Even the mere idea of a gun can have devastating consequences. Last week, Ana Maria* told her story to Martha Lucia, a lawyer at Asopropaz (an organization that assists victims of domestic violence), while I listened in. Her experience illustrates the ties between domestic violence, economic vulnerability, easy access to guns and cultural beliefs which define women as property.
“I’ve been living with him for 8 years,” she began. “I never went to the police because he always promised he wouldn’t do it again.” The two children they had together are 14 months and 6 years old, but her 14-year-old daughter from another relationship had to leave because he abused her sexually and beat her.
As she told her story, her baby girl was running around the office, smiling. Ana Maria’s head kept turning to check on her. “Last week, my baby got sick and I spent the night at the hospital with her. When we got back, he was angry because there was no meal ready for him. He beat me, only stopping because the kids were crying, but usually nothing stops him. Later, I told him, ‘either I’m going to leave, or you have to leave.’ When I said that, he raped me, beat me and told me I had to stay with him because I am his woman and I belong to him.”
When I asked about guns, Ana Maria shook her head and said that he had never owned or used a gun against her. I asked if he has access to a gun. “For sure,” she responded without hesitation. “He’s threatened me many times, telling me he can find one very easily, because his friends all have guns – he’s a taxi driver. He says he can get one and kill me, that it wouldn’t cost him a cent.” I asked her if her children are also aware of his ability to find a gun easily. “Of course,” she said. “They live in fear of him too.”
When she finally reported the crime, she was asked to bring proof. She didn’t have any, so the prosecutor made an appointment with both of them. To her distress, her husband denied everything and even accused her of being violent. Later, he took it out on her.
There are no shelters here. Victims of domestic violence are advised to live with family until they can find a place to stay. “I don’t have anywhere to go. My mother doesn’t have any room. We would all be sleeping on the floor, and he might find us there. He knows the place. He could come and hurt us, or kill us.”
Ana Maria almost didn’t come to her appointment with Martha Lucia because she didn’t have enough money for transportation. She does not work, and her husband keeps her locked up most of the time. She’s held jobs in the past, but had to quit or was fired, because she would arrive late feeling weak and covered with bruises or wounds. Sometimes she wasn’t able to come at all. She’s never had a chance to study, but when she tried to take courses at the university, he didn’t let her, because “he’s very jealous”.
Ana Maria’s husband feels that he can rightfully treat her as private property. Because she’s economically dependent on him and believes that he can easily access a gun, she can’t think of where to go and is too afraid to seek help — it’s a vicious circle of subjugation, violence, poverty and fear. It was Ana Maria’s sister who finally called Martha Lucia to make an appointment for her. Thousands of others like her never get even that way out.
*Name changed for her safety
Posted By Rebecca Gerome
Posted Jul 26th, 2009