If he beats you — it means he loves you. About domestic violence in Russia (11.05.2020 10:38:40)

If he beats you — it means he loves you. 

About domestic violence in Russia


An old russian proverb says: "If he beats you — it means he loves you." Domestic violence is still a huge problem in Russian society. It has several causes, cultural and social, and which is why women sometimes are forced to stay with their violent husbands. But in the last few years Russian women have started to fight back. Not with fists, but with loud voices against the abusers, the decriminalization of domestic violence, the incompetent authorities, the lack of protection and supporting programs for women and children, who suffer domestic violence, especially in rural regions. 


"I didn't want to die" is the name of the Instagram campaign started by two Russian bloggers Alexandra Mitroshina and Alena Popova in July 2019. The goal of this campaign was to show the problem of domestic violence in Russia and the missing protection for victims. Russia belongs to 18 of the world's worst countries in women's rights protection. There is no law against domestic violence and in February 2017 Russian parliament decriminalized some forms of domestic violence, turning them from guilty of a crime to administrative offence.




The statistics are alarming. More than 16 million women suffer domestic violence every year. 38% of Russian women experience verbal violence and 20% experience physical abuse. But only 10% of victims contact the police for help. This is the reason why the lawyer and women rights activist Alena Popova started a petition for the adoption of a law against domestic violence. 


The awareness of domestic violence has changed in the last few years. We have seen an increase in help hotlines, home pages with supportive and informative content, educational events, creation of hashtags as well as activists and bloggers discussing the issue online. The problems, difficulties and needs of the victims of domestic violence are starting to become more and more visible in Russian society. Big cities like Moscow or Saint Petersburg started support programs and created crisis centres for women, who experience violence at home and in their relationships. But the situation in rural regions is still worrying. 


Svetlana Starostina, a social activist and head of a social project in Pereslav-Zalessky, located 140 kilometres (87 miles) north-east of Moscow, confirms that domestic violence is still a huge problem in the Russian society. Svetlana explains that even if there have been many positive changes in the last few years, in some situations women are still forced to stay with their violent husbands, because they don't get any help from the police, city administration or other authorities. Most of the time the women don't have any money and cannot afford to leave their husbands and bring themselves and their children to safety. The presence of of non-govermental organizations in rural regions is becoming increasing important, because in some situations they can save lives.


"These women are scared, desperate and they don't know their or the rights of their children," explains Svetlana Starostina. "Some of them believe the way they live is 'normal'. Because they made the same experiences in their own childhood or see the same situation in many other families. In order to see the changes in the society, the first step would be to change our own awareness of domestic violence and how to handle it."


The education, socialization and the cultural background play a huge role in the formation of the awareness, believes Julia Kling. She grew up in Kazakhstan and moved to Germany in 2007. Before she began her cultural science studies, she worked for eight years as social worker and educator in a home for children and young people in Baden-Baden. In 2020 Julia became youth ambassador of the women rights organization Terre des Femmes. Violence against women and children is one of the main focuses in Julia's professional and voluntary work.


"The women who came from former Soviet Union to Germany, brought with them their old behavioural and thinking patterns," explains Julia. For these women it is very difficult to break their old attitudes. It is especially difficult when they continue to live in closed communities, where old proverbs and outdated beliefs are deeply rooted.


"These women consider the family as the most sacred institution and put it above their own human rights," explains Julia Kling. Furthermore, in their former home countries it was a shame to speak aloud about domestic violence. These women never learned to fight back and to protect themselves. They are more used to being silent.


In her essay Silence is the sign of acceptance Julia criticizes the decriminalization of domestic violence, the acceptance of the situation in the society and in goverments, as well as the lack of protection for victims in Russia, Kazakhstan and in many post-Soviet states.


It is the reason why Julia believes that bloggers, activists and initiatives against domestic violence on social media or in public can change not only the awareness of the society, but also the legal situation. When voices and demands become louder, the pressure on the governments and other authorities becomes stronger. Hopefully, they will no longer ignore the necessary change in the existing system and the urgent need for passing a law to protect victims and prevent domestic violence.




2020, Katharina Martin-Virolainen






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AW: If he beats you — means he loves you: About domestic violence in Russia
Geschrieben am 11.05.2020 12:37:01 von Julia Kling

Ein starker journalistischer Text, der eine längst überfällige Diskussion im Kontext der Gewalt und kultureller Identität anstößt.

Ich wünsche mir, dass dieser Text eine breite Leserschaft erreicht und viele zum Nachdenken bringt.

Danke dafür.
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