I always hear the same question: “But why does she stay?” When people talk about violence, they put a lot of the focus on the woman. How she has behaved, what she did and didn’t do. Why don’t we talk more about the men?

“He laid the shame on me by saying – Look what you made me do.”

Age: 33

The first time was in our bedroom a week before the wedding. He threw a punch which hit me above my right eyebrow close to the temple and I remember my surprise as I flew across the bed, what’s happening? The next morning I ran in my sandals to my mother who lives close by, but I didn’t dare do anything else. As soon as the first blow comes you’re under his control. I had already shrunk as a person. The abuse had started with words, with criticism of the way I dressed and made myself up, that the food was too salty, that I didn’t go to the gym.

Then he hit me in places where it didn’t show so much, on my chest, back, thighs. I’m an artiste, and I stopped wearing short skirts and got some new stage clothes, trousers. Once he threw a suitcase at me. It gave me a bruise on my face and I had to pull out of a TV show where I was supposed to be singing.

It went on for over three years. But then on one occasion he tried to break my leg with his bare hands and he told everyone else that I’d fallen while I was picking grapes. We were visiting my relatives in Chile at the time, and my uncle, who’s a psychiatrist, didn’t believe his explanation. I already had a split lip after he’d thrown a cigarette lighter at me.
For the first time I couldn’t deceive anyone.

For the first time I couldn’t deceive anyone.

I managed to break free and I was invited to take part in a therapy group and meet other women. At first I didn’t think it was right for me, but I still hadn’t understood what I’d been through.  The group became really important for me and I made a pact with one of the other women that we would never lie to each other and we could always call each other, at any time of day or night.

But I’ve also seen what doesn’t work in Sweden. For one thing, I thought there would always be room in the women’s shelters, but there isn’t. They need more resources! And there isn’t always psychological support at the police station. An abused woman is in a state of shock. She needs a hug, a blanket, a cup of tea.

I met one young policeman who was really good. He was so angry, and he said: “Javiera, you have to pack your bags and leave home now, immediately.” But when I got to social services they didn’t think it seemed so dangerous, and they wanted to pay for a taxi and send me home.

He was sentenced to a year in prison. My shame and fear actually disappeared when I heard him talking during the trial. I realised he’s the one there’s something wrong with, not me.

People should get involved more.

The important thing is not to be ashamed. To admit what has happened. I was ashamed that it could happen to me, who was so well-brought up and well-behaved. He laid the shame on me by saying “Look what you made me do”.
People should get involved more. Our neighbours must have hard what was going on many times, but they never said anything. When I had finally managed to leave my husband, my mother went to the flat to get some things. One of the neighbours actually asked her: “But isn’t she dead?