Society 13/02/2021

The story of a woman who is afraid of falling back in love with her abuser

The Generalitat intends to set up a pilot programme so that men change their homes rather than women having to continue fleeing

3 min
Gender violence . Cèlia Atset

BarcelonaShe would have preferred that the lockdown had never ended. It sounds strange but that's how it is: when in the spring you couldn't go out in the street is when she was at her best. Her husband was at home, he didn't work, but he didn't drink either. Not like when everything went back to normal (or, rather, to the new normal): her husband went back to work and came home drunk again. And drunker than ever.

She is one of these women with a name that cannot be revealed, nor can her image be shown, let alone where she is from. She lives in a Governmental flat for victims of male violence. She and her four children, and also another woman who is in the same situation. The flat looks spacious: it has a generous kitchen and dining room, and several doors open onto the central corridor, which are supposed to be the bedrooms.

"I arrived in Spain in 2017 fleeing from him", the woman begins, with a disjointed face, sitting in a corner of the sofa in the dining room. She seems nervous but is eager to talk and explain what happened to her and what continues to happen to her now. She came from a Latin American country and left behind her four children. The oldest is now 15, and the youngest is 6. She is only 33 years old and had been with her husband for seventeen years, almost half her life. Perhaps that's why her heart softened when her mother called her insistently from across the ocean telling her that her husband had been crying all day since she had left. So she took the decision and accepted that he would also come to Spain, and then the children would come too. "I thought he had changed and that the problem was my country", she says. But no, the problem was still him.

Here he went back to drinking and abusing her, although she explains it in other words: "I was disgusted by him, I rejected him, I didn't want him to come near me". The straw that broke the camel's back was when the husband hit the eldest son when the child got in his way to try to protect his mother. "The social worker offered me to leave the house. She gave me two hours to get ready", she recalls. And that's what she did: she took her bags and her children and left. To run away again, in short.

First they were taken to a hotel. She stayed ten days. "They gave us two rooms. I didn't do anything, just watch TV", she explains. From there they moved them to a flat for women victims of male violence, which they shared with another woman and her two children. Then they went to a second floor, and finally they arrived in the one they are in now. "Every time they changed us, the children would say to me «Again, another house?» And they would ask me to go back to their father", she says. And they keep asking now.

"I've talked to him again, he's in treatment [to stop drinking] and he says he'll do everything he can to change", she says. When asked if she is afraid that he will track her down and attack her again, she says no, that what she is afraid of is falling in love again. "Sometimes I feel like going to see him, I still love him". Because how is it possible to hate overnight someone with whom you have shared half your life, with whom you have been happy and who is the father of your children? "What stresses me out is that I feel trapped here, I don't work, I don't do anything", she laments. When she fled with her children, she also had to leave behind her job as a cleaning woman, as well as the house.

Last year the Catalan Department of Employment, Social Affairs and Families went from having nine flats for women in situations of gender violence to 39, so that the number of places is quadrupling. This year it plans to launch three pilot programs aimed at aggressors because the goal now is that they change places, in order for women to not have to continue fleeing.

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