can you do?

Sirisha: Thanks for clarifying that point. Because it is a personal decision and it's about the safety net that is needed for them to move forward. You said a portion of your calls come from friends and allies of people, coworkers, and other resources.

So how as a third person can someone recognize the symptoms of this abuse or this violence that's happening in someone's life, and how do you have that conversation? As you said, whether it's in our community or outside, I think no matter where the conversation can be quite difficult. So what are the ways to approach it so that you don't put the other person in a sort of defensive position or a very hard bind, but they're willing to share? So that you can help provide the support for them?

Sushma: Yeah, that is true. Most of the time when anyone, either their relatives or their friends or coworkers calls us, we tell them that we are going to give them all the resources we under. We assess the situation with them. We go over certain, we ask them certain questions. Many times they may not have all the answers. Also because they are also getting the information from that person, and they don't think of all the aspects. As an organization, we have been working with so many people, so we know what all it entails to help somebody because there is not just like being immigrants or not immigrants, there are so many things that happen. So we have to ask them a lot of questions. Sometimes they go back and then ask, and then they come back to us, but then that's the way it works. So we are always telling them that one more thing is that do not ever confront. The abuser himself or whoever is the abuser, because we don't want them also to be unsafe in any way because they're helping the person, the abuser. You don't know whether that person can take out the anger on the person who's trying to help. So we always tell them to be sure that they are also safe. And whenever you communicate with the per, with the abuse, be careful where you meet, how you meet, and what conversation you have in front of others so that their confidentiality is not compromised in any manner and the same thing goes for even the victims themselves. We always say that if you have taken the help of anybody, whether it's an organization, whether it's from Chetna or their friends or relatives, do not ever divulge that information to the abuser. Even when the times are better, even when they're having moments, they're all normal because this is like a cycle. It goes, the cycle can be really bad, and then it goes like it's, the abuser will come and apologize, and then they will be very nice to them. So we tell them, even in your weakest moments, do not give that information. Do not share the information, because you never know how that will be taken, and that may flare up into an even bigger crisis. So this is also part of our safety planning. To be, keep everything very confidential and the same thing we tell to the people who are trying to help them. So for someone who is experiencing the situation or someone who's observing it, what am I looking for? What makes me know is if I'm going through it or what someone sees as someone going through it, if it sees another person, I'll go, I'll do that first. So let's say you are, you have a set of friends, and you meet them regularly, but you do not know whether somebody's going through a situation because when they are in public, nobody wants to talk about it. No one wants to talk about it because they are in a way, they're ashamed. They think that they are, that this situation is only happening to them, and they think that it's like it's their destiny, it's their luck. What can they do about it? There's nothing that can be done. There is no help available and they are the only sole victims in the world. Because they may not have ever seen that happen to others in the family or their friend circle, so they think that they are the only ones. This is a very sensitive way, so if you are in a gathering and a person is not really taking part in the conversation, but is actually being very watchful, looking here and there, and then being a little looks bit scared, that has happened. But sometimes a lot of people would ignore that. They would just disregard that, that maybe the person is distracted for some reason, or if that person is not very comfortable when the abuser is around. This is something that we, It's not easy to find that out, but it is. If you know a person and you have been looking at a person many times, you can see the signs of that. Even if you see the smallest of a bruise, it's no harm in asking that. I ho that. How did you, what happened? And even if that person says, Oh, it was an accident, you can tell by the way the person has been saying that it may not have been an accident, it could have been something else. Because we all know that what is it? What it is to be your normal person, right? To have a normal life and others, the person herself, that the victim also at times will avoid. talking about her personal life. Even if people are talking about their partners many times they don't want to talk about the partner, they will try to avoid that conversation because they feel that they don't have any good things to share in their personal life. So that can also be a red flag at times if that person has started isolating, not coming to parties and not co. and when, whenever she comes, she is not herself, she's not smiling the way you would think a normal person would or feeling happy about being amongst others. You just get that feeling that this person is trying to hide her feelings and she doesn't want to come out in the open and talk about it. But if someone does bring up that topic. I would say that we should never disregard that. Never say that. Oh, it's okay. Try to just make that adjustment. It's fine. Things will be normal. Just do the way the person wants you to do or whatever that it's okay, people fight and you know you'll be fine. This is something that we should never disregard. If the next time you meet the person, please do ask. I hope that things are better with you Now, if there is anything you want or you just say that any time you want to talk, this is my number, please talk. You can call me anytime. So it is about just being a considerate friend to that person so that she has somebody to lean on that feeling like they say that you just give a small straw to someone and that they can latch onto that little glimmer of hope that can help them out.

[33:15] Social Isolation... Outreach...

Sirisha: It sounds like they know that if you are watching it and you hear someone reach out or something is different because from what you're saying and from what you read, sometimes domestic violence can start from day one, but I think it's a slow escalation process so it builds on itself or what time the abuse gets worse, and if it's emotional or verbal or physical or sexual as it's building, especially the isolation part when they're getting cut off from their family and friends. There are certain signals and what you're highlighting is not to ignore the signals, but to be cognizant of them, and when you have that safe space to check in with your friend or person who's going through this to make sure they're doing okay and that they have access to you or resources if needed in that safety net that you're building around it so that they're not isolated over time. Of course, for people who come in and maybe as an immigrant and are only at home and have no network. That whole situation is a completely different story because I think the challenge for you, and I wanna touch upon this a little later, what the impact is to the children as well, but for those who are completely isolated, I think the challenge is how do you even reach them? Because there's no way to reach you, no access even for you, even as much networking you do if you can't get, the door is always closed. There is a box. There is no way you don't even know it exists. There is no way to reach them. So I'm sure that's quite hard for doing. I know we've been talking about this a bit too, so how would they know they're going through this, especially verbally and emotionally?

How do people recognize the symptoms? What are some of the most challenging ones you have seen where it's maybe been even hard for you to tell? If they're going through a difficult situation or going through violence or it's hard for someone to glean out. Maybe you can walk it through a scenario and then people can understand.

Sushma: Okay, the delineation of what that. when we are trying to differentiate what that looks like. Yeah, that's a very good question. And it's, it is definitely. So the people that, as you said, are isolated. They are isolated. Some of them, they have not even been out of the house because the groceries are being given to them. They don't need to go out there all the time inside the house. They don't have a mobile phone. They don't have access to any finances. They do not have a driver's license. They have, they don't know how to drive. They don't even know how to step out of the house. They have language barriers and they don't even know, they can even talk, to their neighbor's. They are told that if they ever go out, they will be sent back home. And they just live in that fear that they don't. Where will they go if something happens? So that situation is, you can even feel it like while we are talking, that it's like that person is living in like a black hole. and does not know what to do. We have arranged for small meetings where we used to go to the apartment complex leasing offices, especially where the population of the South Asian community is much higher and they do not diverge the demographics of who their residents are. So we just used to go to those apartment complex leasing offices and we would just hand out our brochures. We said You don't have to tell us, but if you see, if you hear or you think that there is something, either you can ask for a call or these are the brochures and you can just write on our helpline number and give it to that person. That is if they get to know, and we used to tell. once in a while if a person, you see somebody coming to the office, we do tell them that, just show that these resources are there. That person may not need it, but that person may know a neighbor's whom she has never seen and may think, Oh, there's something wrong over here. So you just have to see the red flags that are going there. So that was one way that we were doing our outreach. We also con contacted the local police departments and we gave them some PowerPoint presentations on our culture because they don't understand how come a woman would just simply listen and not do anything about what she's going through. They just don't see that.

[37:34] South Asian Community...Unique Challenges

Sushma: In the South Asian community, the violence is not by the intimate partner, but it could be from the extended family as well. Many times we've seen some cases where the partner is not hurting the person, but the extended family. Beating them physically also. So these kinds of situations are unheard of over here because why would someone's brother or parents hit someone when the partner is not doing anything? Sometimes there is a phone call from back home and that one phone call can escalate the situation. Also, another thing. In our Indian community is the dowry system. There could be a demand at any time, and the local organizations over here don't understand that. Why is Dowry a reason for violence or any kind of abuse, whether it could be verbal?

[38:28] How do you identify Domestic Abuse

Sushma: Going back to the question about seeing whether this person is going through domestic abuse or not. It's when we talk about marriage or any partnership, we talk about a mutual respect. Every relationship is based on mutual respect, even with our own children's siblings, parents, and relatives. So if it is a marriage of mutuality sometimes one person is, has his way or her way, and then the other time it's the other person's way. So these kinds of things are normal. If you are being, if the other person is all the time being sarcastic that, Oh, you don't, you are not educated. You don't even know this much. And makes the person feel like belittling the other person. This is not very normal, right? We all know that. We all have this thing that even if the other person, like everyone, is not a doctor or engineer, and we are not all, we are different professionals, so what we know the other person may know not, may not know about us, and there is no such thing that if a person is more educated or less, it's about your respect that. saying that all the time, especially in front of children or in front of friends or family. If they are, they use insulting words or they, every time they complain about what kind of food is being cooked and that the person doesn't know anything, that the person, but you are not helping her to learn. It's the thing that nobody can be perfect, but how do you do that? How do you deal with that? Even the abusers, I would say, when you do a study on them, they do have narcissistic tendencies. They do feel maybe under all that, they are very in. and they find the other person may be better, maybe even more educated sometimes from them and that too can make them make it that way. Or they may have had some ab a childhood where they have seen abuse and they think it is normal to talk to a person like that. So people come from different backgrounds and they have a different history in the family and things are there. But then still, if a person is not being respectful or not keeping the boundaries, it is something that, that the abused needs to understand that it's not going to work for them in the long term and, usually we would, we also ask them that if they would like to do joint counselling, couple counselling also, but then most of the times we have seen that the abusers are. Do not agree to that. They say that we are perfectly fine. The other person needs help, so this person needs to go and take help. So that is also like a narcissistic quality in people. And many times we have also, I have also seen that they are both the same. Like they, they can, they go and have an argument at the same level, but that argument sometimes one person gets physical at the end of it. And that also is because maybe one person is stronger than the. So when they cannot find the words, they just use their physical ability at that time. So it's very difficult to, some, especially like verbal and even financial, it's very difficult for a person to say that, Okay, you, they'll say that, Oh, we, I don't get money. I just go out and everything is. I don't have anything in my purse that is also a form of abuse. Because if you don't share the resources that are there with the family, then you are being left out, right? You are not equal to the other person. You're doing all the work, but you don't know what's happening with the financials of the house. So these things are something that should be a red flag why you are not on the bank account, why you don't have a credit card, why you are not being told that, what is the income of the family?

[42:48] Impact on Children

Sirisha: So it's an imbalance of power and respect in a lot of ways. What you're talking about is that you see that imbalance. So the other part of it is, when you're looking at it, how is the impact on children? What is the effect on them as well?

Sushma: For the children, I think it is the hardest to see, especially when it's their mothers being abused and if it is going on in front of them. It has a mental effect on them, and sometimes the children are very small. They don't even understand, but I would say that they do have that feeling that something is not right in the house. Right? Because they are also scared of the abuser. They are scared to say anything. They're scared to protect the person who is being abused, and in fact, they may not even know what to do. We think that the children should also get counselling help. Whenever we have a client call and that person has kids who can go and see a child specialist, we do tell them that they need to make sure that the child gets therapy. Even the school counsellors can help a little, but then sometimes they need even more help than just the school counsellors. Us, whenever there is a phone call, especially at a time of crisis, the first thing we ask them is, do you have kids in the house? If you do, how many and how old are they and are they with you? Or either you are holding them while you are, while the other person is abusing or maybe physically hurting you. Because that means that the child is in danger too. And by law of the land, we are supposed to inform the CPS right away because the kids' life and their safety is very important. And many times, even if that situation, that crisis is over and right, and at that time the person is calling us, we do tell them that you need to either think more about their children because it's not just you and their children are also suffering the way because of what is going on in the house and it can have a long term effect. for them as a human. And even when they grow up, whatever they witness in the house is going to remain in their memory forever. So we always advise taking counselling for them as well, whether it is together or some sessions which are separate when we inform the cps. CPS is going to visit the house, do a welfare check on the children, and if they see that the abuser is still there and the abused person is also there with the children and is not trying to take care of the children, or she cannot do anything so that they do advise them that they need to be separated because they cannot have the children in an unsafe home. And we always advise our clients that they need to understand that the CPS is there to help them out. and not just to take the children away. And it has happened in some cases that the children were taken away from both the parents. So this is even more traumatic for the parents and especially our community because this is something we cannot imagine our children going against. Being in somebody else's house. Being safe is the most important. So we tell them that if they have to go to a shelter, you should do that with their children so that this situation doesn't happen, where their kids have to be taken away from them.

Sirisha: You touched on this earlier, there are so many escalation points and so many touchpoints that impact everyone. You talked about the impact on the children and there are social norms that also interfere with this. Has there been ever a case where a domestic partner, an intimate partner, actually has called out when their partner is being abused or going to violence? From their family or other surroundings and the second question is, I know we are Taji talking about women here, but there must be men I'm sure experiencing and that social and mental and societal expectations can be quite challenging because it does happen.

Covid did highlight, and you're saying you're seeing an increase in calls, which sad to say is not surprising because there have been so many articles, so much concern around the world because people are isolated in their safety. Like you said, it's all about safety and you expect domestic to be safe, but it's not safe because covid, everyone was stuff at home.

[47:38] Men experiencing Domestic Violence

Sirisha: Go to safety or have a place to rent. So I just wanna touch back on those two points. Has the intimate partner ever initiated this and what happens from a men's perspective if they are going through this as well?

Sushma: Yeah, that's a good question. Like we've had several cases, where the extended family was, even physically hurting the person, but the intimate partner did not do anything. And until now, I have not seen a case where the intimate partner has stepped up. Because if that happens, then the extended family would not do anything. Let's talk about the men also who are being abused. If the women are coming out and talking about the abuse, it's very difficult for men to come out and talk because that will make them look weak and that is not how a man should ever look like. And they have this, that, no, they are the match of men, and they cannot be, They cannot come out and tell that they are being hurt. They are being hurt by someone. But we do. A few cases, in which men have been abused and they have come out and they have taken help from us, They're like, a pandemic of course never helped. And our calls were reduced during the pandemic. We were getting worried that it's like going to be a bubble that's going to burst and that's what happened actually for men, it is, it may not be more physical, but it is financial. And it is verbal. Emotional. They're, they are considered like you are not good for anything. Things like that. Or the partner maybe having some other partners and does not care for this person and then have, it's, when they talk about their abuse, it's like they think that they can do better, but they were not allowed to, and in a lot of cases talked about the abuse earlier that when the partner comes here on H one B Visa, which I don't know, a lot of people may not know, but it's to come and work over here, and then their partners are on H four and if they get the permit to work, they can work. In many cases, I would say 90%. It is the other way around, right? The men would be having that and they would bring their spouses as dependents, but there have been cases where it has been the other way around and we have seen abuse happen in that kind of cases a lot and many times even the family is involved in that. For men, I think it. Such a hard job to talk about their personal and more intimate life. So whoever has contacted us so far, we have been telling them also to take counselling because this can have a long-term effect on their emotional health. After all, it is not normal for a man to be abused. It's just the way society is, just the way our thinking is that we make it even more difficult for a man to be the victim at any time.

Sirisha: I'm glad you clarified the point. In the first case, if the domestic partner was the one to report the abuse, it would never have happened in the first place because the extended family wouldn't be able to.

They have in some ways, given passive content or active consent for the abuse. and the challenge for men is incredibly hard. The barriers are mental, physical, and also for someone to even think of the idea of a man going through this. Quite challenging.

[51:18] Domestic Violence Impacts all Stratas of Society...What can you do?

Sirisha: I do wanna highlight the fact as we rub this critical part of this episode, you said this many times affects all sorts of strata of the society. It is irrespective of social, economic, educational, whatever, consequences. You could be an incredibly accomplished, educated woman, financially independent in everyone's eyes who could be going through this and there is no way someone could envision. Again, those, this conversation has had in focused on the immigrant population. This podcast is heard in different places, so no matter where in the world you're listening to this, be aware that there are resources in your community around you. If you need help, try to see, as Sushma mentioned in a safe space, in a confidential space to find the resources and help. and maybe, if you have people you are aware of who are going through this challenge, you find a safe space to have that conversation. I like the fact that you were very intentional about reaching out to apartment complexes to essentially reach out because, in close-knit communities, which a lot of communities around the globe are, there is someone who will notice something. This is no different. When the police and the community say, Look for these signs of trafficking or violence, or whatever other things, it is no different from watching similar signs for something because this is in a more intimate setting, the same kind of challenge that someone is facing.

Sushma: Thank you Sirisha, for actually doing this segment, especially like you said, it's October is the month of domestic violence awareness month and there are so many events being held to highlight this epidemic that is there in our community and a lot of people are reaching out even more. We there are through these events, and the main thing is the outreach. We believe that we can only control or maybe we can have an effect on reducing the domestic violence in our community through outreach and education. So I tell everybody that don't think this is a taboo subject because it is... It is even worse than any other make like COVID or anything. It is affecting a lot of lives. It is not just one person who is being abused, but everyone who is related to that one person. And that triple effect is going through the whole community. This has to have an open forum. People need to know about this. People need to talk about it, and people need to address it.

[54:01] Men as Allies to End Domestic Violence

Sushma: And it is not only a woman's issue, it is a men's issue because most of the time, most of the cases, the abusers are men. And I'm not saying that women are not, but this is true. And we want more male members to become volunteers, to be the spokesperson for standing. and pointing out, having the courage to, even if that person is their brother, their friends, anyone, or even anyone at the workplace stand up and say, No, this is wrong. This needs to stop. So I would encourage most of the male community members to stand up against this. We just need to end this epidemic the domestic violence.

Sirisha: Thanks. And I think that is a great point. Men are our allies, they need to be there to support us. When we started this conversation with the story where a male CPA colleague asked you to volunteer with Chetna, and I think that is the initiative because it is a men's issue, we need them to step in and support and be the advocates and have the conversation within their peer circles as well. Because the awareness needs to be raised just to be there to support, to end this epidemic. And with Covid, essentially reaching a down, you're going to get. More people and more calls as you're already receiving. And we need to understand how to end this within our communities, and across the world as well.

[55:30] Success Stories

Sirisha: So Chetna has been working, like you said, for many years, almost 15 years now. So what have been some of the success stories of the organization and what have you heard? How have these women come out of this and found their voice, found their spirit, found themselves, and what have they done?

Sushma: Yeah, so we feel proud when we talk about our clients who have gone through, I would say they've gone through hell. They have gone through such difficult situations in life that most of us would think unimaginable. But when they get a little bit of help, a little bit of resource, just a little bit and handholding just for a small time, just to make them feel that they are safe now. And they can do a lot. They have done so comfortably or even more successfully. Of us, I'm still in contact with so many of our ex-clients, we call them, and they are part of like our friends. They become like my daughters, my friends, my sisters, like the extended family abusing and then them to come out, get their education and then go and lead a very successful life is, makes us very happy when we see these people, they're doing so well. It's been almost 10 years since I got a call from a friend's friend and she said, Oh, there's this girl, she has a toddler. And she is at my house and she got beaten up. So I just brought her to my house and when I went to see her, I get emotional. When I saw her I was shocked. And so we sent her to a shelter at the time and this girl, she is an engineer from back home, comes from a very good family and with the toddler there was not much he could do, even though she was very helpful with her spouse's business. They had a family business over here and she used to take care of the business too. Very smart, enterprising, younger, but the extended family, I do not know what was there. Whether it was something more they expected from her, they would hold her and this guy would. Even when she was carrying her child, when she came out of that good thing her parents back home were very supportive. A lot of times we see that the victims do not get help from their families too, because they have so many expectations from the person who is come from India and married an American. So they have that. Oh, so now they are going to help other people too. But in this particular case, girl, she had the support of her family. So they helped her with taking care of the child and then she like she started more over here. She took some computer courses and she worked. So she would work in the evening or she would study in the evening and work in the morning. She went through a really difficult time, but now she is working for a very big company. and she is leading such a happy and very accomplished life. We need to talk about some more success stories. This was just one I could think of because this person even spoke at our, one of the fundraisers. She was finally able to come out of it and talk about her situation. But we do have a lot of people who are now very well settled in life. Very few of them have remarried, but most of them, they're very happy the way they are.

Sirisha: Sushma, I know this has been hard for you because it's more personal and it sounds quite horrific from what you describe what she went through, but it has been a success story and you as a friend and the organization J Now and other organizations can help and I think what we want to end this episode is the message of hope. And a great note to end it on. If you're going through this, to someone who's going through this, someone who's having a really hard time or a tough time going through this epidemic, this endemic violence that they're facing. First, make sure you're safe. Make sure you can access the resources. And there is always a big, bright light at the end of the tunnel. You will be able to come out, be successful at it, and you will be your accomplished person. And we started with this conversation, with it being Diwali and all about light. That is a light, a big light, which will dispel this darkness. So I hope everyone is safe and everyone is, if not getting there on the path to safety. Sushma, thank you for sharing this. And I wanted to ask you a question.

[01:00:11] Note to your 21-year-old self...

Sirisha: This is a question I ask every guest. What advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

Sushma: I know it's going back to so many years, like for my age, going back so many years and thinking about that because 21 years is when we are in the prime. and we have much to look forward to in life. We are looking at the future. It's, there are a lot of things, whether it is career-wise at that time, we are focused on our career and maybe finding a partner, right? So it's to tell me what it would be, what advice I would give myself. I would say that I would like to have been more focused and understood my priorities in life better. Maybe I should have understood what my future is going to hold for me if that is the time I have to do something for a better future. It's just very tough to answer just one sentence.

Sirisha: It's hard right at 21, the world is an open space to explore and life is going to meander. So I think it's hard to plan so far ahead as well and what is the one word you would use to describe yourself?

Sushma: One word would be I'm a good listener.

And considering your work with

Sirisha: Sushma, I think that's incredible and that's a gift, and I'm glad you have it.

[01:01:34] Food for Thought ….Key Takeaways

Sirisha: I just want everyone who's listening, we will be sharing resources, a list of resources beyond Chetna in other communities that have access and resources available. But by no means will this be a comprehensive list because there are a lot of places that do offer services, but it'll give you a starting point and it'll be at the end of the podcast on the RSS feed. Plus it'll be also on the blog and Women Career and

You could reach out to Chetna, Sushma did give the number. We will ask her to repeat it for you if you're sitting in the Dallas area or if you were looking to find resources around that.

And I want to share our helpline number. It's 1888 9CHETNA or 1 888 924 3862.

And thank you for listening. I would just say the adage, keep your eyes, and ears open. And I guess at this point from what your advisors, yes, we have to talk, but we have to be cautious of what you say. So just being cognizant of that and you could help someone or if you need resources, how to reach out on it. And thank you for highlighting this, this month, which is a very critical point. I know it's a conversation we are having in October, but doesn't mean it's something we don't think about all the time, just as we are going through it. So Sushma, thank you. I appreciate you joining this call today.

Sushma: Thank you again for being here. Thank you to you Sirisha too. Thank you for this.

Sirisha: I hope you enjoy today's episode, Tune and every other Wednesday. To catch the next episode, if you think a friend may benefit from this, please share this podcast with them. All the resources we talked about are also available on my website, women Career and

Please subscribe and leave us a review on your favorite podcast platform. I would love to hear from you about your stories in your journey. You can reach me on my blog, Twitter, Instagram, or Gmail at Women Career and Life. Until next time, this is Sirisha signing off. Remember, there are infinite possibilities to drive change in career and life, which will you choose to make a reality?

Resources Mentioned: Provided by Chetna DFW

Safety Plan (Attached below)

DV Safety Plan
Download PDF • 145KB

Domestic Violence Resource List in the US (Attached below)

Resource List for Clients--updated Oct 2022
Download PDF • 357KB

Domestic Violence & Sexual Abuse (Click on Link-Provided by Helping Survivors)

Addiction & Domestic Violence Resources (Click on Link-Provided by Boca Recovery Center)

Guest (Sushma Malhotra) : Chetna DFW

Host: Sirisha

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