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Bearing violence is not normal

The mobile team has been working with Anna (the name has been changed for security reasons) for 4 months already. A woman lives with her two sons in the municipally-owned facility - the Donetsk Regional Center for Social and Psychological Assistance in Druzhkovka. She found herself there after her cup of patience was full.

"We have been together for 12 years. And over a year ago, he started battering me, he became very weird", Anna says. "He started alleging me of being unfaithful to him all these years, claiming that I had other partners, although during all this time I rarely left the house and our yard. Then he started registering false profiles of me on dating sites, and at the same time kept threatening me and asking why is my photo on such a website. Such situations have become more frequent. My husband began to say that he found my photos on various dating sites. I have never done anything like this. I understood that he just let his sick imagination off the leash"

Anna assumes that it is the drugs which spurred the problem. Moreover, he had been not only using, but dealing in substances before. It is them, the woman says, which affected his nervous system, even causing hallucinations. Changes in her husband's behavior became apparent. Once, her husband sat down beside Anna, put a knife next to him, and started talking about those dating sites. It was a very frightening situation, a woman felt she was in danger. After a while, she became scared not only for herself but for children. The next day she pretended to take her children to school, grabbed the kids and some of her possessions and ran away.

However, she had nowhere to run, for some time she used to hide at her sister's place in another city. And then, looking for a solution, the woman came across information about the UNFPA mobile teams. The team helped woman to move to a shelter in Druzhkivka Center, where she is still living for the fourth month. Although the stay in the shelter is limited to three months, she was allowed to reside there longer, because the situation has not yet been resolved.

During this time, mobile team workers help Anna looking for job and housing. Woman is not going to return to her husband, therefore, their common story is clearly over. Mobile team’s social workers occupy children with art therapy. Such an exercise helps children to become calmer because as a result of the seen violence, boys became a bit aggressive in their behavior.

It happens naturally when children witness domestic violence and experience it together with their mother. Therefore, often women seek assistance from mobile teams to obtain help for their children rather than themselves.

"When it comes to children, women become more interested in our help, even if otherwise they would not yet be ready to contact us themselves. Most women are very worried about the condition of their children. Women being indifferent to their children are a rare occurrence, while this does happen sometimes. Usually, a woman is motivated to contact us when she finds out that we can work with children separately, we test them to assess their psychological condition, apply corrective exercises. Women really appreciate this. And, of course, the fact that our assistance is free, turns out to be essential"- said the psychologist of the mobile team from Slovyansk.

It is important to stop domestic violence now when the traumatic experience of children who witnessed violence might not yet be imprinted to deeply. If we manage to at least reduce the scale of this problem, in the future society will have the lower number of traumatized people with the potential of developing into aggressors, who had gone through a painful experience of domestic violence in their past.

"Based on my practice, I can say that a male aggressor had been a victim or a witness of domestic violence when he was a child", said the psychologist of the mobile team from Slovyansk. This affected the formation of their personality a great deal. A person follows the pattern "I had been suffering offense, now I will offend", without even reflecting on it"

Thus, according to the 2018 UN Population Survey, around 27% of men witnessed their mother being physically abused by their father or stepfather, and 50% experienced physical punishment from their parents in childhood.

What to do: psychology’s advice

"We must understand that we make our own choices.  If we dislike behavior of our loved one, we have several options: to get aloof, accept it, or become defensive. It's us who make this choice. It is very important to understand that this choice should not violate the law and the personal boundaries of another person. Even when one talks about situations where a woman allegedly "provoked" her husband, she cannot be considered guilty. Because it's the man who chooses how to react. He has several options, and he is responsible for his decisions. And anyway, no one deserves violence - neither a man nor a woman, nor a child"

Unfortunately, there is still a plenty of work for mobile teams. While there is domestic violence, their work will never be over. However, experts consider they will have even more tools at their hands. The Law on Prevention and Combating of Family Violence, will further improve violence response: allow not only to help the woman herself, but finally provide leverages of influence on perpetrators and abusers in place.

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Mobile teams work is supported within the framework of the UNFPA Programme "Integrated response to end gender-based violence against vulnerable women and adolescent girls in Ukraine”, implemented in partnership with the Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine with the financial support of the UK Government.