Domestic violence: the victims speak out

VIOLENCE

Forgiveness, escaping and being beaten repeatedly, the story of a woman who was persecuted by her ex-partner - «It’s as if we were always in the wrong, submerged in a perpetual sense of guilt».

Domestic violence: the victims speak out
© Shutterstock

Domestic violence: the victims speak out

© Shutterstock

But now I realize that it’s the system that’s wrong. Even in Switzerland, society is patriarchal and we fight for equality on a daily basis.

Twenty-five women murdered. 2021 is a black year for Switzerland. January 12, January 17, February 8, February 16, February 23 (two episodes), March 8, March 12, March 15, March 19, March 28, April 17, April 22, June 1, June 13, July 5, July 8, July 11, July 20, August 5, August 12, October 13, October 15, October 18, October 21. On ten occasions those who committed murder took their own lives. As if to say «my way or no way». Since the start of the year there have also been nine attempted feminicides. The last one was ten days ago in Solduno. The man, who lives in Canton St. Gallen, reached Ticino and shot his ex-girlfriend with a shotgun loaded full of buckshot. «I am suffering so much these days, both physically and mentally,« she wrote from the hospital. Her attacker had a restraining order. This episode has brought back into the spotlight a plague that plagues our country as well: men who hate women. And it is these women who are demanding a change in society, in laws, in mentality. These are the ones who have the courage to speak out.

A toxic relationship

Fulvia’s is a story of violence, both psychological and physical. A story that passed through social networks. A story that over time has developed into anger. Astonishment at the lack of access to real help. Fulvia met her tormentor on Facebook. She had just come out of a separation, at the age of 53, and received the attentions of a man younger than her. «He started to court me. We texted for a while, then saw each other. The relationship started right away, but it was never a good relationship. I became dependent on him. A real toxic relationship.» She stayed home with her two children, but spent weekends at his place. She was almost forced to, there wasn’t much choice. Her daughter was never supportive of that relationship and the fights began with her. He was jealous and possessive. One day the general aggression escalated to physical violence. «We had an argument because I wanted to go back to my house, I was not feeling very well. He jumped on me and hit me, knocking my glasses off. I took a bite out of him, to get him to let go because he was choking me. As I ran away, he posted the picture on Facebook calling me crazy because I had left him bite marks. I went to the emergency room, but claimed I had fallen. Then he apologized, playing the victim, he was saying I was the wrong one. And I genuinely thought it was because of my difficult personality.» The relationship went on, but it was unhappy. Up until the event that allowed Fulvia to say enough. «I tried to leave him. He attempted to punch me. I turned to protect myself and ended up up against the wall of the house. He punched and shoved me and pushed me out into the garden. A neighbor heard the screams and came to help me, then I ran away». The next day she went to the ER, urged on by her co-workers. «They forwarded the report to the attorney general on picket duty. However, they couldn’t explain the bureaucratic process to me. No one reached out to me for 15 days».

Two weeks later she plucked up the courage and contacted the LAV (Service for Helping Victims of Crime) desk. From which received help and support. In the meantime, he flooded Facebook with insults and insults. A never-ending flood. «It took the police three weeks to call me. And the agent told me ‘’al ga do me un colp da telefono e gal disi da calmas’’. Are you kidding me? I filed a complaint, together with the lawyer and the social worker of the LAV desk». At that point the flood of mud thrown on her person on social networks subsided and Fulvia was contacted by his lawyer who proposed a monetary compensation to withdraw the complaint. But she did not give in. «My friends and children have been very supportive. Also the female, with whom I had been having a fight for a year because of this loop I was in.» But in addition to the damage, there was the mockery. Months later, Fulvia had to undergo surgery because of the wrist injury she suffered on the day of the assault. «My worker’s compensation was deducted from my accident insurance by 50 percent. Thankfully, my employer did not ask me for reimbursement».

The end of the story? The Public Ministry issued the man a 30-rate conviction in addition to a 300-franc fine and a minimal reimbursement for the injured party (since it was «minor violence»). «I paid my legal expenses and the sessions with the therapist after the free ones granted by the Canton. I am sorry to admit it, but the police officers are not prepared for such situations, they don’t know how to behave. The police do not know how to deal with these situations, and they almost discourage you from pursuing your complaint because it is a long process. You have to prove what you say, you feel under scrutiny. While the victim has to comply with office hours, bringing evidence, remembering every detail, sending a thousand e-mails, calling, insisting; the perpetrator is at home, on the couch, quiet. It’s as if we women are always in the wrong, sunk in a perpetual sense of guilt.» Fulvia wants to be the voice of all: «After the violence, I closed myself in the house for 15 days and I looked like a robot. But then I found the strength and I became active. Those who are less ‘’smart’’ and stronger than me, those who don’t have the possibilities, those who don’t know the offices to turn to, where do they end up?».

Anonymous fears being recognized and suffering repercussions. When in turn she was victimized, she attempted to speak, to scream, to seek help. But the response she received made her take a thousand steps back. «He threatened me - she says - He told me he was going to push me off the balcony. He had a weapon, he pointed it at me. In a second instant I called the police, but I was told ‘’if he is not there and he is not doing anything to you, we cannot intervene now’’. So I pressed charges. It was a few months before they summoned him. And prior to going to check on the home, they notified him. Of course, at that point, they didn’t find any weapons.»

Anonymous is to this day scared. But also very disappointed. «I didn’t run away, I can’t hide, it’s the tormentor who should disappear certainly not the victim. In Ticino there is at least one violent and armed person, but for the authorities it’s okay. It is obvious that afterwards men like him feel unpunished. The law continues to be an observer detached from the weak».

He kept telling me you’re crazy, I ended up believing him

Kristina decided to tell her story because she is hoping for a generation of better men. «For my own child, who is now 14.» Her voice is sad, as she is afraid that it is already too late for her son. The relationship with the man who has psychologically destroyed her began as a love affair. «I met him at the university, at a bus stop. At that time I did not want a relationship, as I had undergone a major operation and wanted to focus only on myself. Moreover, as I had experienced a domineering father, I had drawn up a list of requirements that my future man would have to respect, and everyone told me ‘you’ll never find him’.» She then turned him away, but they met again months later through mutual friends. Right about that time, her dad had run off with his mistress and she was fragile. «He began to court me. And every day he would let me visit a spot on my famous list. I was really amazed. Even though my instincts were not allowing me to get excited, I always remained very cautious. People around me went so far as to tell me that I was ‘’demanding too much.’’ Eventually, Kristina gave in. Years passed. A ring, a partnership, a wedding followed. In the seventh month of pregnancy there was the first real fight. «We were supposed to return from vacation when he told me that his family would join us at home. I said ‘’no, I’m tired and we’re already going to be in the car a lot of hours’’. He got very mad. That was the beginning of a period in which I learned to say ‘’no’’ and to express what I was thinking, instead of being always agreeable».

The birth of the baby was the real turning point. She realized he was drinking and wanted more and more attention. «If the baby cried while we were at the table, he would stop me from getting up, because ‘’that moment had to be ours.’’ He would freak out and then apologize. He didn’t hit me physically, but forbade me to read books, especially psychological ones, and to see my parents when I wanted to. Every little extra freedom annoyed him. He would only allow me to go out with my friends and then he would publicly discredit me.» When she became pregnant with her second child, the mental pressure became unbearable. «He would tell me ‘you’re crazy, you’re overreacting, you’re paranoid, you’re paranoid, you’re phobic.’ He was increasingly controlling, especially when he quit smoking. I ended up believing him and saw a psychiatrist. I also asked him to start marriage counseling.» Then, one day, a push came in. «That’s when I got scared. I told myself that while I tolerated the fighting, the pushing would be the ultimate breaking point. And that escalation could only get worse. When I asked him if he understood what he had done, he laughed at me the first time, ignored me the second, and said the third time ‘’you have to understand me, I did it for good, you had to understand how I was feeling at that moment’’.» It was at that point that Kristina found the strength to run away.

She subsequently changed attorneys several times. «I would go to female attorneys, hoping they would be supportive. But while initially they seemed to be on my side, then the attitude changed. They always seemed to be in favor of a very patriarchal idea of society.» A legal war followed, unfortunately typical of many separations and divorces.

Kristina’s biggest nightmare came to fruition when her son became a teenager. «He began to resent me more and more. He was being aggressive, yelling, rebelling against every rule. The tone got louder and louder, he would hit the furniture, blame me for everything, give me orders. One day I told him ‘’I left your father for this reason, if you want to be like him take your things and join him’’. And he left. My ex wants to see me dead on a mental level, and now he has the weapon of my son». But she still finds the strength to talk and tell her story, because she hopes for change. «For 17 years I believed I was a fish out of water in the world. But now I realize that it’s the system that’s wrong. Even in Switzerland, society is patriarchal and we fight for equality on a daily basis. The only weapon we have is not to make war, but to create a network of solidarity and try to help others open their eyes. Very hard work. Because on the one hand they tell you that women are important and have their rights, but then in reality the situation is not clear, it’s ambiguous. And when you experience it on the inside, you are in danger of going crazy».

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