Author`s name Pravda.Ru

Sleeping with the Enemy

A woman tells her story of how she was abused by her husband

Russian people say: if husband beats his wife, it means that he loves her. This has been a saying for centuries in the country. The notion of violence in families has appeared recently. People feel shy about making their family fights public, although the victims of those fights suffer a lot more than the ones of street fights. Family quarrels – brutal and senseless – are terrible with their tendency to repeat. Family violence on periodic basis might drive a woman to suicide, not to mention depression. However, only a few women venture to fight back.

A woman named Lida agreed to talk without any objections. She just asked to change the details, which could be recognized by the people that she knew. We sat at her cozy kitchen. She served me tea with jam. “When did it happen first? Was your marriage based on love?” These were my first questions that I had to ask her.

“Yes, our marriage was based on big love. At least, it seemed so to me in the beginning of our family life. The first two years of our marriage were very fine. We were happy. I was happy to be a married woman. Nikolay, my husband, was in charge of all problems, while I devoted myself to our house and family. I did not have a constant job, I worked periodically. My husband was a military man, so we had to change our places of living rather often. I had to change several jobs because of that too. Once we moved to the city, where his first family lived. I can not really explain the reason why he hit me for the first time, I do not know why it happened. It was a big shock for me, I still do not know why he did that. Nikolay told me that I said something incorrect about his children. It was short before March 8th, the Women's Day. I came back home after work, we argued with each other and went to sleep in two different beds. It was not our first conflict, we argued before too, but it was all not that serious. This time he slapped me in the face. I was not used to being treated like that. I am my parents’ only child, no one has ever beaten me, no one has ever called me names or something. I was absolutely struck with that. I slapped him back, and he started beating me. He was beating me hard, I even lost my conscience. When I looked into the mirror, I saw that I had a big black eye. We lived in a communal apartment: there were ten other families in other rooms. So I tried not to go out of our room during the daytime, when someone might see me with such an awful black eye. After Nikolay was finished with beating me, he emptied a bucket of water on me. The next day he started apologizing, promising that it would never happen again. It did not happen for four years after that. My parents lived in the Far East of Russia, in the city of Vladivostok, while we lived in the other part of the country, so I just did not know, how to say that to my parents. I was perfectly aware of the fact that my parents’ house was the house, where I would be welcomed at any moment. I realized that it was the house, where I could return. Believe it or not, but my mother sensed that there was something wrong with me. She got on the phone with me herself. Her first question was ‘is there anything wrong with you?’ I answered her that Nikolay beat me up. My mother said that I should leave him and come back over to their house. I said no, because I loved Nikolay. The problem with his children that he got in his first family, was then settled itself.

“They used to spend a lot of time at our place, although they started planning the places of meetings in a more precise way after the conflict. Everything seemed to be fine, until my husband was ordered to move over to another military garrison. The second conflict probably happened on account of my fault. Although, maybe not, it is hard to say exactly. It was his birthday, he got some friends in the new place of his service, so we gathered to celebrate it. He started displaying affection to a friend of mine, a girl, and the situation seemed to be getting not really comfortable. I made him a remark about it. Nikolay crushed the table and hit me in return. The next day he begged me to forgive him as well, and so I did. However, I was somehow broken inside. I realized that there was definitely something wrong. Every human being is supposed to keep positive things in his or her life, especially if it was hard to get them. I decided to go on vacation with my son, without Nikolay. I insisted that we should stay away from each other for some time. When on my vacation, I attended a psychotherapist. I suffered from depression, which was not caused with those beatings only. It seemed to me that I was humiliated and that I did not deserve it. The doctor helped me, as well as the fact that I was away from Nikolay. He phoned me many times, though. I made up my mind not to come back to him. But eventually I did come back, probably due to my cowardice. I could not imagine that I would not have my husband after so many years of living with him. In addition to that, I had a good job there and good friends. It seemed so hard for me to quit all that and to start my life over again.

“Nikolay had some misfortune: at first his father died, and when Nikolay was a regiment commander, a soldier died in the unit. There was nobody to support him. When I look back at that time, I think that I should have done that some other way. Now I know that woman’s compassion is destructive. When I came back, all of my friends said that I came back as a different person. It was probably noticeable. We lived together again, but there was no warmth and no balance in our family anymore. At first we lived in a dormitory, then we were given an apartment. Our social life got better, although there was something wrong about our relationship. I was probably ready to another conflict to happen.

“I worked in Nikolay’s unit as a secretary. Since it was a military unit, there were only men around me. He started being jealous about those men, who often showed up in my office. My boss would drop by to my office very often, so Nikolay hated him. As a matter of fact, he was jealous about me being in a friendly group of people. I did not cheat on Nikolay, although I did not hurry to come back home every night either. I have to say that I did not give up on my house. I always cooked meals, I always took care of our son. If I was going to stay at my workplace longer than usual, I would always warn Nikolay about it. Needless to mention that Nikolay was not happy about it, although he did not protest. My boss once asked me to go to meet a committee. Nikolay saw us in a car and came to his own conclusions. The scandal happened in the evening. I was cooking supper in the kitchen. Later I realized that he was in control of his actions. Before hitting me, he removed the pan from the gas-oven and turned the gas burner off. Then he hit me. My nose started bleeding. He hit me for the second time. I hit him back. This made him beat me up. The sight of blood made him totally furious. He broke my nose. I had long hair, so he wound my hair around his hand and started hitting me in the head. Then he kicked me. There was a moment, when I wished he killed me. I did not feel any pain. The only thing that I could think of – it’s good that my son is not home. Then Nikolay went to sleep.

“Of course, I could not go out at that time of the day, when people were coming back home after work. I did not want to go out, but my nose was bleeding, and I could not stop it. I remember that it was Friday night. I waited until it got dark and then I ran to my friend’s house and asked her to take me to the hospital. As it turned out later, I had my nose and several ribs broken. In addition to that, I had a brain concussion. Nikolay did not even apologize. He said I was guilty of that myself. I felt completely horrible, I wanted to die. I even wrote a death note, but then I thought – who is going to take care of my son? It is impossible to describe the state that I was in at that moment. It was not about the fact that I had no one to talk to. I had friends, but I could not share that big crack in my soul with anyone. This is something that is supposed to be endured alone.

“Ten days passed. We did not talk to each other. I slept in another room, and that irritated Nikolay. He claimed that I was his wife officially, so I was supposed to fulfil the duty of marriage. That was out of the question. I despised my husband.

“Three years passed. Now my mother says that she hates him. I can not say the same. I just feel empty. It got so trampled on me, I even feel sorry about him. My mother phoned me and told me to come back to her house that instant. I was about to turn 35. On my birthday I returned home to my parents. I had to go through a lot of medical examinations. I suddenly started hating all men, I saw them all as aggressors. Any kind of attention that men paid to me was nothing but a hint of having sex with me. That’s what seemed to me. I could not understand, why men and women live on one and the same planet! Nikolay called me many times. However, all of my friends, my parents and doctors said that I should not go back to him.

“Why was it possible? I have been asking this question to myself for three years. I loved him very much. Probably, this love has not died away yet. I came back there for five days, when Nikolay was on vacation. I left my job and picked up my things. I had to start everything from the very beginning in Vladivostok. I found a job, which required more skills, so I had to study. I got quite busy, so I did not have time to analyze everything. Everything got settled down with time. However, I gave up my private life. I can not say that I am a defective person, but on the other hand I feel that I need to love someone, to have a family.”

How is it possible to identify a home rapist prior to a wedding?

1. A relationship develops in a fast way and then ends up in a marriage very quickly. 2. He tells you: You mean everything to me, if you leave, I will die.” This is a very bright demonstration of the fact that a man tries to manipulate you. 3. Your partner makes you do the thing that you do not like to do. He might tell you not to put that blouse on, not to put any makeup on, not to talk to that person, and so on. 4. If an incident happens, your partner grabs you, tears your clothes.

How can a woman understand that she is a victim of family violence?

1. Are you afraid of your partner? 2. Do you expect a punishment for some of your actions or thoughts? 3. Does your partner inflicts the physical harm to you? 4. Does your partner smash your things, or does he blackmail you with your children?

Natalia Lokhmatkina, a neurologist, a manager of projects for the liquidation of violence against women said: “Home violence is a system of conduct, which one person sets up against the other one in a family. The goal of that is to gain the absolute power and the total control. Human actions are based on a violent approach. There can be various kinds of violence found in life: physical violence – beatings, slaps, kicks and so on; psycho-emotional violence – systematic humiliation, offence, blackmail, threats; economic violence – when one person deprives the other one of a free access to money. There is also the kind of violence that is called isolation – when a person is not allowed to interact with his or her relatives, friends, or to get a job that he or she wants. There is also sexual violence – when a person is forced to subdue to undesirable sexual contacts. Unfortunately, almost every woman has to deal with various aspects of family violence at various stages of her family life. Yet, those are systematic actions on the whole. Each family has its certain conflicts, but people manage to settle them down, although it does not happen peacefully always. On family violence occasions a partner conscientiously uses violent methods for solving a problem. A woman’s physical, moral, psychological and emotional health suffers as a result of that. Unfortunately, there are a lot of women, who prefer to stand all that. A social position does not show any influence on the situation. I have an extensive experience of talking to people on a phone hotline. The majority of women think that they have to be patient about it, because they need to grow their kids, buy an apartment, but sacrifice their own health and spiritual comfort. Women basically call us because they want someone to help them to have another view on the situation. They told me a lot of personal stories. I believe that spiritual tortures bring a lot more damage to a woman that physical ones can bring. It is harder to normalize the mindset of a woman. I will never forget a confession from one woman. She said that she could never describe the way she felt when her husband insulted her – a person, who knew every corner of her soul inside out. She told me that he knew, how to hurt her, which things to say to hurt her most. She said that her husband did that on a regular basis, because he enjoyed her pain and suffering. One of the myths say that family violence is rather common for the families of low social and educational levels. As experience shows, violence can occur both in poor and wealthy families equally. There are a lot of theories pertaining to the roots of family violence. I stick to the one, which says that a violent standard of conduct is formed at early childhood. A child watches his or her parents and then becomes either an aggressor or a victim. It is hard to advise anything here, because every situation has its peculiarities.

Olga Zotova Vladivostok


Translated by Dmitry Sudakov