”I am not afraid of him anymore”- 30 years stolen by domestic violence
The first hit came when she was pregnant. The second came a week later. Many more followed.
She didn’t keep track of them during the 30 years she lived with an abuser. „I spent half of my life not knowing that I have the right to be happy”, says Ioana*.
Ioana was 18 years old. She dreamed of moving to the city, to study and build her life on her own. Then she met the quiet and solitary boy who was following her everywhere, telling he loves her. „I was happy and in love. That’s why I got married. Too soon, I was a child…”, she admits.
The first slap slammed her into a wall. It had only been a few months after the wedding and she was pregnant. She didn’t understand how you can hit a person you love. In her family the discussions were calm and her parents respected each other, which she did not see in her husband’s family, with whom they moved as soon as they got married. She wanted to leave but he apologized. He said that he lost control. „When we move to our own house we won’t get angry anymore. We’ll be happy, we just have to be patient”, he was telling her after each slap.
”Love is gone”
Ioana wasn’t allowed to wear make-up, nor to dress as she liked. She wasn’t allowed to visit her parents and tell them about her husband’s outbursts. She was covering her bruises with toothpaste. „I was ashamed that this was happening to me”, she confesses.
She was a survivors of physical, psychological an sexual violence from her husband. „If you don’t want me, I want you. You are my woman and you must do as I say!” She was forcing me to lay with him… The love has gone very quickly. Because of this violence I started to hate him”, she says.
One morning she took her child and ran to her parents. „My mother told me never to go back to him, that he won’t get better… But I didn't listen to her”, says the woman. She returned to the husband who made her startle every time he entered the house. She called the police several times. He was fined and then released.
The beatings became even more brutal. „My husband blamed me for everything. I was guilty of provoking him to hit me. I was guilty of running away from home. I was guilty of calling the police and embarrassing him in front of the people from the village, where almost every second woman was beaten”, Ioana remembers. Her mother-in-law was also telling her that it is her fault. The woman bragged that she was beaten daily by her husband, but she did not complain. „He beat me, but I did not die. So don’t be the smartest one here”, the woman scolded Ioana.
Years passed, but Ioana did not have the courage to leave her home. Where would she go with her children? Who would host her? Even the police couldn’t help her. Her husband used to hit her in a way that wouldn't leave any marks so she could not report to the police. But they needed clear evidence.
One day, her youngest daughter managed to record him punching her mother. Within hours a ten-day restraining order was issued against the man. „But he didn’t go anywhere. The law didn’t mean anything to him”, says Ioana. The man was fined and the restraining order was extended by three months. „Then I remembered what it’s like to live in peace”, Ioana confessed.
Police advised her to contact the Women’s Law Center. The specialists there counseled her and helped her initiate the divorce process.
”I am not afraid of him anymore”
„When I saw the divorce certificate, I couldn’t believe it… I regret not leaving sooner. I didn’t even realize that 30 years had passed with me enduring this silently…”, states Ioana.
It is now two years since the woman lives quietly. She moved to the city, rented an apartment and found a job.
At the age of 50 she went to a beauty salon for the first time. She put on make-up, did a manicure and also tattoos to cover the scars left by her ex-husband. „I am not afraid of him anymore. I am strong and I know he can’t do me any harm….”, she says.
oana urges survivors of domestic violence to contact NGOs and support centers. „I tell them to leave the aggressor right after the first slap. People who beat women are cowards and we shouldn’t allow them to ruin our lives”, adds Ioana.
She enjoys the moments she spends with her children, who she was able to protect. Every day Ioana learns to be strong and dream with her eyes open, as she hasn’t done since she was 18.
Violence against women and girls is one of the most systematic and widespread violation of human rights in Moldova and throughout the world. Women are the victims of domestic violence more frequently. The results of a regional study on gender norms and stereotypes carried out in the countries of the Eastern Partnership show that in the Republic of Moldova, 23% of women and 18% of men saw their mother being hit by their partner in childhood.
Within the regional Program "Together against gender stereotypes and gender-based violence" we aim to combat gender-based violence in all its forms. The dissemination of Ioana's story is a continuation of the efforts of the European Union, UNFPA and UN Women to combat gender stereotypes and prevent violence against women.
This article was written as part of the "Together against gender stereotypes and gender-based violence" program, funded by the European Union and implemented by UN Women and UNFPA.
This article was produced with the financial support of the European Union. The content of this article is entirely the responsibility of the author and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the European Union.
*The character's name has been changed to protect her identity.