Ruchi Singh lives in India and is an international keynote speaker, mentor, talk show host and best-selling author. Her experience as a domestic violence survivor has led her to focus her work in forums promoting courage and leadership for all victims.

I got married in India surrounded by friends and family. I had great hopes for the marriage and was excited to be moving to Sydney where my husband had lived for a number of years. But almost immediately on arrival I felt lonely and homesick. In India I’d been an outgoing person with lots of friends, but now in this huge country of Australia the only person I knew was my husband.

At the beginning he treated me well and it’s important to say that he was never entirely bad. For instance, when I developed continuous pain in my hip he’d often take me to see specialists. It seemed that there were two entirely different people in one body.

His violence stemmed from his heavy drinking. He’d use foul language and lose his temper easily. No matter what I said he’d see as criticism. One time he became so angry that he threw a chair at the wall. Another time he banged his fist with such rage that he fractured a finger.

Then he started to get physical: he’d push me, humiliate me, choke me. Once a doctor asked, ‘Ruchi, is everything all right? Do you want to talk?’ I told him that everything was fine because I was so afraid of people thinking of me as a failure. I’d come from a loving family and never seen behaviour like this before. I felt such confusion and shame.

The worst feeling in the world isn’t hate, it’s shame.

I used to ask myself, ‘Did I do something to deserve this’? And the worst thing I did out of shame was not letting my parents know what was happening to me.

For most of the time I didn’t realise I was being victimized. I thought I had to be strong for my husband’s sake, to help him give up drinking. On one occasion after he attacked me, the Police were called. The women officers asked if he’d assaulted me and when I said, ‘No, he just threw a drink in my face,’ they said, ‘Ma’am, that is assault.’ It was their expression of pity which made me finally accept that I was a victim.

Then one evening he came back very drunk and could hardly stand. He went to the kitchen, got a knife out of the drawer, and told me: ‘Tonight I’m going to kill you.’ Then he grabbed me and held the knife to my throat. I said absolutely nothing. I didn’t move. My father used to say if you’re faced with a wild animal don’t run or they’ll hurt you, so something in my mind was telling me to freeze. The only thing which I remember clearly is that I thought I will never see my family again and my heart was breaking because of it. At last, after what felt like an eternity, he released me and started stabbing my red exercise ball instead, and then he cut his hand so badly that he needed surgery.

Yet still after that incident I didn’t call the Police because he had indoctrinated me, saying no one would believe me. Once when I’d told the wife of one of his friends what was happening she just asked what I’d done to annoy him.

When people ask, ‘why didn’t you leave earlier?’ they are actually inflicting another kind of violence on the victim.

Even though I remained silent, there was now a vital part of me which was questioning why people are so ready to find excuses for the perpetrator and eager to judge the victim? And then one evening I saw the horrifying news story of a woman who had been stabbed and killed by her husband. It was a beautiful sunny day in Sydney and sitting at home all alone I found myself crying. Then I just stood up, and with this crazy anger inside me I gave a speech to myself. I said, ‘I, Ruchi Singh, refuse to be just another statistic of domestic violence.’

I was due to visit India for my sister’s wedding and I knew this was my chance to get away as I was travelling alone. Once back in India, for the first time I told my parents about the abuse. Luckily, they were extremely loving and supportive. But still it took time to extricate myself from the marriage because I was scared for my future. But finally, I found the courage to tell my husband I was not coming back. Soon after I filed for divorce.

Forgiving my husband was something I needed to do to avoid becoming a negative person. I didn’t want to be cruel and hurtful like him. One way of staying internally clean has been by never calling him abusive names. I have even blessed him. It’s not easy, but it’s helped me free myself.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean saying I’m OK with what he did, it means I can continue with my life in a more peaceful frame of mind.

But when you try to forgive someone, don’t be under the impression that you’re doing it for the person who has harmed you because they probably don’t know or care. The reason I did it was because holding onto hate would have been very harmful for my mental wellbeing.

It took three months of intense meditation, conscious breathing and chanting mantras to forgive. I couldn’t just think myself into forgiving, I had to take action. And my action was my spiritual practice. I had to clean out the muddy water by feeling my way through all the ugly emotions until finally these negative feelings began to dissipate. Also, the chronic hip pain I’d had for four years, which no specialist could figure out, disappeared after I moved away from the relationship.

My ex has never apologized. Even after the knife incident he still said everything was my fault. That’s why people get angry on my behalf and wonder how on earth I could forgive. I understand that and actually I find it very touching that strangers care enough to feel anger about it. It is their way of showing love.

I am a very private person and feel emotionally naked whenever I talk about what happened. However, I have been given a second life. I could have died the night when my husband (now ex) put a knife to my throat. I want to give meaning to my pain. I want to add value to my life. I have realised that the only way I can add value is by adding value to other people’s life. That is why I share my story to create awareness about this epidemic which impacts millions all over the world.

Find out more about Ruchi and her work at Ruchi Singh Talks.