“What have we been silent about? Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault? Is it really that large of a problem within the Sikh community? I’ve never known anyone who experienced anything like that. I don’t know what I would do if I did.”
The response is honest. The response may even be typical. However, the response also speaks to the power of silence. A silencing so strong that the majority of our Sikh Qaum doesn’t even know it occurs. Confronting Violence: Ending Silence was an event held at West Sacramento Gurdwara Sahib that was our first step towards tackling these issues with our Sangat.
Bhagat Kabir Ji has shared - Kabir jor kia so julm laey jubaab khudai - "O Kabir, forcing another is tyranny, Khuda [Waheguru] will call you to account”
The event was meant to begin a forum for Sikhs to explore our responsibility to build justice (naaiyo) and no longer remain silent or complicit to the injustice (zulm) of violence against women that infects our community.
This was what Sangat looks like - an active Sangat willing to take the first steps to tackle issues facing our Qaum today. In order to act as a Sangat, we needed to get to know our Sangat, so the evening began with a discussion of what we have seen, what we have heard, and even what we have experienced. Usually, it is difficult to engage a Sangat in conversations about domestic violence or sexual assault, but here people were asking questions, sharing each other’s experiences, and learning from one another about steps to take to support a victim and end the silence. A male in his mid-twenties asked how to react when another male friend makes violent or derogatory comments towards a female. Prior to the facilitator (a professional trained in domestic violence) answering, another male from the crowd provided a suggestion as to how he handles the situations, reinforcing that being silent in the presence of these comments is being compliant and adding to the problem. Every topic, every question, every comment, and every response led to the same conclusion - in order to ameliorate domestic violence within the Punjabi-Sikh community, we must end the silence. We must show, through our actions, that we as a Sikh community will not only no longer be silent about domestic violence and sexual assault, but we condemn it and stand against it.
After discussing what we can do as individuals, the conversation moved to exploring the Panthic level of possibilities. What are we going to do as a collective Sikh Qaum to talk steps to ameliorate violence against women? Through the discussion, members of the Jakara Movement Misl Sacramento in collaboration with BPSHI members, laid the foundation for a program to tackle domestic violence and sexual assault within the Sikh community. The program will begin with a one-day sexual assault and domestic violence training open to the Sikh community. Within Japji Sahib, the Guru guides us from listening and learning to teaching. By educating ourselves on these topics, we are educating our community. Through this awareness, we can end the silence that suffocates victims of violence and provide a community in which, no victim feels alone, no victim feels ashamed, and no victim suffers in silence. We can stand with our women and provide them the support of Sangat and healing.
Pura niyaao karay Kartar - The Creator administers full justice
Through the Creation (us!), the Creator provides justice. It begins with you, then leads to us! Together, we stand firm. Together, we can confront violence. Together, we can end silence. Together, we are the movement.