Reader el asked me on numerous occasions to write about domestic violence in FSU countries and the US. This is a painful topic for me to write about but I can’t refuse a request from such a dedicated reader. Besides, I think that it is important to educate people on what the situation in this area is in other countries.
Countries of the former Soviet Union have a tragic legacy of genocides, oppression, suffering, and fear. This daily terror people experienced for generations doesn’t simply evaporate. The impotence we all feel in the face of our repressive authorities makes us lash out with violence against each other.
I witnessed scenes back in Ukraine where somebody would accidentally push a person on a bus or bump into a pedestrian in the street and, instead of saying “Sorry” and moving on, people would jump at each other and start beating the offender.
Violence against women is really terrifying in our countries. At least every other woman has been a victim of rape. Every single woman (statistically) has been assaulted. When I was 15, I was walking home from school in broad daylight. A much older man asked me for my phone number, and I refused politely. He grabbed me by the hair, dragged me for several feet, pushed me into the mud, and started beating me with his feet.
A crowd of people, consisting mostly of older women, gathered. They did nothing to interfere and expressed their complete approval for the man who “gave the little bitch [namely, a child in a school uniform] what she deserved.”
When the attacker was done with me and left, nobody helped me to get up. The crowd of (predominantly female) observers stood there and giggled. I didn’t really even discuss this with anybody at that time because it was just something that happened to you, a normal daily reality.
I can’t tell you how many times I was groped, poked, grabbed, had people stick their hands between my legs, saw people expose themselves to me when I was a child, a teenager, a young woman in my country. This happened on the bus, in the subway, on the street, everywhere. This happened all the time. This is how every woman lived. And, in all probability, still does in our countries. I was very lucky in that I was never raped or harmed in any serious way, at least.
Of course, this kind of violence spills onto children. Little kids are beaten and abused by both men and women. Then, the kids grow up and become abusers in turn. I know both adult women and adult men who were victims of domestic violence for decades. And they all started out as children in abusive households.
Violence and abuse exist in North America, too. I’m sure that many of the people who are reading this post know this first-hand. Men, women, children, older people, disabled people – anybody can be a victim of abuse. However, this daily, daunting, wearing violence that you don’t even notice any more because it happens everywhere, all the time is not something that you encounter here the way you do in our countries.