- By ANUM HAMID
Domestic violence, also known as intimate partner violence or family violence, is a pattern of abusive behaviors that occur within a home or domestic setting. It involves the use of physical, emotional, psychological, or sexual abuse to exert power and control over a family member, typically a spouse or intimate partner. Domestic violence can also extend to children and other family members within the household.
The consequences of domestic violence are far-reaching and devastating, leading to physical injuries, emotional trauma, and long-lasting psychological effects. It creates an environment of fear, intimidation, and powerlessness for the victims, making it challenging for them to escape the cycle of abuse.
In the heart of Peshawar, Pakistan, lived a young boy named Daniyal. He was bright, imaginative, and full of dreams. However, his life was shrouded in a reality that was far from ideal. From a very young age, Daniyal faced a form of domestic violence that was seldom discussed in society – the suppression of his dreams and desires by his own family.
In Daniyal’s household, decisions about his education, career, and even his friendships were made by his parents and extended family. He was never given the opportunity to explore his own interests or envision a future of his choosing. His parents had predefined paths for him, molded by traditions and societal expectations.
As Daniyal grew older, he felt increasingly suffocated, longing for the freedom to follow his passions and make his own decisions. But every attempt to voice his desires felt like an uphill battle against the weight of generations of cultural norms.
His dreams were simple yet profound. He wanted to pursue a career in the arts, to paint, write, and express himself creatively. However, his family insisted that he should become a doctor, a profession considered prestigious and respectable in their community.
The conflict between his dreams and his family’s expectations took a toll on Daniyal’s mental health. He struggled with depression and anxiety, feeling like he was drowning in a life that wasn’t his own. Each time his dreams were brushed aside, it was as if a part of his spirit was being crushed.
In the depths of despair, Daniyal found solace in a small public library tucked away in the heart of Peshawar. There, he discovered a treasure trove of books that transported him to different worlds and expanded his horizons. He found inspiration in the stories of individuals who defied conventions and pursued their passions against all odds.
One day, as he perused the library’s shelves, Daniyal stumbled upon an old notebook filled with poems and artwork. The name inscribed on it was “Rahila,” a talented artist who had lived in Peshawar generations ago. Rahila’s story resonated deeply with Daniyal, as she too had faced similar struggles with her family’s disapproval of her artistic pursuits.
Emboldened by Rahila’s journey, Daniyal decided to take a stand for his dreams. He began expressing himself through art and poetry in secret, fearing his family’s reaction. But the more he created, the more he realized that his dreams were worth fighting for.
The years passed, Daniyal’s dreams began to wither, buried under the weight of societal norms and expectations. He reluctantly pursued a career in a field that promised financial stability but offered little fulfillment for his soul.
In the backdrop of his silent struggles, Daniyal observed countless other children, teenagers, and adults facing similar domestic violence of dreams suppressed. Many in his community dared not challenge the status quo, fearing rejection and the loss of familial love and support.
Yet, Daniyal could not ignore the ache in his heart, the emptiness that grew with each passing day. He saw the toll it took on his mental well-being and those around him. Depression and anxiety became constant companions for many who had sacrificed their dreams to appease tradition.
Seeking an escape from the suffocating reality, Daniyal found solace in smoking cigarettes. It started innocently enough, a fleeting moment of rebellion hidden in the shadows. But soon, the simple act of smoking became a dangerous addiction, offering a fleeting sense of relief from the pressure he faced.
Even in his darkest moments, Daniyal was forced to conceal his addiction from his family. Smoking was strictly forbidden in their household, and the stigma surrounding it added to his feelings of shame and isolation. He became an expert at masking the smell and hiding his habit, constantly living in fear of discovery.
As his addiction deepened, so did his pain. The control that had once dictated his dreams now extended to controlling his every move. The once-bright young boy was now a shadow of his former self, carrying the weight of his secrets like chains around his neck.
In the depths of despair, Daniyal realized that he could not continue down this destructive path. The very thing he had turned to for escape had become a new form of control, and he felt trapped once again, this time by his own addiction.
Daniyal’s journey towards healing unfolded, he discovered that he was not alone in his struggles. Many others in his community grappled with hidden addictions and the pain of feeling controlled by societal expectations. He formed connections with support groups, where individuals shared their stories of battling domestic violence and addiction.
With newfound resilience and determination, Daniyal chose to break free from the chains of control that had bound him for so long. Every decision made for such people feels like a slap to their dreams, leaving them feeling trapped and devoid of agency in their own lives. This lack of autonomy can lead to immense stress, depression, and feelings of helplessness.
Daniyal’s addiction slowly loosened its grip on him, he found strength and purpose in sharing his story with others. Though the road to healing was not without its challenges, Daniyal emerged as a symbol of hope and resilience. He proved that even in the face of domestic violence and addiction, the human spirit had the capacity to soar when given the freedom to pursue dreams, seek help, and find strength in vulnerability.
As Daniyal shared his courageous journey of battling suppressed dreams, domestic violence, and addiction, his voice became a beacon of hope for countless others facing similar struggles in Peshawar and beyond. By breaking the silence surrounding these taboo topics, he shattered the chains that had held him captive for so long. Through his art and his words, he inspired a movement of openness, empathy, and understanding, sparking conversations that challenged traditional norms and redefined what it meant to be free. Daniyal’s story became a testament to the power of resilience, the strength in vulnerability, and the unyielding human spirit that could rise above even the darkest of circumstances. As others found solace in his experiences, he knew that his pain had a purpose – to kindle the flames of hope, drive, and compassion in the hearts of those who had once been silenced.
It is essential to recognize and address the impact of cultural norms on the mental health and well-being of children and young adults. Creating awareness about the psychological consequences of domestic violence and the suppression of personal autonomy can help break the cycle of violence and empower individuals to seek support and make their voices heard.
In recent years, mental health awareness has been growing worldwide, and conversations surrounding mental health and well-being have become more open. It is crucial for societies to continue promoting mental health support and breaking the stigma associated with seeking help. Only by acknowledging and addressing these issues can we create a more compassionate and understanding environment where individuals are encouraged to pursue their dreams and live fulfilling lives free from the shackles of domestic violence and oppressive cultural norms.
- ANUM HAMID is a knowledgeable and skilled media studies lecturer in Iqra National University, and journalist with a passion for sharing insights and perspectives on current events and issues.
- Cover photo by: Ammar Afaq