"If he beats you, it means he does not love you" : what prevents female IDPs from Eastern Ukraine from talking about domestic violence

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Bender-Säbelkampf, Theresa
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This thesis aimed to investigate the reasons that prevent internally displaced women from eastern Ukraine from talking about domestic violence which is becoming a concerning issue with the ongoing armed conflict. Although most of them tend to suffer in silence, we know that they are struggling with this problem: In 2016, 90,1% of the total number of calls received by the National toll “Free Hotline“ of the leading Ukrainian women’s rights organisation “La Strada“– some 38,292 calls – were made by men, women and children worrying about violence in their homes, covering both Ukrainian and occupied Ukrainian territory. 1,486 of those callers were internally displaced persons. Of them, 4,4% asked for consultation concerning domestic violence, an amount that was six times higher than in the previous year. Women who have to leave their homes due to armed conflict or other disasters are particular vulnerable during their flight and in their host communities with regards to violence and therefore deserve our particular attention. During my field trip to the eastern parts of Ukraine and the capital in May 2017, I investigated the reasons behind women’s silence with the help of experts and one affected woman and defined several reasons. Furthermore, I gained broader knowledge of the topic by scrutinizing the Analytical report (2016) by the All-Ukrainian Charitable Organisation “Konviktus”, which in particular assessed domestic violence against female IDPs. Women’s tendency to remain silent with regard to domestic violence in Ukrainian society is deeply rooted in strong thinking patterns, which create the wrong perception of violence and dealing with it. Victim-blaming and secondary victimisation is still a common practice in society, even among authorities, and indicates how women’s behaviour about domestic violence (and other forms of violence) is supposedly meant to be – namely silent. In order to defeat domestic violence against women, legal expert Katarina Borosdina recommends: “First of all, women must know what is violence. ‘If he beats you, it means he loves you’ is a stereotype. You must not love and beat!”
Second semester University: New University of Lisbon
Ukraine, domestic violence, internally displaced persons, conflict