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“I didn’t think I’d survive. After all that I had been through, and what he was doing to me, I didn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. I didn’t think there was any light left at all.”

Kavindi’s* life revolved around her children and husband but life as she knew it crumbled when her husband abandoned her and took the children with him. Loneliness took a great toll on Kavindi’s life thereafter, but she continued to look for her family whilst struggling to make ends meet. Life alone in the quiet weighed her down. It was during this vulnerable time that she met Yasith - a complete stranger.

In a moment of weakness, she had confided her sorrows with him, and soon they started what turned out to be a blossoming friendship  that subsequently, became much more. 

A few months into this relationship, Yasith asked Kavindi to move in with him. Completely enamored by his gesture, Kavindi agreed to this – a decision she would soon regret. 

Life for Kavindi went from bad to worse soon after. Yasith suddenly felt a sense of control and possessiveness over Kavindi’s life, started beating her, and causing immense mental trauma depending on his mood. The possessiveness rose to a point where Kavindi would be kept imprisoned in her own home with no way in or out. Her phone bills and data usage were micromanaged to the extent that he was even monitoring her web searches – just in case she tried to reach out for help. 

Yet she kept on trying to escape with help from her friends and family but Yasith would always find a way to locate Kavindi every time. 

Kavindi’s patience snapped at Yasith when he threatened to break her legs the next time she tried to run away. Fearing for her life with him, despite this threat, Kavindi decided that she would make one last attempt to gain her freedom.

Having endured two long years of cruelty and anguish with Yasith, she bravely searched කාන්තා හිංසනය සදහා සේවාවන් (services for women facing violence) and found the Women in Need (WINSL) website. Having had no formal education in English, the only part that caught her eye was the hotline. She dialed in a panic and was met with a calm and collected counsellor, who advised her on what to do next. She was instructed to leave immediately and find her way to the nearest police station. Packing a handful of clothing into a duffel bag, Kavindi made the brave decision to run away. At the police station, Kavindi was welcomed by a female officer who took her in and ensured her safety at the station. Meanwhile, the counsellor from WIN kept in touch with Kavindi throughout. After an overnight stay at the police station, she was then transferred to a safe location managed by WIN. 

She is now being provided with psychological support and is undergoing treatment for her physical injuries which she sustained at the hands of Yasith. Kavindi is pushing through it all with a courageous attitude.

“I’m still surprised I’m alive. I didn’t think escaping him was possible. He wielded so much power….I thought that would be the rest of my life.”

Under WIN’s care, she is now involved in different training programmes conducted through the organization and enjoys helping out with fundraising activities.

Kavindi’s story is a reflection of thousands of Sri Lankan women who suffer in silence from intimate partner violence. A recent survey conducted by the Department of Census and Statistics with the technical assistance from UNFPA showed that one in four (24.9%) women in Sri Lanka have experienced physical and/or sexual violence since age 15 by a partner or non-partner (Women’s Wellbeing Survey, 2019). This is why UNFPA works with Government counterparts and civil society organizations such as WIN to equip and better capacitate them to provide more holistic support to survivors of gender-based violence.  

In recent times, with the onset of COVID-19, UNFPA has accelerated its support for safe shelters by providing professional development supplies, personal protective equipment and conducting large-scale awareness campaigns about GBV with support from the Government of Japan under the PROMISES project. Through this project, UNFPA is working to strengthen local shelters by provisioning a range of holistic support services with the hope of empowering survivors and victims of sexual and gender-based violence. 

If you are someone who is experiencing violence, please do not be in denial! Help is just a phone call away. Call 1938 - the National hotline, 0775 676 555 - the Women in Need helpline or talk to someone you trust. 

*Names have been changed to maintain confidentiality and anonymity of the victim