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Abusive husband's victim: "Who would imagine I would regret the bars and clubs closing?"

May 04th, 2020
topic:Women's rights
by:Katarina Panić
located in:Bosnia and Herzegovina
tags:Coronavirus, COVID-19, domestic violence, human rights, sexual abuse, UN Women, women's rights

As more countries impose anticorona measures, more domestic violence helplines and shelters across the world are reporting rising calls for help. UN Women called the phenomenon "the shadow pandemic", desperately lacking governrmental response.

The phone rang in the Social Welfare Centre in the Bosinian town of Prijedor early in the morning, one April morning. The women said she slept in the stable last night. The social worker did not ask who it was, nor did she check the caller-ID. She recognised her voice instantly.

Let us call her Amina since she agreed to talk to FairPlanet under the condition of anonymity. "Yesterday evening he was blind drunk. He started to beat me. The children (7- and 9-years-old) started to cry. I grabbed them and ran out of the house. He locked the door so that we couldn't get back in. No one was around in the village as the curfew had already started. We came into our stable, and we lay down in the straw. The kids fell asleep soon; and me, I fell asleep just before dawn", Amina said.

Recurring Promise of change

Her husband is a longtime alcoholic who refuses therapy, and has never admitted he has a problem: the first step for beginning addiction treatment. He has been beating her from the very first day they got married. She used to take shelter with her parents or friends for a few days, he used to beg her to come back, she would always relent, and he would always promise he was going to change.

"As all of this situation started, the things get worse than ever. He comes home right after he finishes the job. I could never have imagined that I would regret the bars were closed. Now I realise how much more peace I had when he used to spend evenings and nights there. The kids used to sleep once he gets back; now they often see when he drinks heavily and when he beats me", Amina added.

Shame and Domestic Violence

Back to the social worker that picked up the phone, Dajana Stupar told FairPlanet, Amina is what colleagues call “ a neverending story”. She lives in a vicious circle of a dysfunctional family and transgenerational domestic violence.

"A few times, we managed to separate her from the abuser. Unfortunately, not only that she had no support from her family, but they accused her of not being a good wife. They repeated that her children are going to be labelled as bastards. They objected every time she called the police because it is embarrassing  to have a police car  parked in front of someone's house. They forced her to get back and to endure the violence; otherwise, the village would dismiss her as a whore. After such experience, she refused any institutional support towards being separated from him. She only calls us from time to time. She wants someone to listen to her. She even does not cry anymore. Meanwhile, a violent husband became even more violent", Stupar said.

The shadow pandemic of Covid-19

As more countries impose anticorona measures, more domestic violence helplines and shelters across the world are reporting rising calls for help. UN chief António Guterres urged all governments to put women's safety first as they respond to the pandemic. UN Women called the phenomenon "the shadow pandemic".

"Even before COVID-19 existed, domestic violence was already one of the greatest human rights violations. In the previous 12 months, 243 million women and girls (aged 15-49) across the world have been subjected to sexual or physical violence by an intimate partner. (…) Less than 40 per cent of women who experience violence seeking the help of any sort or reporting the crime. Less than 10 per cent of those women seeking help go to the police. The current circumstances make reporting even harder, including limitations on women's and girls' access to phones and helplines and disrupted public services like police, justice and social services", UN Women stated.

Bosnia is among countries which say they had not registered a rise in the number of domestic abuse cases since COVID-19 restrictions were imposed. Yet, experts agree the data rarely reflect the accurate scale of the problem given victims often do not report incidents.

Lack of governmental response in Bosnia

"That does not mean that there has not been an increase in violence, but the women are under the control of the bullies and are not able to report it. Movement restrictions, quarantines and curfews have worsened the plight of many victims. Isolation and interruption of the victim's contact with other people are common patterns of a perpetrators' behaviour. This situation makes it easier for them to exercise control over the victim and prevent her from seeking help", Dajana Stupar said.

NGOs repeatedly call the victims, their families and neighbours to report the violence, and authorities to protect the victims. However, the lack of governmental response is not surprising since all the institutions are being focused on pandemics. The police and the hospitals are over-occupied, and all their capacities are on the ground. Many other institutions keep the minimum operating mode and provide only urgent services. And domestic violence is far from being the top priority.

Article written by:
Katarina Panić
Katarina Panić
Author
Bosnia and Herzegovina
More domestic violence helplines and shelters across the world are reporting rising calls for help during the corona crisis.
"Now I realise how much more peace I had when he used to spend evenings and nights in bars."
UN chief António Guterres urged all governments to put women's safety first as they respond to the pandemic. UN Women called the phenomenon "the shadow pandemic".