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LN – Escaping violence: “He came to shoot me a gun in the head”


The women arrive at the shelters and halfway houses only with the clothes and loaded with fears; They seek to project a future without violence and face great challenges to achieve economic and housing autonomy Source: LA NACION – Credit: Ignacio Sánchez

In the kitchen, there is a smell of fried fat: the biscuits are still hot on the counter and a pasta that overflows with quince. Distributed in four long tables with wooden benches, a group of women drink mate. It's 4:30 PM on a Tuesday and April chose to stay inside. As an exception, his daughters did not go to the garden. On the street, winter hits Buenos Aires and the heating feels like a balm.

Although Abril's expression -his name was changed to protect his identity- changes when he remembers what he lived, those years where violence became as everyday as breathing, he prefers to speak:
shut up was the worst.

A little over a year ago, he arrived at this protected home for victims of violence who co-managed the San Isidro Bishopric and the Tigre Gender Policy Directorate.
32 years old, glasses with violet frame and baby face. He got up at 8:30, had breakfast and went to wash clothes and order the room, while the girls played.

“I was living at my sister's, but it was not safe anymore because he knew where I was, I had left him nine months ago,” he recalls. “He” is his ex-husband, the father of his two youngest daughters, whom he never mentions by name. “They brought me with my girls in a patrol car.
I was nervous and scared, I did not know where I was going.
I imagined that this place was going to be something like a prison, “he adds.

April today feels different, but the memories of her ex-partner are still a ghost that mortifies her. Although he knows that fear is protected there, it never disappears. It was seven years of enduring “everything”. A pervert who enjoyed triggering a weapon discharged in the head; that more than once he cut her with a knife and hanged her with whatever he had at hand-from a rag to the wire of an iron-until he left her faint on the floor; that made her lose a pregnancy to kicks; that hit him if the food had no salt, if the clothes were not as he liked, if he dropped the mate, if he said what he thought or marked with his fingers a glass table that had to be always impeccable.

I hanged myself with the cable of an iron, a rag, or anything until I was unconscious; several times I woke up on the floor

April, victim of gender violence

There are hundreds of women who arrive every year
shelters, half-way houses and comprehensive protection homes that are in the country. According to official numbers, there are more than 100 devices (85% state, the rest of civil society) unevenly distributed along the map and with an average of 15 seats each. The figures from the National Institute for Women (INAM) group them by regions and show how
Buenos Aires concentrates the majority (47), while in the northeast, for example, there are only two.

The home where April lives is open doors: a halfway house. That afternoon, women enter and leave; most return to seek their sons and daughters from school. Some arrived there after having gone through shelters for high-risk situations, with a reserved address and very strict security rules: you can not go out on the street or use a cell phone and the kids have classes inside the institution.

For Fabiana Túnez, executive director of INAM, the trend is toward a paradigm shift that involves the transition from the concept of refuge to the home of integral protection, where the woman is protected, sheltered, empowered and protected. train and they have liberties that in the refuge they do not.
“The concept of integral protection home is opposed to saying we are blaming the victim,” he says.

April sits in the chair. He pauses. With a grimace that looks like a smile but sad, he says that in the first three months of his relationship he was not like that. It was another. A blue prince who was looking for her because of the work with chocolates, who waited for her with champagne and gave her gifts.
After three months, the blows began. “Look,” he says, pointing to a scar on the right side of his face, “this is from when I split my lip with a punch,” he says, resting the tip of his forefinger on a point between his thick brown hair. cut with a butcher knife: there was a pool of blood. “

In 2018, there were 48,820 new calls to line 144. In 6 out of 10 cases attended, the victims were between 19 and 40 years old. 40% were in a violent situation for a period ranging from one to five years, and in more than 8 out of 10 cases, the aggressor was the partner or ex-partner. 90% of the women who called did not have protection measures in force at that time.

During all the years he spent with his ex, in April he never crossed his mind to ask for help. “He threatened me by telling me that I knew which school my oldest son was going to, where he lived with his father, where my brothers worked, or if he wanted me to leave, but that I would not be able to take my daughters”, account. She endured from fear and from believing in what she said: that no one was going to help her, that she was not going to be able to do it alone. The day she said enough was when he threatened to start downloading her hatred with the girls. ”
Today I feel different: from how I think to how I speak “, He says.

The coordinator of the home comes to offer a mate that April rejects with a soft: “Thank you very much, I've already got it”. There is not much left for dinner. It begins to prepare at around 18.30 and at 20 are all eating. That night there is rice with lentils. April loves rice. Account that in the home it raised some kilos.

She remembers that the day she arrived she had two bags with a change for her and her daughters, who are now 4 and 5 years old. She was installed in room number 2 and sat on the bed without knowing what to do. “I had a 'remiedo' At the beginning, I always did what the other women told me, until one day one of them ordered me: 'Get up and put me on the kettle' I got tired of it. I do not like to talk like that, but I had already suffered a lot, always doing what they told me. ” It was like planting the flag of its independence.
For the first time in a long time, she felt like a free woman.

Start over

Although shelters are essential to initially house women who make the desperate decision to flee their homes, they are not enough, but only the first link in a chain of resources they need to start rebuilding.

The women who arrive at these devices are those who do not have any kind of containment network or economic resources.
They are very lonely. The first thing that is sought is to contain the anguish, empower them, tell them that they can and connect them with what they like. Many never asked themselves that question.

They have been years -even, decades- suffering from the mistreatment of their aggressors and escaping, in addition to their sons and daughters, only with what they put on. Although each case is different, the challenge for them to start over and project a future free of violence is enormous: from the end of school, learn a trade and get a job, until they can find a stable place to live at the time of exit

April says that at home he could not watch television, listen to music, or go out on the street. If he did not do everything like his ex-husband, the blows would come. All that
circle of violence and violations, it took her away from her family, from her friendships and she had to leave her job for years in a supermarket where she was a model employee: the one that was never missing, the good companion, who was always happy. Today, although full of uncertainties, she feels that thanks to the home – where she gets the most out of individual and group therapy spaces – she can project a new life.

I could not watch TV, listen to music or go outside. But everything was done as he said, the blows were coming

April, victim of gender violence

“When they arrive, the women say that the only thing they bring of value are their sons and daughters, and many times it is for them that they manage to take the step of leaving their house, some of them can not even remove the documents. , says Paulina Oviedo, coordinator of Hogar Nuestra Señora del Milagro, by Florencio Varela. “It's shocking to see how in a short time, his face and body posture change completely,” he adds.

Someone who listens to them. That is one of the things that women value most. Oviedo, stresses: “We must always listen to them with respect, without being scandalized, for example, when they tell us that despite what they experienced and the blows that are marked on their bodies, they sometimes miss that violent man,” he maintains.
It is not so easy for them to break this link of years of violence and that is the biggest and most personal work that needs to be done. It requires putting a lot of body. “

Mabel Bianco, president of the Foundation for the Study and Research of Women (FEIM), highlights the
juggling many households that depend on civil society to carry out their task. “Shelters in general are not enough, especially in some provinces where women do not have any support, and the NGOs that are in this work tend to do it very well,” he says.

The home of Tigre -which has capacity for 13 women and their children- turned out to be very different from that image that frightened April before arriving: it found containment; a clean, spacious and well-kept house where she felt safe again and could think of herself. He even did courses in event organization, protocol and ceremonial.

He got used to the routine: to the schedules for breakfast, snack and dinner. On a wall, indicate the schedule that shows the activities that each one touches that week. She goes to clean the bathrooms: there are two, one for women and their daughters, another for sons. In addition to sharing the domestic chores, they help with the care of the children and they form the network they never had.

At home, April made a friend. With her and the children of the two, they share the room. They all face the patio and Abril opens the door to his. The sample without entering: “There is my partner, I do not want to bother,” he explains. She and her girls sleep in two single beds that are attached: they have pink cushions and the walls are covered with photos and drawings.

He crosses the patio again with his youngest daughter in his arms. She is a big girl, who looks bigger than her older sister. Before saying goodbye, she confesses that she has been worried for a few days: “My ex has been imprisoned for a year because a girlfriend who had her after me also denounced him for violence, apparently now going to be free.”

April had to testify at the trial and tell how his ex was, with his gaze fixed on the back of his neck. She was accompanied by one of the home psychologists and did not turn around. He did not want to see it.

She is afraid, but that does not stop her from dreaming: “I want to stay and live in the area of ​​the home, because I liked it, and I would like to rent a place with my four children, finish high school and get a job again in a supermarket in customer service, “he concludes when the afternoon has fallen and as he prepares the girls for a hot shower before dinner.

The challenges and the response of the State

How to collaborate

Hogar Nuestra Señora del Milagro

This home receives a woman, above all, from Florencio Varela, Quilmes and Berazategui. It is sustained by donations that religious and private orders provide. They need resources to be able to have more activities with women, workshops and an occupational therapist. You can collaborate by making a bank transfer to account No. Berazategui Branch 5032 50468/7 – CBU: 01400816 01503205046877. [email protected]

San Marcelo Parish

Co-manages a home for victims of gender violence in Tigre. They need personal hygiene and cleaning products; construction materials and paint; and resources to deal with different household expenses. All the people who want to collaborate can write to [email protected]

Where to ask for help

  • Line 144: It is the free line of attention for women in situations of violence. It serves 24 hours, free of charge and throughout the country
  • Office of Domestic Violence: Attend every day, 24 hours. It remains in Lavalle 1250 PB, CABA. You can call (011) 4123-4510 (to 4514)

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Publicado en el diario La Nación