Documentary

The Places of Violence

© Carolina Dutca
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Bender, Moldova – October 2017. The woman in center for support and development of civic initiatives “Resonance”. “He locked me up in the bathroom, handed me a razor. ‘Slash your wrists, bitch. I want you dead in 5 minutes,’ he said. I took the razor. I cried for about 20 minutes or perhaps for half an hour. I didn’t understand what was happening and what would happen in the future. I was afraid. If I did it, what would become of my child? If I did not do it, what would he do to me? It was terrifying in any case. Then, for a while, I had this empty feeling, no thoughts at all. He was outside and kept asking, ‘So, are you still breathing? Have you done it yet?’ ‘No! I am not coming out. Kill me with your own hands. I am not going to do anything,’ I replied. He said, ‘I don’t want to go to prison, so slash your wrists yourself.’ At that moment, I realized that I had no one, and nobody could help me. I started slashing my wrists. When I saw the first drop of blood, though, I remembered about my child. I threw away the razor and came running out of the bathroom. The child was sleeping in the room. I ran up to her, sat down and started crying.

The Places of Violence

UN Senior Expert on Human Rights in Transnistrian region Thomas Hammarberg believes that the problem of domestic violence shouldn’t be hidden. Moreover, the state should actively participate in solving the problem. ‘A law on domestic violence had been drafted and is under review. Nongovernmental organizations have been campaigning for such legislation,’ Thomas Hammarberg states in the Report on Human Rights in the Transnistrian Region of February, 2013.

In 2015, Resonance, the center for support and development of civic initiatives, collected the following statistics: 35, 7 % of the women interviewed reported having suffered physical violence at the hands of a husband or a partner, 60, 2% had been victims to psychological violence. According to the information compiled by the non-governmental organization Interaction, for the period from April 2009 to October 2017, 10366 calls from people suffering from domestic violence were made to the helpline 0-800-99- 800, and 933 SOS-cases were open.

So, what changed? There are no government statistics on this matter. No special legislation on the subject of domestic violence in Transnistrian region has been adopted.

Tiraspol, Moldova – October 2017. The woman at home. “Psychological abuse, humiliation, constant arguments and insults at some point turned into fights. At that moment his jealousy got worse and the reason for that was my trip to Italy. He had been jealous before. He had read my messages and demanded my passwords, he had tried to control me. However, that time it went beyond all reason. He accused me of imaginary unfaithfulness. At the same time, he confessed he’d had sex with his ex-girlfriend when I’d been away. I was afraid of him. His bossiness was turning into tyranny. Now I am happy that I found courage to leave and break the vicious circle of humiliations.”
Tiraspol, Moldova – October 2017. The woman at home. “Psychological abuse, humiliation, constant arguments and insults at some point turned into fights. At that moment his jealousy got worse and the reason for that was my trip to Italy. He had been jealous before. He had read my messages and demanded my passwords, he had tried to control me. However, that time it went beyond all reason. He accused me of imaginary unfaithfulness. At the same time, he confessed he’d had sex with his ex-girlfriend when I’d been away. I was afraid of him. His bossiness was turning into tyranny. Now I am happy that I found courage to leave and break the vicious circle of humiliations.”

On February 7, 2017 Vladimir Putin signed the law partially decriminalizing domestic abuse in Russia. In his interview to the Center of Military and Political Research at MGIMO, Minister of Foreign Affairs Vitaly Ignatyev said, “At the moment Transnistria remains almost the only unconditionally pro-Russian state in this region of Eastern Europe, it is the center of Russian culture…Actually, Transnistria is an outpost of Russian world.” Harmonizing of Transnistria’s and Russia’s legislations is not a secret, and it means that in the future the decriminalization of domestic violence is more likely than the adoption of anti-violence law.

In her documentary series The Places of Violence, Carolina Dutca presents nine anonymous stories of women who suffered from domestic violence. Using methods of post-media, documentary and archival photography, as well as working with audio-interviews and mini-installations, the author attracts public attention to the problem and makes you think about the consequences of domestic violence.

Chisinau, Moldova – October 2017. The woman at home. “He started molesting me, even though there were other people sleeping in the room. He began demanding sexual intimacy but I didn’t want it then. Eventually, he forced me to have sex with him, and I obeyed. Now I understand that I should have left, I shouldn’t have obeyed this pressure, this inexpugnable desire. I was already pregnant at that point. He forbade me to smoke. There was a revolt inside me, so I used to go smoking behind his back. Then he realized what was going on, understood I was smoking, ‘killing our baby‘. He took his belt off and hit me hard on my back three or four times. I was trying to run away but he caught up with me and belted me hard. It is not normal to hit your pregnant wife with a belt, whatever she does. I guess he was trying to get across that I had to obey him. To show his power that way. Maybe he wasn’t feeling feminine obedience or respect from me, I don’t know… And so he decided to do something like that…”
Chisinau, Moldova – October 2017. The woman at home. “He started molesting me, even though there were other people sleeping in the room. He began demanding sexual intimacy but I didn’t want it then. Eventually, he forced me to have sex with him, and I obeyed. Now I understand that I should have left, I shouldn’t have obeyed this pressure, this inexpugnable desire. I was already pregnant at that point. He forbade me to smoke. There was a revolt inside me, so I used to go smoking behind his back. Then he realized what was going on, understood I was smoking, ‘killing our baby‘. He took his belt off and hit me hard on my back three or four times. I was trying to run away but he caught up with me and belted me hard. It is not normal to hit your pregnant wife with a belt, whatever she does. I guess he was trying to get across that I had to obey him. To show his power that way. Maybe he wasn’t feeling feminine obedience or respect from me, I don’t know… And so he decided to do something like that…”
Chisinau, Moldova – October 2017. The woman at home. “He started molesting me, even though there were other people sleeping in the room. He began demanding sexual intimacy but I didn’t want it then. Eventually, he forced me to have sex with him, and I obeyed. Now I understand that I should have left, I shouldn’t have obeyed this pressure, this inexpugnable desire. I was already pregnant at that point. He forbade me to smoke. There was a revolt inside me, so I used to go smoking behind his back. Then he realized what was going on, understood I was smoking, ‘killing our baby‘. He took his belt off and hit me hard on my back three or four times. I was trying to run away but he caught up with me and belted me hard. It is not normal to hit your pregnant wife with a belt, whatever she does. I guess he was trying to get across that I had to obey him. To show his power that way. Maybe he wasn’t feeling feminine obedience or respect from me, I don’t know… And so he decided to do something like that…”
Ribnita, Moldova – October 2017. The woman at home. “I was on edge. So much so that even when I was just going back home from work, I had this sinking feeling, and my heart was pounding like crazy. I felt there was going to be a fight. It didn’t matter if there was a meal on the table or not. If I started talking to him it was bad, if I was silent it was also bad. It was bad anyway. So…it got to the point when the kids came home from school and the first thing they asked when the door opened was, ‘Is Dad home?’ If he was not, they could turn the music on. If he was, it meant quietly tiptoeing to their room, and that was that. They tried not to bother him, because he could fly into a tantrum for no reason at all. Above all, I feel bad about my children. I chose such a father for them. It will probably torture me for a long time. My son, when he was in the first grade, couldn’t read very well. You know, he was being lazy, and anyway, all kids are different. So he took him… we were renting a two-storey house… and so my husband took him by his leg and held him out of the open window. The kid peed himself out of fear. My husband kicked me. I was just covering my face so that he couldn’t kick my head. Sasha says that while he was beating me she was in the other room praying, ‘Dear God, please don’t let her be killed by him.’ It was scary, just scary. My married life was awful. However, I should say that if at the time there was someone who could say, ‘Leave, I will help you’, I would have left without a moment hesitation. That is, at the time there was no place for me to go. I was alone with this fear. Most of all, I feared for my children. What about their school? I was also afraid that he would find us wherever we went. And he could simply…” “And was he threatening you? Like ‘if you leave, I will find you?’” “Yes, absolutely. I must say that I found courage to file for divorce only when I felt I was in less danger.” “When his attention shifted to this other woman.” “That’s right.” “And the threats about drowning you in Dniester, do you think he was being serious?” “Well, it was not unlikely.” “So it was possible?” “Yes, it was possible, especially if he was drunk. In his youth he was a sportsman. He had never drunk alcohol before he turned 19. At 19, he started drinking beer and then it got to the point when he couldn’t have lunch without drinking wine. He drank and drove. Even when he was with the kids. Even when there were other options – like spending night at our friends’ place or calling a taxi – he would say, ‘No, no, no.’ When he was drunk, he could just come home, and take me, and drag me… “And this story with a carpet, I didn’t quite get what it was like.” “I guess his mind was clouded. I don’t know why he did it to the kids. He locked them up, they could be killed. I think he wanted me to feel guilty and suffer for the rest of my life, if something terrible was to happen to the children.” “So did he lock himself up in the room with a burning carpet? Or did he lock you up?” “No, not me. He locked up himself and the kids. And then he set fire to the carpet. Set fire. Sasha says that they kept asking him, ‘Dad, why are you doing it?’ They put out the fire. It could get much bigger. I guess anything could happen. I still don’t know why he did it. I was scared to ask, ‘Why did you do it?’ I was afraid of making him fly into one of his tantrums. Maybe he should have seen a psychiatrist but he kept saying he was healthy. I don’t know. It was like prison, and we had to do the time. It was terrible. Have you seen the movie ‘Sleeping with the Enemy’? That was my life.”
Chisinau, Moldova – October 2017. The transgender at home. Photo was made via skype video call. “At 17, I met the future father of my kids. I had never had any romantic relationships before. I just didn’t know that it didn’t have to be that way. It was evident from the very beginning that our household was going to be very patriarchal, but I was ready to comply with it for the sake of ‘great love’. I had to be on my best behavior – cook, clean, take care of the kids, not to bother him with talk, not to relax, not to go outside, not to contact my relatives without his permission, not to wear make-up. I had to obey completely, and I didn’t have a right to hold a personal opinion. At first, there were bursts of anger, for which he sometimes apologized. Then, his emotional breakdowns got more and more frequent. He started beating me, setting rules of behavior. For example, when he came in I was supposed to stand up and look down. If I raised my eyes, I was punished. He battered me in front of my two-year- old daughter and four-year- old son. At some point, I realized I had to leave at all costs because I wanted to protect my children’s mental health. It was difficult to do because we were living under lock and key. Every time he left, he locked us up in the apartment with no keys. However, one day he forgot the keys and it was our chance. I took the kids and escaped, but the hell didn’t finish there. At the domestic violence crisis center they told me I had to be patient and work on our relationship, reasoning that I had no place to go and that my kids and I could be left out on the street. They tried to convince me that a man wouldn’t beat a woman without cause. I had a broken nose several times, brain concussions all the time. He forbade me to seek medical help. I didn’t get any child support payments. He kept harassing us for eight years. We kept changing flats. We often had nothing to eat, even though I worked 14 hours a day. He caught me on the streets of the city and beat me in public. He threatened our daughter after her coming-out. However, gradually, after many years, he started letting us go. Now we can feel safe. I can live an open life of an agender the way I’ve always wanted. I can see people I want to see, I can present myself as I wish. The most important thing is that I can protect my children from constant fear and aggression.”
Tiraspol, Moldova – October 2017. The woman at home. “He hit me because I gave a pen to our neighbor. When I brought the pen back, he hit me in the face very hard. I wasn’t allowed to give something to someone without his permission. The neighbor was our friend, even more, he was my husband’s best man at our wedding. He asked me for a pen to write something down, I gave it to him, and when I came back my husband hit me in the face. His mother was right there and she tried to protect me, but he just pushed her away and said, ‘Don’t meddle!’ And that was that. It just went on. It was normal for him to beat me up and the next morning say something like, ‘I don’t remember. I am sorry.’ I was afraid. For the first time I tried to leave him when the baby was one year old. I left because I couldn’t bear it any longer. I returned on the same day, though. He came to take me back. He promised he would never do it again. It was winter. I remember we were going back home and he hit me hard in the face for having left. My nose started bleeding, or was it my mouth… I don’t remember, I can’t say. He said, ‘That’s what you get for having left me.’ I was afraid. I couldn’t tell anyone. I couldn’t tell my mother because I was ashamed. Then he started threatening me, he always said he would take the baby away. I didn’t understand, because I was so young, I thought there was a law permitting him to do that. Now, many years later, I understand that he couldn’t do such a thing. He always treated me badly. When my son got a bit older, we tried to run away. My husband always took us back, because he ‘couldn’t live without us.’ It went on like that for many long years. We tolerated it, I forgave him. I never had my injuries verified. I was afraid of the police.”
Tiraspol, Moldova – October 2017. The woman at home. “He hit me because I gave a pen to our neighbor. When I brought the pen back, he hit me in the face very hard. I wasn’t allowed to give something to someone without his permission. The neighbor was our friend, even more, he was my husband’s best man at our wedding. He asked me for a pen to write something down, I gave it to him, and when I came back my husband hit me in the face. His mother was right there and she tried to protect me, but he just pushed her away and said, ‘Don’t meddle!’ And that was that. It just went on. It was normal for him to beat me up and the next morning say something like, ‘I don’t remember. I am sorry.’ I was afraid. For the first time I tried to leave him when the baby was one year old. I left because I couldn’t bear it any longer. I returned on the same day, though. He came to take me back. He promised he would never do it again. It was winter. I remember we were going back home and he hit me hard in the face for having left. My nose started bleeding, or was it my mouth… I don’t remember, I can’t say. He said, ‘That’s what you get for having left me.’ I was afraid. I couldn’t tell anyone. I couldn’t tell my mother because I was ashamed. Then he started threatening me, he always said he would take the baby away. I didn’t understand, because I was so young, I thought there was a law permitting him to do that. Now, many years later, I understand that he couldn’t do such a thing. He always treated me badly. When my son got a bit older, we tried to run away. My husband always took us back, because he ‘couldn’t live without us.’ It went on like that for many long years. We tolerated it, I forgave him. I never had my injuries verified. I was afraid of the police.”
Tiraspol, Moldova – October 2017. The woman at home. “Before this beating, there was a time when I was sick and couldn’t do anything. I had a C-section, lost a lot of blood. My baby had a hemorrhage and I had a bleeding. I was exhausted. I couldn’t cook, couldn’t wash, couldn’t do anything. I could only take care of the baby. Thanks God, older kids helped me. My husband really didn’t like it. He stopped giving me money. He would point to my sewing machines and say, ‘Earn it! You have a profession, so earn your money.’ When I told him that I needed money for the kids he would say, ‘There’s no money, no money.’ He was used to me working all the time. I’ve been working since I was 15. He was used to me working on my sewing machine up until I was 9 months pregnant. Then I gave birth and continued. But at that moment I couldn’t cook anything. Jacket potatoes, I could only get up and cook jacket potatoes. He came from work and saw this dish. I was in bed, it was late and I had already gone to bed. The kids were sleeping. So, he was sitting in front of his computer and eating, and then he threw the potatoes at me. He said, ‘Couldn’t you cook anything else?’ I couldn’t. I couldn’t do even a simple thing. ‘You are a cow!’ I put on some weight after the last pregnancy. Before, I gave birth and stayed in shape. ‘You are a cow, there soon will be cockroaches crawling on you!’ I started crying. He saw it and started bullying me more and more. Once, while I was still pregnant, he was punishing kids for something and was belting them. I shouted, ‘What are you doing?’ He took a schoolbag and threw it at me, I managed to dodge but it hit my side. I was pregnant, with a big belly, and I had a bruise. So it was starting then, there were red flags, but I didn’t notice.”
Bender, Modova – December 2017. The public installation in memory of the victims of domestic violence in Bender (Transnistria region) – The Red Shoe. The organizers are Center «Resonance» and civic society «Mercy». “The body of a 30-year-old woman from Bender was found by relatives at her apartment about 1 p.m. The conclusion of the experts was that the death of a woman came as a result of strangulation. Also on the body were found multiple bruises and a cut wound on the cheek. Previously convicted 35-year-old female partner was arrested by the authorities on the suspicion of having committed the murder. He cracked down on his victim during a joint feast on the basis of jealousy, according to preliminary data. The Bender district police office instituted criminal proceedings. From the scene of the incident, material evidence were confiscated.” — from the report of the Ministry of of Internal Affairs on October 13, 2016.

Carolina Dutca
the authorCarolina Dutca
Carolina Dutca [b. 1995] is a documentary photographer and artist specializing in long-term projects on human rights. Her work involves conceptual and street photography, photojournalism, video and installation. Born and raised in the breakaway republic of Transnistria (Moldova), many of Dutca's artworks are deeply personal – reflecting on her background and drawing on the experiences of herself and her subjects with discrimination, domestic violence, xenophobia, feminism, and social and cultural stereotypes. Two major documentary photography projects from within Transnitria have been completed recently – NO SILENCE raised the issue of LGBTQ+ discrimination and The Places of Violence investigated domestic violence. Also she has postmedia project Fem#In andThe Point of No Return (installation). Ongoing projects located in Moldova and Transnistria include Doska pochiota (multimedia) and The Decisive Moment (conceptual).

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