US-Based Actress and Activist Somy Ali on Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Goal Is to Transform Victim Into Survivor
Actress-activist Somy Ali. (Prashant Golecha photo)
By R.M. VIJAYAKAR/Special to India-West
MUMBAI — US-based actress and activist Somy Ali considers October to be important as it is the Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
“October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and given what I do with No More Tears, it’s an extremely important month of the entire year for me. The goal is to transform the victim into a survivor which means make them emotionally and financially independent. When we do this, there is a zero-recidivism rate,” said Ali, the founder and president of No More Tears, Inc.
“I can say this with the utmost guarantee that there isn’t an NGO in the whole world that provides the services we provide: from legal help to therapy, their very own apartments, driving lessons, a used car, education, job training, clothes, medical assistance and dental care. This is where every dollar of our donations goes to,” Ali adds.
According to her, what makes her NGO unique is that no one takes a salary, including herself. “Additionally, many NGOs place victims on waiting lists. How do you tell a victim who is getting beaten daily to call back after two months? That is absurd! No More Tears provides immediate assistance and does not turn people away. We have a vetting system and a protocol to follow, which means all victims are referred by the police departments, emergency rooms and the FBI. NMT is the second responder and we come in and fix the problem handed over to us by these agencies,” she shared.
Domestic violence victims go through psychological trauma, so at times it becomes difficult to explain to them to fight for their rights. At the same time, you have to keep yourself emotionally disconnected. Ali feels this is where therapists play a pivotal role.
“They help them heal. The lawyers that we provide the victims fight for their rights. As for me, while I have learned to compartmentalize, I am a human being after all with feelings. So yes, even after 14 years of doing this work, it impacts my psyche,” she said.
For her, the most difficult cases are when children are physically and sexually abused. “As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, those are triggers for me, but what keeps me going is that I get to be their voice and fight to bring them justice. We are doing that right now for an eight-year-old boy who was sold to several men for sex by his own father. We are fighting for this child’s rights and I can’t wait to see his father or monster go to prison,” she said.
She feels that domestic violence has no prejudices and it does not discriminate whether you are a celebrity or what class, race, creed, or whatever your occupation might be. “I am a living example of how domestic violence does not discriminate. It has always been there and not just in India, but women and men are abused universally,” she shared.
Ali does not see it ending in her lifetime. “We live in a patriarchal society and if we grow up in a home where we are exposed to a father beating our mother, we assume it to be a norm. Our child’s brain thinks this is common practice. It all boils down to accountability. If the abuser, whether in India or elsewhere, knows no one can touch him after what he has done, it enables him or her to continue doing so. Remember men are victims too. We don’t hear about it enough because men have to put on the persona of being strong and macho. There are too many complexities with this issue and honestly, while I don’t see a way to eliminate it, I will not sit around doing nothing about it either. I will fight for these victims for as long as I can,” said Ali.