Domestic Violence in Armenia: What We Need to Know!

19.12.2011
News

Domestic violence (DV) in Armenia is starting to surface more frequently.

Thanks to the work done by the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Women, cases that otherwise were left unheard, unpunished and unknown to the general public, have now been brought to surface together with the entire problem of DV.  For this, the Coalition and its seven NGOs working to combat gender based violence are very thankful of the coverage in the on-line press of such cases. We are still disappointed that the print media, in particular, and large TV stations, in general, do not cover the issue very much.

I would like to point out that we can fight against DV and protect victims from abusers if our society gets knowledgeable about the phenomenon of abuse against women by husbands or other relatives.  First, I would like to draw the attention to journalists because they are the first line of contact with the population and they have the power to inform society about DV.

Unfortunately, in Armenia there is no literature or popular disseminated information through magazines about DV.  Hence, journalists are themselves unaware of the problem.  This became very evident when journalists asked uninformed and absurd questions at various events and protests, which is either due to misinformation or lack of the facts.

I don’t want to blame journalists alone – but since they report on a subject, they must first get informed or educated about it so they don’t propagate any myths or misconceptions. This can be very damaging and place victims of DV in further danger.

DV manifests itself through physical, psychological, sexual and economic abuse. I will not enter into details but those interested can contact the Coalition at csvw.armenia@gmail.com where appropriate materials can be requested.

On this occasion, I would like to make clear to all readers that DV is a crime and journalists must emphasize this in each of their articles. Both victim and perpetrator must know this and realize that such behavior is not acceptable and is punishable by law. A healthy relationship is not based on violence, threats or coercion.  DV is very dangerous because it escalates and can lead to death or serious physical, emotional and psychological damage to the victim and the children in that family.  Children witnessing and affected by DV have a hard time psychologically, have difficulty with school work, and may become delinquents. There is a high probability of them becoming abusers as adults. This can become a huge problem for society at large.

We should note that men or mother-in-laws abuse women for no other reason than wanting to control them.  Belittling  a woman, making her submit to all sorts of cruelty, even very often during pregnancy as well, making her dependent on the man, isolating her from her surroundings, are all the result of wanting to impose total control on the woman.  For such cruel actions there is no other reason than CONTROL.

A life of fear, physical or sexual abuse, victimization and belittlement, is not a normal life or relationship.  No matter what a mother says to her daughter or a friend or neighbor “to shut up and put up with it”, women must know that this is not normal and they don’t have to submit to it. In a normal, healthy relationship, there is no abuse but a relationship based on partnership, trust and respect, and where conflicts are settled thorough communication and mutual understanding.

Before 1966, when studies on DV first began worldwide, it wasn’t really considered a problem. Today, in Armenia, we are still oblivious to it.

Studies indicate that no matter what happens in a relationship (and often accusations towards the wife are invented ones or unsubstantiated jealousy) the victim is the abused person.  Any form of abuse must be condemned, punished and not justified, because then the blame reverts to the victim who already suffers from it.  This message must ring out loud and clear (and I hope that journalists will circulate this thought) because we need to support these women.

Many victims in DV situations are afraid to take any steps – they have nowhere to turn, no support from friends or family. Therefore, we show sympathy and not blame them for choosing    to remain in such a relationship.  Furthermore, any woman wanting to leave a partner must have a plan and must take all precautions because that is the most dangerous and violent time. Most violent men must not be informed of such steps and a woman needs to think of her and the children’s protection.  Here, our police have a very important role to play. We must speak out   when we know that the crime of DV is happening to our friend, relative or neighbor. Silence will not save anyone.

When journalists ask the victim, as they did the other day in Mariam’s case, “Is one month enough to know someone?” the underlying connotation was that Mariam herself was at fault. This is completely wrong.  First, DV can surface even after 5-10 years of marriage. Secondly, couples can know each other for only 1 month and never have violence in their relationship. Lastly, the profile of an abuser is to show himself to the outside world as a vey nice man, intelligent, hard working, even a good father and be completely cruel towards his wife. This is the tactic of a predator – to make the woman look at fault, to blame her and even call her insane so that he can deny everything.  The very same happened in the case of Zaruhie Petrosyan, who died as a result of her beatings. Mariam’s husband exhibits the same profile – abusers systematically never accept blame and deny any wrong doing.

Readers and all women should know that:

  • DV can occur in any family: rich, poor, educated or not, religious or not.  It is a global issue and threatens the fabric of a healthy Armenian family.
  • Even one instance, one push can become fatal. Therefore, any violent act should be condemned. DV’s dynamic escalates in intensity and frequency with time.
  • Alcohol is only an excuse for DV- not all men who drink become violent and a drunkard   is still fully aware of what he does.
  • Women should not think or hope that an abusive relationship can change –it never does and generally intensifies.
  • Women wrongly assume that children need their fathers, but studies have abundantly shown the negative impact of DV on the psychological wellbeing of children.
  • DV is not a momentary loss of temper. It will repeat and intensify. Those victims, who do not understand what is happening and constantly being blamed by their husbands, usually blame themselves or others.  It is only much later that the victim starts blaming the abuser.
  • Some people believe that the household provider has a right to control those they financially support. This is not a healthy and accurate conviction. No one has the right to control another.
  • Researchers and we also have noted in our work with Armenian women, the DV dynamic called honeymoon and violence.  The honeymoon is when the abuser feels sorry, brings gifts, and promises never to do it again. But after some time, the violence reoccurs.  Abuse is a learned behavior and is not a “natural” reaction to an event. Abusers are not provoked into using violence. They alone are responsible for this inappropriate and unacceptable behavior.  In Armenia, as in the rest of the world, DV must be perceived as a crime and the abuser must be restrained and removed from the house or jailed.

Studies indicate that DV in Armenia is as high as 60%. In any case it is clear that these are far from being isolated cases.  During Soviet times, cases were not reported and no one dared tell their story.  Now it’s time we speak up, stop denying that we have a problem as women and in society, and stand up for our rights. It is time that journalists ask why there is no clear law against DV in Armenia. Why is it that an abuser remains unpunished and is even set free?  Why is it that a government official is not even reprimanded for slapping a woman?  Why do popular TV serials depict violence towards women, thus creating the impression that it is acceptable behavior?

These are the fundamental questions that need to be answered.

Today, unfortunately, many women are treated like objects – which do things for men, perform favors for men, or work for them. Such stereotypes are the real threat to our families and are not good examples for our children. Enforcing the stereotype of subservient women in our society reinforces the practice of the abuser and makes the woman bear all the blame for another’s criminal behavior.

In Armenia, women’s rights are protected by national legislation and international treaties ratified by Armenia (Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women).

Given her international obligations to protect women’s rights, it’s high time that Armenia adopts a pro-active policy in defending the rights of those who constitute over 50% of the country’s population.

Thus, we hope that the trial of Davit Ziroyan and his mother in St. Petersburg complies with the treaties Armenia has signed and that justice will be served – for the victims and their victimizers.

 

Source http://hetq.am/eng/opinion/7895/domestic-violence-in-armenia-what-we-need-to-know!.html

 

Maro Matosian

Tufenkian Foundation

Women’s Support Center

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