“We fear for our children and we fear society,” says Fadia*, who spoke on the SAT-7 ARABIC program You Are Not Alone about the abuse she faces and the stigma that keeps her trapped. Fadia’s call, which shows millions in the Middle East the egregious harm of domestic violence, comes as reports of abuse have surged during COVID–19.
“I have been beaten every day, with or without reason. I was and still am abused,” says Fadia, who speaks to You Are Not Alone from a Lebanese street to avoid being heard at home. “Sometimes I wish for death, but who will take care of my children? I’m suffering very much. One day, after [my husband] beat me hard, I walked down the street and strangers felt so sorry for me that they cried when they saw how I looked.”
Speaking to presenter Sirene Semerdjian, Fadia shares how she has feared to leave her marriage because she would not be able to protect her children, who have also been beaten. “He would take them from me,” she says. “[The law]** would not protect me 100 percent.” In any case, she says, “How can I survive? Should I live on the street? There’s no safe place for me.” Fadia works for a cleaning service, and due to the economic conditions in Lebanon, she already needs help from extended family to make ends meet.
The social stigma of domestic abuse has also prevented Fadia seeking help. Her family knows about the abuse, she says, and has confronted her husband many times. “But the more they interfere, the worse it gets.” However, in almost two decades, no one at Fadia’s workplace has found out about the abuse she faces at home. “We fear society,” she says. “People would mock us and gossip about us. I want to protect my children and their dignity.”
CONNECTING WOMEN WITH ON-THE-GROUND SUPPORT
At the end of the nine-minute call, Semerdjian encourages Fadia and explains she will connect her to an organization that can help her escape the abuse. “Okay,” Fadia says. “I can talk to them and try.” SAT-7 has since connected Fadia to the local organization. This opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus – connecting Fadia with a support network that specializes in rescuing abuse survivors – could be life-changing for Fadia and her children.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE SURGES UNDER PANDEMIC
Fadia’s call is an irrefutable testament to the cruelty and injustice of domestic violence in a region where rates of abuse are high but survivors’ voices are rarely heard. During coronavirus lockdowns in the Middle East and North Africa, cases of domestic abuse have soared. In Lebanon, 938 calls were made to one domestic violence hotline in the month of May – almost double the number made in April.¹ In Turkey, where rates of gender-based violence were already sky-high, reports to Istanbul police increased by 38 percent in March.
You Are Not Alone is one of many SAT-7 programs that give a platform to voices that usually go unheard. The program also recently featured a video call with a Syrian refugee father who spoke of his fear of the coronavirus reaching the camp where he lives. As the audience turns to SAT-7 for this support, they hear their love and value in Christ. A variety of television programs offer them biblical guidance in all areas of life, including discipleship, marriage, and parenting advice to weather life’s storms as part of the body of Christ.
- Pray for Fadia, asking God to surround her and her children with His protection and give them the strength and resources they need to build a new life in safety.
- Ask the Lord also to protect all those at risk of domestic abuse or gender-based violence as coronavirus continues to put additional strain on families.
- Pray that You Are Not Alone and other SAT-7 programs that address domestic violence will be effective in breaking down the social stigma that keeps victims trapped.
*Name changed to protect identity.
**Learn more about personal status laws in Lebanon and the difficulties women face in protecting themselves and their children from abuse.