Svetlana's husband sleeps in the room behind her. They do not speak to each other.




Svetlana has a medical certificate for her latest injuries to show the court.



Svetlana cannot get her own place to live and there are no women's shelters.



Svetlana has hidden her birth certificate and all the other documents she needs for the trial in her daughter's rucksack.


I sleep in one room with our daughter and he sleeps in the other with our son, whom I’m still breastfeeding. He cooks his food and I cook mine. We don’t talk to each other.

“We have to share a home. I’ve nowhere to go.”

Age: 38

Being beaten while you’re breastfeeding is very hard. I feel I’ve been robbed of this period in my life, when a woman is supposed to feel like the Madonna.
When our daughter was a baby, I was only allowed to breastfeed at fixed times. He said she wasn’t going to be like a small animal that eats whenever it wants to. He tried to smother her screams with a pillow. I tried to get him to move out then, but I felt guilty that I couldn’t hold my family together.

We had good times too, and we did have feelings for each other.  But the good times became few and far between. I’d moved from Ukraine and I had no-one to talk to, no friends, and anyway, I’m not the kind of person to burden people around me with my problems.
He started beating me when I was expecting our son. He was in charge of the money and he refused to pay 200 rubles (7 USD) for a cream for my nipples, which were infected. I tried to find ways to avoid being beaten, and I was very quiet, or I cried. That made him happy.

He started beating me when I was expecting our son.

One day he tried to force our daughter to do some physical exercises. He beat her and said she was fat and didn’t deserve to eat. So I called the police, who turned up a few hours later. Now I know that I should have recorded what he said, to have evidence. It says in the police report that the father is teaching his daughter physical exercises to prepare her to deal with the challenges in her life. There was an investigation, but the investigator only contacted him, not me.

On another occasion, I took some money to buy cottage cheese for the children, and he beat me around the head.  So I called the police again.  They came two or three hours later, by which time it was quiet again. He told them he’d beaten me because I’d been stealing.
The police suggested putting it another way: “The wife had a hysterical outburst and the husband tried to calm her down.”
Then there was the time he called the police and said I’d abandoned the children. I’d gone to the library and left him at home with the children.

I’m going to the court again on Monday, to hand in the papers about the latest beating. The medical certificate says I had bumps on my head.
I hope I can get a divorce and I’m getting some papers together, to sort out where the children will live, split our possessions and move back to where I used to live. But I know he won’t allow that.

It’s hard not to feel guilt. Guilt that I didn’t see the early warning signs, guilt that I want to take custody away from him.

But meanwhile we have to share a home. I’ve nowhere to go. There are no women’s shelters in this town. I’m being very strict with myself. I check every step, every thought. I’ve learned that my head doesn’t rule me, I rule my head. I decide what I can think.
But it’s hard not to feel guilt. Guilt that I didn’t see the early warning signs, guilt that I want to take custody away from him. The woman judge asked me: “But if he treated your daughter badly, why did you have another child with him?”
That made me feel guilty too.