Rumana Monzur is described, by all who know her, as a brilliant, gentle, courteous, pious woman. She is ambitious and intelligent, a Fulbright scholar and political science graduate student, and is pursuing her Master’s Degree at the University of British Columbia. She is a wife and loving mother to her five-year-old daughter whom she would phone at least once, sometimes twice, every day. She left her husband and daughter in Bangladesh while she worked toward a better life for her family through education.
Rumana Monzur will never see her daughter again.
On June 5, 2011, 33 year-old Rumana, who had returned to her home in Dhaka to visit her much missed child and family, was locked, with her daughter, in the bedroom of her home, thrown onto the bed and brutally attacked (allegedly) by her husband. In an evidently unfounded jealous rage, he beat her, gouged out her eyes and bit off the end of her nose. Rumana’s five-year old daughter was witness to this savagery.
From her hospital bed, where she awaits surgery to rebuild her nose, Rumana said, “he has made my world dark. I will never see my daughter again.” Doctors who assessed her situation have concluded that nothing can be done for her vision. She is permanently blind. Her husband is currently in police custody.
Her vision is gone but the nightmare continues for both her and her daughter. Medical science has the capacity to rebuild her face and her bruises will heal but her, and her daughter’s, psychological road to recovery will be arduous.
Domestic violence is pandemic and under-reported. Each year, in the United States alone, over 4 million women experience physical assault or rape perpetrated by an intimate partner. Annually, over 2,300 deaths are reported. Medical care costs top $6 billion and this does not include the overall socioeconomic impact of lost productivity and family trauma.
Globally, this statistic becomes even more mind boggling. In many countries, the deification of women is, paradoxically, the ‘excuse for abuse’; women should not be tossed into the messy world of men but protected from it. Should they ‘venture into it’ by pursuing an education, becoming employed, or driving a car, they are suspect and punished.
So. Now what?
We can be shocked and appalled at Rumana’s story; we can sit aghast at the details of this horrific attack. But I have a better idea. Take a moment to sit quietly to watch your child run through the garden chasing a butterfly. Stand next to your beloved, look into their eyes and see them smile back at you. Look across the table at your parents as they laugh. Take those moments and imagine them gone. Forever.
Imagine that beautiful child cowering in the corner of a room as she watches the centre of her universe being viciously brutalized. Picture your beloved, without reason or provocation, raising arms against you. Envision your parents tormented with grief and guilt as you lie broken. This is the beginning of empathy.
Rumana Monzur is strong. She is fighting back, working hard for her recovery so she can return to British Columbia with her daughter and continue her education and rebuild her life. The hurdles she faced have been raised; she has been blinded not only by this attack but also by terrible psychological trauma. She and her daughter will need support to triumph over this … now what? means translating your empathy into action.
Outrage is skin.
Empathy is flesh.
Action is heart.
Please help Rumana and her daughter triumph over tragedy. If you’re able, please give your support to Rumana through donations to her recovery or by sharing this post – however your soul moves you.