Life after the nightmare at home: The story of a woman who escaped violence
Olesea has three children whom she is raising with the love she never had. Her parents abandoned her when she was barely learning to walk, and her dream of having a loving family turned into a nightmare after she got married. The man she trusted beat and humiliated her. Olesea found the strength to leave him, taking their three children with her. Today, she’s telling her story to convince women who are going through similar experiences to not let themselves be defeated.
She wanted the family she never had
Every afternoon, Olesea waits for her children to come home from school, setting the table for them and then calling them to play or go for a walk. It seems to her that there’s so much peace and warmth in their small rented apartment, it’s as if even the walls are happy for their sense of calm.
She cherishes evenings like this because she wanted them and obtained them with great difficulty. At the house she fled from in Ștefan-Vodă, she felt like she lived in a cage, where her main occupation was to tremble with fear after finishing all her other tasks – caring for the children, the garden, the household. He was always making remarks, throwing an insult, a punch, a chair or whatever he could in her direction.
Olesea wanted a relationship with him, believing that she would finally have the family she always dreamed of. "It [the abuse] all started between us when I wanted to look for my parents,” she says. “I don't remember so many things about my childhood, except that I was raised in another family after my parents abandoned me. I remember tears and sadness".
The dream of a happy home turned into a nightmare
Olesea found her mother living in a village in Ukraine, but nothing struck up between them and they soon broke off communication.
"My life with that man began when I was chased away by my mother, with a child in my arms,” Olesea says. “After two years of marriage, the first slap occurred. He would always say to me, ‘If you listen to me, everything will be fine’”.
She already had three children with him, and her life in the much-desired family turned into a nightmare that she could not escape.
Fear and threats kept her chained beside him
"There was a lot of pain, a lot of crying, a lot of beatings," Olesea says. "He would always tell me, ‘Where are you going to go and who needs you?’ That was actually my biggest fear: that nobody needed me, that if I left him I wouldn’t be able to live alone. I didn’t worry about myself as much as I worried about my children – how will they sleep, how will I feed them, where will I take them? He also threatened me, saying that if I left him, he would find me and kill me, that he would go to jail and the children would end up like me, at an orphanage".
The children were suffering as well. They were afraid for their mother and ended up with bruises if they tried to defend her.
"This began the last beating, the one after which I told myself this cannot continue,” Olesea recalls. “He was about to hit our daughter’s head against a closet, and I jumped up to stop him".
With a hardened face, she recounts the aftermath – how, after the cruel blows, she spent a month in bed with her head bandaged and unable to walk while her children desperately watched her. When she was able to get up again, she told herself that leaving her husband was the next step she had to take. And so it happened. She called the hotline number 08008 8008, which she found on the internet, and talked to someone about her pain.
An abuser never changes
She didn't think that moment would change everything and make her regain her dignity and confidence. A reassuring voice on the other end of the line calmed her down. She was offered psychological support, a lawyer and a place to stay with her children. She lived at Casa Mărioarei for a while and then rented an apartment and found a job. It is not easy. There are shortcomings – bills to pay, clothes and school supplies to buy. But she feels confident and that's why she succeeds.
“How do you feel here?” I asked Olesea's daughter.
“Here in Chișinău?” she replied.
“Here in your new life”.
"We live in peace, and it's so good”.
Olesea told her story, hoping that other women in domestic violence situations find hope in her words and follow her guidance. "I would advise all those going through the same experiences to not tolerate it, to not be afraid to leave,” she says. “Because an abuser never changes".
According to a study conducted by the Women's Law Center, three out of four women in Moldova are subjected to domestic violence, whether it is physical, sexual, financial or psychological. Solutions are available for each of them, and they are urged to reach out to specialists.
This article was developed by UN Women Moldova to commemorate 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, a global campaign carried out annually by public authorities, international organisations and civil society. The campaign, which kicks off on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and ends on 10 December, Human Rights Day, seeks to raise awareness that violence against women is the most widespread human rights violation worldwide.