On November 25, at the Moscow House, the Tufenkian Foundation unveiled a two-day exhibit of artworks by children from families suffering from domestic violence. Entitled “Violence Through the Eyes of Children”, the event had been organized with the participation of World Vision and the Charitable Roundtable of the World Council of Churches and was being held to mark the annual “International Day Against Violence.”
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U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Marie Yovanovitch, who was present at the opening of the exhibit, mentioned that the event was taking place on what was celebrated as Thanksgiving Day in the United States. She said she was thankful to people who were concerned about the issue and were there to struggle against violence together. Also present were the United Kingdom and Germany’s ambassadors as well as government and non government organizations.
Yovanovitch said that domestic violence is also a problem in the United States where one in four women still suffers violence in their families. The ambassador said this attitude is “passed from generation to generation” and called for joint efforts to clamp down on violence.
Later that day, Tufenkian Foundation joined many citizens and the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Women, in a march in memory of victims of domestic violence.
These activities aim to raise awareness of domestic violence, which affects numerous women and children throughout Armenia. But in order to remedy this problem, we first must acknowledge its presence, second we must understand that within our society, domestic violence is aggravated especially by poverty and social dislocation, and in this respect Armenia has its share of problems.
For the past ten years numerous independent studies both in Armenia and in Diaspora raised the issue of domestic violence and have called for more action and protection and action by the government towards the victims.
But, despite overwhelming evidence, Armenia’s authorities and local media continue to deny, ignore, or otherwise downplay the problem, assuming that such matters are best handled privately, within the family. Meantime, in Armenia the shelters to protect the lives of women and children victims of violence are too few, compared to the demand.
As with many social issues, the best results come when people get involved and demand that justice be done. Taboo topics otherwise subject to cover-ups – such as sexual abuse in special schools, sexual harassment at the work place, and domestic violence – need to be brought to the forefront in our society with legislation revised to punish such cases and offer protection to victims. The effects of violence, be it physical or psychological, may be seen here in this exhibit, as they emotionally scar the children, perpetuate violent behavior, and cause families to become dysfunctional. Such acts need to be punished and condemned because violence in any form is a criminal act.
In a move toward addressing this problem, the Tufenkian Foundation, in partnership with USAID and the Armenian International Women’s Association (AIWA) set up a Women’s Support Center in Yerevan’s Shengavit district. The center is run by the ‘Zangakatun’ Social Services NGO, and provides a variety of support services to abused women and their families. We hope you will join us in supporting the center’s work, as well as other projects .