Knowledge beats experience

Against violence against women: Three victims of domestic violence talk about their experiences

Domestic violence - anything but an isolated incident

Domestic violence affects millions of women worldwide every day - staggering numbers that cannot be ignored. According to the World Health Organization, almost a third of all women who have been in a relationship before say they have experienced physical or sexual violence from a partner. Almost 40 percent of all female murder victims are killed by their partner.

In view of rising femicide rates internationally, there was a global wave of protests against domestic violence in 2019. There were demonstrations in various Spanish cities in September after 19 women were murdered by their partners or ex-partners over the summer. Protesters held a "die-in" in Paris in October after over 120 women died of domestic violence in France that year. There have also been protests in Russia since 2017 certain forms of domestic violence were decriminalized.

It is important to understand that domestic violence can occur in a wide variety of forms: physical, sexualized and psychological, also as the exercise of coercion and control as well as the withdrawal of financial resources. On the occasion of the UN's international day against violence against women on November 25th, three women from Great Britain, Kenya and Palestine talk about their very personal experiences of domestic violence.

* Hannah, 36, from Great Britain

experienced domestic violence from her (now) ex-husband for over four years. He was given a suspended sentence in early 2019.

"It started with little things. For example, he asked: 'What are you wearing? What are you doing? Who are you talking to?' And then he said to me: 'Don't wear this, don't do that, don't talk to these people! ' Then the violence became physical. But he always apologized afterwards, collapsed crying and said, 'I'm so sorry, I don't know how this could happen. I love you.' Sometimes I went, one time to a women's shelter [for women and children at risk of domestic violence]. But I kept coming back and finally we decided to get married. He choked me on our wedding day. But himself then I still thought: 'I have to carry on; I've already gone so far.' "

Once I said to him: 'Don't touch me, stop it' and he replied, 'No, you are my wife, I can do what I want.'

"He was always violent even after the wedding. Then I got pregnant with our son and all that became really too much for me, so I left him. He went completely crazy and kept calling me and insulting me. We then met tolerated again, and I had the baby. But he was still the same. Once I said to him: 'Don't touch me, stop it' and he replied, 'No, you are my wife, I can do something I want.'"

"I started working again when my son was just a few months old. I was recommended a training course on domestic violence called" The Freedom Program ". It clicked me. I remember how I broke down thinking that everyone was talking about my husband. I was so shocked. I just didn't want to admit it; I had seen the violence around me increase and I thought it was normal. "

"After I left him, he started harassing and stalking me on a massive scale. I was really scared. Once he followed me home from work and I had to go to the hospital with a head injury. He was finally arrested and was given a suspended prison sentence. He was also banned from contact for 10 years. "

I just didn't want to admit it; I had seen the violence around me increase and I thought that was normal.

"After leaving my husband, I went to therapy for a few years. After everything that happened, I have post-traumatic stress disorder; I have panic attacks. But since my ex-husband was convicted, I feel more balanced. Now I am able to use my experience to help other women experiencing domestic violence. "

* Ruth, 36, from Kenya

was a victim of domestic violence for five years. Now, with the help of the Kenyan lawyers' association FIDA, a partner organization of "Womankind Worldwide", she has filed a lawsuit against her husband in order to obtain protection through a court-ordered ban on contact.

"My husband and I have been married for nine years. He started drinking and becoming violent five years ago. He would often come home drunk, scold me in front of the children, and start beating me. I am with my two." Gone away kids, but he came back to me and apologized, his parents came and apologized and said he had gotten better, and then I kept going back, but in front of others - my parents and my friends - he always did just pretending. When we got home he got violent again. "

[...] you never know what he's up to. I'm afraid he might come and kill us.

"The last time we left home, I was 6 months pregnant. My husband came home drunk and started beating me and destroying things in the house. He hit my forehead with a metal rod. Then he drew a knife in front of the children and said he would kill himself and us too. We ran out of the house, away from him. I had to go to the hospital and my forehead was stitched with five stitches. "

"Now I'm 9 months pregnant and I live alone with my two sons. He often comes to our new house at night, knocks on the gate for two hours and then leaves. That scares me - you never know what he's up to. I'm afraid he might come and kill us. "

I hope that other women, hearing my story, will make up their minds to act and be able to walk away.

"I am completely solely responsible financially. It's pretty tough for me. My children know everything that has happened; everything he did to me, he did in front of the children. I reported to the police and I am waiting." now that the case comes to court. "

"I hope that other women, hearing my story, will make up their minds to act and be able to walk away."

* Maha, 22, from Palestine

experienced domestic violence from her father from an early age. She received help from the Palestinian Family Planning and Protection Association (PFPPA) - the Palestinian association for family planning and protection.

"I remember my dad started beating my siblings and me when we were very young. He also argued with my mom; he was always very angry and controlled the money we were spending. At that time, I apologized his behavior by telling myself, for example, that he was doing this because he was so stressed at work. "

"It got worse when I failed my final exam at school. I wanted to take the exam again, but my father threatened that if I did that he would marry another woman. He wanted me to get married instead of continuing my education My father had already decided to remarry anyway, but when I decided to retake the exam he took that as an excuse, at which point he became even more violent towards my mother and me, and he also stopped looking after us as a family financially to support."

"After I took the final exam, my father tried to get me to marry a man I didn't know. I was afraid my whole story would start over; my kids would go through what I did A friend then suggested I contact the Palestinian Family Planning and Protection Association, where I received help from a social worker. She helped me refuse this marriage and gave me a lot of support in counseling hours. "

I want the girls to know not to be silent. I believe that anyone who has a dream should fight for it too.

"I also took part in an economic empowerment program for women at PFPPA. This enabled me to take a photography course and buy my own equipment. Now I work in a photography studio and am financially independent. That has helped me to see that there is another world. "

"I want to tell my story because I know that there are other girls who are victims of violence and maybe even in worse situations than me. I want the girls to know that they shouldn't be silent. I think that everyone who has a dream should fight for it too. "

* Name changed

**The helpline for violence against women in Germany: 08000 116 016 **

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