Many women regard a case of recurrent domestic violence when a husband beats up his wife as a natural and normal situation. It is hard to estimate how many men in this country fall under the category of domestic tyrants. According to the Russian Interior Ministry, 14 thousand women are beaten to death by their partners each year. Please consider the figure below for the benefit of comparison: the death toll in the 10-year Afghan war totaled 17 thousand.
“That dust on the windowsill and my slippers in the wrong place are those two things that really tick me off,” Svetlana’s husband would tell her after coming home from work.
Her husband also disliked Svetlana talking on the phone for hours, he didn’t like her seeing her girlfriends either. And he detested her attempts to find a job. One day Svetlana’s husband just flew off the handle after she told him that she had made an appointment to see a psychologist. Svetlana felt miserable. Her husband was making money to support the family while she just “could not make him happy.”
Elena Slobodina, senior specialist at the Moscow Service of Psychological Assistance, could feel something was wrong as she began talking to Svetlana. Svetlana was talking through her teeth. She held her hand above her cheek all the time. As it turned out, Svetlana and her husband had a “little argument” before she went to see the psychologist. At the advice of Slobodina, Svetlana was taken to an emergency room of a nearby hospital. She was diagnosed with “2nd degree brain concussion and a bruise of the lower jawbone.” But Svetlana plainly refused to report her case to the police. “Everything’s OK. Volodya is a nice husband. You know the saying: He beats you because he loves you.”
“Dealing with the situation when a majority of women regard domestic violence a natural thing is the most difficult part of my job,” sighs Elena Slobodina. “A woman can mention all sorts of reasons behind her discontent as she sits down with me in my office. She will talk about her protracted depression, a lack of warmth between her and her offspring, losing directions in life and so on. But blaming her husband will never occur to her. Since their very early years the girls are taught that a future husband is life’s greatest acquisition, and therefore a husband is someone you should please, forgive and obey.”
According to popular belief, men of little standing in the community, residents of small towns, those doing hard and underpaid manual labor, are the main advocates of domestic violence. “Wives married to men of the above category seek professional help more often. In fact, those women have nothing to lose but their bruises,” says Olga Ryzhkova, a psychologist at the Moscow Crisis Center Yaroslavna. “Meanwhile, most domestic tyrants are financially secure, they’re successful career makers. It is as simple as that – their wives and girlfriends value their economic security a lot higher than their physical security. A husband may as well stop giving away money if he stays angry. On the other hand, a domestic tyrant will normally shower his wife with presents in an attempt to redeem himself. His wife knows how things work. So she will take it from him and she won’t wash her dirty linen in public,” says Ryzhkova.
“Speaking about domestic violence, we should highlight some of its principal characteristics. It tends to be cyclic. And every new incident of it is likely to be more violent than the last episode. A wife had better realize that the worst is yet to come once her husband physically abuses her and she opts to eat humble pie,” adds Ryzhkova.
Strange as it may seem, men prone to domestic violence are usually responsible and attentive fathers. So their wives do not rush with divorce, they do not want to traumatize the children. However, psychologists believe living with a domestic tyrant is a lot more traumatizing experience for the children than a lack of father.
Children who grow up seeing their dad beat their mom will likely to model their own family on that pattern. The majority of boys will become wife abusers while the girls will seek the company of cruel and aggressive men.
Besides, the behavior of such children is rife with the extremes ranging from indifference to aggressiveness and hyperactivity. Domestic violence is not a typical Russian pastime. On the contrary, it’s rather universal phenomenon. According to statistics, from 20% to 50% of women suffer from domestic violence in their families all over the world.
The other problem seems typically Russian indeed: a victim of domestic violence has neither rights nor shelter in this country. She has to put up with the abuse of her husband mostly because she has nowhere to go, by and large.
Crisis centers can only provide psychological help to women in trouble. There is no such thing as a shelter for abused women in Moscow, the megalopolis of 10 million residents. Not every woman who needs help has a friend or relatives who are ready to put her up.
Translated by Guerman Grachev
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