Bembala Foundation: Helping One Survivor of Abuse at a Time

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Bembala Foundation: Helping One Survivor of Abuse at a Time

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My husband is an alcoholic….. he beats me every night. He threw me out into the street last night Akka, when I questioned him…. What should I do? What will happen to my children and me?

I got verbally abused again– how do we make my partner stop? I am losing my self-worth and feel useless!

My husband has been emotionally and physically torturing me for years. He makes me give up my salary and will not let me out of the house except to work. He doesn’t let me meet my friends or family. Can you help me get away from this hell?

My uncle touched me last week- in all the wrong places, I can’t tell my parents what I do?

These are some of the stories you have heard often (when some of your house help or neighborhood workers share stories with you) or others that you get to know from hushed whispers or a battered friend. We at Bembala Foundation came together nearly three years ago to do our part to help our communities become violence-free and abuse-free and to help these “victims.” We are primarily a volunteer-run organization from Whitefield, Bangalore, and are a Whitefield Rising Initiative. We provide help from our physical space at the Ob-Gyn OPD of Vydehi Hospital, from Monday to Friday, 11 am to 3 pm, and over a pan-India Helpline

Trained by professionals to support women and children facing abuse, we begin each case by providing emotional support and a willing listening ear. Additionally, we leverage an extensive partner network of police, lawyers, shelter home providers, counselors, vocational and skill trainers, and access to excellent medical facilities at Vydehi Hospital to help further survivors figure out the next steps. Bembala has helped over 250 women and children in the last two-plus years. While some have just needed to vent, others have been helped with us finding them safe shelter. Many have been assisted with legal advice from our lawyer network, while others have needed our presence at the police station to support them. We have even mediated reconciliations.

Here is what happens at Bembala on any given day- in the words of one of our volunteers:

My first befriending session evoked multiple emotions within and was a challenge. The survivor was a qualified IT engineer from a corporate background. She was a young mother with a young child. She was scared, in tears, and expressed total helplessness and despair. Her situation covered most aspects of domestic violence, including requiring immediate medical attention. Police intervention, counseling, and legal support were also extended to her by us. I felt I was able to convey comfort and empathy, leading to her opening up a lot. During the session, our experienced center manager was always on hand for further information and support. This, I must reiterate, is an excellent confidence-building booster for be frienders. Another constant is a gentle reminder/ pointer as to how one must stay focused on the survivor’s feelings without bias and prejudices.

Bembala Foundation also believes that awareness and outreach can tackle problems related to abuse long-term. From hour-long talks in communities and with women of all societies to gender sensitization and equality-related discussions with school children and invested partners like police constables and teachers, Bembala has run many awareness formats. We are also active on social media and work with many partners to light aspects of abuse and violence. We hope our efforts on this front will eventually lead to the prevention and abrogation of domestic violence of all types.

Here is another volunteer’s experience at one of our awareness sessions:

I met some women from disadvantaged sections of society on Bembala Volunteer Day. The objective was to empower them with the use of drama techniques. In one of these, the women were asked to enact metaphors of the storm, kite, and iron rod. Many of them associated the storm with their husbands. “How do you weather the storm,” they were asked, “like a kite or like an iron rod”?

“Every woman here is an iron rod,” proclaimed one woman. “We have all braved storms.” Everyone nodded. “I have been a kite.” said another. “I have flown with the wind and survived the storm.” “I can be a kite with the husband, but I must be the iron rod for the children’s sake,” a woman said.

As they shared stories, I was genuinely humbled. All the trials in six decades of my life paled in comparison. All my current fears seemed trivial. They were so mattered of fact about the difficulties….

The spirit and ethos of Bembala Foundation are steadily and indeed evolving with every experience, and with feedback from survivors. We strive to work with honesty, transparency, simplicity, and “from the heart.” With all these support services, another significant advantage for the survivor is the center’s location at Vydehi Hospital. Our thanks to their generosity in giving this space for free and enabling anonymity for survivors. As Bembala touches so many lives, we hope our role in encouraging and empowering women and children is solidified.

(Our services are free and confidential. Assistance over our Helpline (99806 60548) is available from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm, Monday to Saturday.

(Our services are free and confidential. Assistance over our Helpline (99806 60548) is available from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm, Monday to Saturday. Email: bembalainfo@whitefieldrising.

org, BembalaFoundation/)