“You are silent now. Why? It means you are guilty.”
“You are speaking now. Why are you speaking? You will get it again.”
I often hear: You are a “good one” too! If you are a woman, you must endure!”. I do not understand: if you stay home with your children, you did everything – food, and cleaning, everything, why be beaten and abused?
Maia Țăran married her ex-husband in 1997. In the same year, their first daughter was born.
She worked at the military committee in Căușeni. He was a soldier. She was 19, he was 21.
The first hit came after the birth of the first girl. “Until then, he used to raise his voice but never hurt me. He often did it while being drunk. When he was coming home, I had to clean his shoes and his pants. Once, when I brought this into question, he hit me so hard that there was no unbeaten spot on my face. I have so many scars on my body that sometimes I am ashamed. Some people ask me if I was born like that. What can I answer? I wasn’t born with a crooked nose and scars on my face… “, says Maia.
“Although there is some progress, especially with regard to legislation to eliminate violence against women and domestic violence, the number of cases of abuse of women is alarmingly high. Violence is one of the most serious violations of human rights, which affects women regardless of their social, economic or cultural status, and affects society as a whole”, says Corneliu Eftodi, Program Manager, UN Women Moldova.
Six out of ten women feel on their own skin what violence from the partner means, the National Bureau of Statistics reports in the report “Violence against domestic women in the Republic of Moldova”. Moreover, the official data reveal the increase in domestic violence cases and the inefficiency of the authorities’ intervention. In 2012, 6569 cases were registered, while in 2015 – 9203 cases. Moreover, according to the same study, many cases remain unreported due to the influence of society on the victims. Nearly half of them think they will overcome the problem individually, for 40% it is a shame to recognize what they are going through, and nearly 20% are convinced by their dear ones not to inform the authorities about the cases of violence they are subjected to.
On the other hand, society continues to be indifferent and inert. This is also confirmed by the results of the sociological study “Opinions, perceptions and experiences of young people on domestic/couple violence”, conducted by the International Center “La Strada”. More than one-third of the young respondents said they would not report violence to anyone. At the same time, 15.2% of men surveyed for the study “Men and Gender Equality in the Republic of Moldova” said they would not get involved if they saw someone beating a woman. If the aggressor were a friend, only 6.5% of the men would announce the police, and if the aggressor was a stranger, only every fifth person said they would alert the authorities.
Maia Țăran is one of the “positive champions,” the title offered by UN Women to domestic violence survivors who ended their fears and broke the silence. Today she is one of the few people in Fârlădeni village where women beaten by their partners know they can call anytime.
Maia Țăran is also one of the few survivors of violence that continues to encourage other women-victims to change their lives for the better. Many of them, says Maia, have given up their work because of the pressure of society. “Positive champions have shown great courage when they have decided to live openly, to speak openly about their experiences, breaking the silence on this topic considered taboo because of fear and shame. They have brought the issue of violence against women in public and secretly suffering women have heard stories of other women who have overcome violence and felt that they are not alone and that there are solutions for getting out of the circle of violence. It is not easy to keep up the stereotypes that persist in society, and support services for survivors of violence are not fully functional”, explains Corneliu Eftodi of UN Women Moldova.
I met Maia in front of her house. Tall, thin, but strong, with the smile on her face, she asked us to come in. She apologizes for much talk, but “this is what she knows best to do now, after a long silence.” The court is guarded by two small but loyal dogs. In our sight, they begin to show their thighs and to bark to be heard in the entire neighborhood. “Good that they are tied”, I thought. She has them since she moved to this house, one in the front yard, the other in the back, to know if she has unwanted guests. The most unappealing “guest” was her husband, who beat her wherever she found her. “In 2010, despite the existing legislation, I was beaten and my eyes were swollen. Imagine, I could live in two houses, one of my own and one of my parents, but I could not stick to any of them. He was the owner of all and everything. He was coming like to his home”, recalls Maia.
The last drop of patience was in July 2010, shortly after the birth of the youngest girl. At that time, Maia lived with her parents. She was in the kitchen. With one hand she was frying fish, and with the other, she was keeping Cristina, the newborn. “I remember we were arguing with my husband, I do not remember why. At one point, he got angry and threw the hot pan into me. Good luck that I managed to turn and protect the baby.” At that moment, the local nurse was climbing the stairs to visit her and managed to see the whole scene. “If I told anyone, no one would have believed me”, Maia says.
Some pants, a blouse for her little one, her ID and Cristina’s birth certificate. That’s all Maia had the next morning after the hot pan incident, when she and her nurse went to the maternal center “Pro Familia” in Căușeni. “There’s my home. Every time I visit, I remember with joy those moments. I remember my kids playing there. We were happy because, finally, we were sleeping quietly”, recalls Maia. There she found out that it is law, which should be on her side. There she was assisted to do her divorce. “The people there brought me back to life. I used to be a very closed person, and now I’m talking too much”, ironizes the woman.
Maia Ţăran began writing a book telling everything she has gone through. She has a modest library with the entire legislation of the Republic of Moldova. She is always ready to defend her rights. She learned her lessons. However, besides the hundreds or even thousands of blows from his ex-husband, she had to suffer from society as well, because there was always someone to comment mischievously and to judge her without intervening to help her.
Throughout the marriage, feeling alone with her tragedy, Maia tried many “remedies” – from alcohol to various suicidal methods. The first one proved to be more efficient. “Many women find the solution in alcohol, and society does not recognize it. Many believe that if a woman drinks, “it means she is wrong too”. Society must understand that a person does not take this step without something happening. Women often seek refuge. Others begin to lead a double life”, explains Maia.
Although the whole village knew what was happening, few intervened or defended her. Some villagers were simply saying, “Maia does not deserve that. She finished the school with good grades”. A neighbor even managed to stop a beating, but was quickly “advised” by the aggressor to forget what she had seen: “Enough, aunt Natasha, you have not seen, you have not heard anything! Have you understood?” Maia also says that a former teacher of hers and another neighbor, aunt Liusea, “supported her much”. And her mother… Her mother was telling “I too had four children, it wasn’t easy for me either. Your father was beating me too, you know better”, and sometimes: “Leave him but think about what to do with the children. ” Maia’s father never got involved.
„Today, Maia calls the relationship with her ex-husband “friendship”. He is not in the military anymore, he works in the construction. That is why he helps her sometimes with necessary fixes in the house. He managed to pay only a small part of the state penalty for domestic violence.”
“Once he hit me so hard that there was no clean spot on me. My skin hardly gets bruised, but it hardly gets healed. The blood was under the skin, but it did not become blue. The hits were that hard. It was only then that my mother told me to leave him”, recalls Maia.
Larisa Burca, the mother of the woman, says that the first time she knew what was happening in her daughter’s family, she thought that Maia had a part of guilt – “like any family, maybe she also said some bad words”, but she was seeing that “everything is normal, the children behaved nicely, they were clean” and that the man did not actually have reasons to beat her daughter. Moreover, Larisa Burca does not recognize she was beaten too. She says that in her relationship with her husband, violence was out of place.
“You know how it was before, you had to shut up in front of the man, let yourself be blamed. I, for example, always went straight and I told the man who and when he is right”, says the woman.
How can a man wearing a military uniform hit a woman? Nobody could believe that. “I had to end that at once. Over time, the violence has become a normality for him. My mother told me it was my choice. “If you want, divorce. But what about the children?” Maia recalls about her mother. Thus, the uniform managed to blind the community where the woman lived. It made the bruises and scars invisible, and the complaints – lies. “But if you are so good, why is he beating you? It means you’re a good one too!”,”Live, we all live that way!” were the “encouragements” Maia was always hearing.
Translated by Cristi Vlas