A project offering drama therapy provides victims of domestic violence an escape from past trauma and gives an opportunity for women to reclaim their independence.
"Change Is in Your Hands," funded by the European Union and the Family and Social Policies Ministry, has reached out to over 200 women in seven cities in Turkey.
Şebnem Dal Üzülmez, a psychiatrist who coordinates the project, said conferences and other events aimed at domestic violence victims offered one-sided communication while drama therapy helped women express themselves. Women take center stage in the role-play where they open up about their past troubles. Üzülmez said that drama therapy also helps women not suffering from domestic violence to strengthen their marriage and explains them their rights. Moreover, women learn how to stand on their own as many are forced to continue their marriage with abusive husbands because of economic dependence.
Women act out their real-life experience on stage and get real-time help from experts. The therapy is more or less in the vein of mutual aid societies such as meetings of victims of addiction. The women also benefit from consultation with legal experts and psychiatrists as part of the project. Officials say participants feel more confident now, many have found jobs and have become economically independent after taking part in the project.
Cevale Özışık, 53, was hesitant when she first joined the therapy. "I was hesitant at first. I thought, ‘What am I doing here.' Then I became aware that I have always hid my feelings. Now I feel like I've been born again. I look after my children with the money I earn by myself," she said. Özışık said she very much wanted to go to school but that her father opposed. "I insisted, but I had to give up when he beat me. I even thought about jumping off a bridge, but now I am recovered," she explained.
Kübra Canpolat, 18, grew up in a broken home. She witnessed constant fights between her parents and she became an introverted woman. "I was shy to communicate with people, but after drama therapy I learned how to express myself and socialize," she said.
Yurdagül Bilen divorced 20 years ago and went through a life struggle since then as a single woman. "I learned a lot here at drama therapy, but most importantly, I learned I was not alone and I can overcome my problems like other people did. This really relieves me," she said.
A government-sponsored survey shows women often avoid seeking legal or any other aid for domestic violence, either viewing it, as not a serious problem, out of shame or believing that their husband may change. Only one in every 10 women ask for help against violence, and more than half of them only do so when the violence reaches unbearable levels, according to the survey. The survey showed that women's reluctance can partly be attributed to a lack of assistance from others and a lack of knowledge about where to file a complaint and seek assistance. However, it is mainly due to women's own attempt to brush off the instances of violence as a familial matter, fear of retaliation by their husbands or fear of suffering economically, as most of them depend on their husband's income as the sole means of living.