"I am a teacher and I was ashamed to say my husband beat me:" One woman’s story of overcoming 12 years of violence
This story recounts the experiences of a primary school teacher in Chișinău who left her marriage after 12 years of abuse. We have chosen not to use her real name to protect her identity. She is still suffering. She is still afraid. She is afraid of her abuser, but, even more, she is afraid of the society that condemned her from the very beginning for being abused and humiliated by the man with whom she chose to spend her life. For 12 years, she didn't say anything about what was happening to her at home. What would her students and their parents have said?
Today, she is raising her two children alone, with many challenges, but without fear for their lives. She would like other women to understand that they cannot share their homes with their abuser. They need to break away, find a way to leave with dignity and want to live a full life, without being ashamed of it.
”I am a mother of two little girls who are 6 and 11 years old. I work as a teacher, here, at an institution in the capital. I ensure my existence on my own. Nowadays, I am very satisfied both personally and professionally with my freedom, with the life I have, with how much things have changed since I left a family where violence was the order of the day.
I was married to a violent man with whom I lived for 12 years. I went through a lot of torture and both physical and emotional violence. It's been a very hard life. There were threats, screams, cries and excessive control. I was like a child in our family. All my actions had to be approved by him.
Blows, pushes – all these actions were witnessed by our children – tears, threats that he was going to undress me and take me outside. I was very afraid of knives. Whenever he came home drunk, the first thing I did was make the set of knives disappear.
When he was aggressive, he was unstoppable. Tears couldn’t stop him, nor the fact that I might wet myself in front of him. And every time, I was blamed for everything, told that it happened because of me – I didn't talk properly, I didn't put the spoon in the right place, I didn't smile properly.
I stayed all this time because I inherited this from home. It is, for example, your mother to whom you go and tell that you’re having a hard time, and she tells you: "What about me with your father? How did I live?" or "You chose him!"
I was always coming back to him and looking for justifications for his behavior, I was giving him, in a way, the right, that maybe he is too young and can't find a place, that maybe he is going through a crisis, that maybe he is tense at work, maybe he will change.
Another reason why I stayed so long in this marriage was that I have an academic background in psycho-pedagogical studies and I was ashamed to admit that I was a victim of violence. I also had status in the area where I left, even though he would humiliate me in public.
It was the constant threat of death as well. He told me that if I left and he found me, he would kill me. I was thinking about our two girls. I was thinking: If I leave, who would love them more than their father?
Time passed, his behavior worsened and I got very scared. That's when I started looking for information. I would search online about how other women did it, what organisations exist that offer support to domestic violence victims, what kind of support I could get and where exactly I could go right after I left the house I shared with him.
I was thinking about running away to a monastery, but fortunately I found contact information for a centre in Chișinău, the Casa Mărioarei Association. I learned that they could offer me a place to live until I found something to rent for myself and my children. I called the number displayed on the website, and I talked to one of the employees who picked up the phone. I think it was actually the administrator. I told them simply that I wanted to escape from all this alive. What impressed me is that they didn’t tell me to take my luggage and run away immediately. Instead, they advised me to make an informed decision and to contact them again when I am really ready. That gave me even more courage. I think if they had rushed me and I had taken a forced step, I would have changed my mind.
When it became very clear to me that I was going to leave, I put my most essential items in two small bags, I took my girls and, without telling anyone, I came to Chișinău, to Casa Mărioarei. Here, I had a place to live, good meals and nutrition, legal assistance and schooling for my children. It was very important that they continued their studies and did not feel cut off from their ordinary lives.
Although I have some financial difficulties now, I have no regrets about my life. My children and I rent an apartment and we live on my salary as a teacher. Sometimes I don't have enough money to buy new clothes, but it is better than living as I lived before.
I urge all women not to tolerate violence in any way. Only you can decide what to do with your life and how to spend it. And if you think you will not be able to cope financially, you need to remember that there are so many organisations that can offer you help. You just have to make a decision and want to change things.
This article was developed by UN Women Moldova to raise awareness about the gravity of violence against girls and women, which remains the most widespread human rights violation worldwide.