End the Cycle of Domestic Violence

By: | Posted on: 06.05.2014

Domestic violence against women in Armenia is a very serious issue that does not get discussed as much as it should. The problem must be accepted in order for a solution to be presented. There is no perfect country in existence; every nation faces issues. However, because Armenia is ours, it is our obligation to see that we make it a better place for our countrymen and a better place for our future. Women in Armenia face a challenge when it comes to their rights. A lot of progress has been made in regards to this topic, but these women deserve more. In a survey carried out by the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe, over 40% stated that they believe domestic violence is widespread across the nation (Domestic Violence Survey in the Republic of Armenia, Chart 10). It is also important to take into consideration that only 14.3% of the participants think that psychological violence is also a form of domestic violence. Imagine how much higher the percentage would be if the citizens knew that abuse was not just limited to the physical factor. In his article entitled “The Never Ending Rape,” Dr. Henry Theriault from Worcester State College stated, “[Violence] takes the form of brute physical force, beating, sexual torture (including being forced to engage in sexual activity against one’s will) authoritarian control (imprisoning the victim in the home, controlling contacts with others including family members, controlling all finances including access to food and clothing, etc.) and psychological abuse (constant degrading, insulting comments, threats, sadistic or controlling manipulation of the victims fears and vulnerabilities, “cat-and-mouse” toying with needs and expectations, threats against the children, etc.)” Unfortunately, that statement would not be easily accepted in Armenia.

 In an article entitled En-gendering Civil Society and Democracy-Building: The Anti-Domestic Violence Campaign in Armenia, Armine Iskanian states, “The situation in Armenia and the other Soviet states only began to change in 1999 when increased funding was made available by international donors for local NGOs to begin addressing the problem of domestic violence throughout the former Soviet Union.” For countless decades, absolutely nothing was done about domestic violence. The problem is that not enough people want to do something about it. When police officers are contacted about domestic violence issues, they say that it is a “family matter” and should be dealt with inside the household. Women are shunned from their circles if they report an assault from their husbands. Over 61% of the survey-participants said they were a victim of domestic violence at the hands of their spouse. (Domestic Violence Survey in the Republic of Armenia, Chart 18)

The issue is obvious. Domestic violence is a clear dilemma. Enough time has been wasted by individuals who just stand idly by and allow this vicious cycle to continue. The time has come to step out of the shadow of ignorance and to make a difference. In the beginning of 2013, a law was drafted against domestic violence but was rejected by the government. The law would define domestic violence and set out steps in order to punish the violators of the law. Armenia’s deputy labor minister, Filaret Belikyan, commented, “All the institutions involved with justice say the justice system is not suited to this new law. We don’t have the kind of justice system that can implement the law in this form.”  Since domestic violence is a part of the culture in Armenia, immediately implementing a law would not be extremely effective. There is a lack of general education regarding the issue. Having a law that no one understands or respects is not useful. Although it is extremely frustrating to activists that the law was not passed, it is important to focus on the core of the issue. Creating a law will not end domestic violence against women in Armenia if the citizens do not understand that what they are doing is wrong. Education and prevention are the most important things that need to be focused on.

Out of all the post-Soviet states, Armenia has the most severe case of domestic violence and the least aid towards a solution because of the lack of support from the people. In an article that compared post-Soviet states, the author mentioned “While service-oriented domestic violence organizations had proliferated more recently in Moldova, such organizations remained rare in Armenia.” (Johnson, Janet Elise. Domestic Violence Politics in Post-Soviet States.) As previously mentioned, the government does not do much to put a stop to this issue. Individuals in Armenia who have seen the light have set up hotlines so these abused women at least have someone to talk to about this. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are the ones who do the entire field work for these women. There are a few shelters that house abused women and their children to give them an opportunity to physically step away from the abuse. However, these safe houses are only temporary and do not solve the issue. They merely “aid with the symptoms.”

Education is where it all comes to play. Every individual needs to learn that domestic violence is not a way of life. Slowly but surely, the women of Armenia are waking up. “Our children have been growing up in an atmosphere of beatings and fights,” commented 67-year-old Karine Galstian, a mother of four. “Only now we realize how wrong it is to keep silent, because we should at least teach our daughters that the husband has to respect his wife, should not beat her, and should not humiliate her in front of the children.”

Perhaps the most successful NGO that has offered a light at the end of the tunnel for these victims is the Women’s Resource Center of Armenia. The WRCA was originally founded on a university campus but moved to the heart of the capital city as the demand grew. The NGO’s main goal is to empower the women of Armenia. Because women are treated like second class citizens, they must come together to support one another. The WRCA is where the journey to a better life begins. Similar to other NGOs, there are hotlines available for the victims at WRCA. There are many workshops held at the center that educate the women and also prepare them to support themselves. A specific workshop is dedicated to women’s rights and outlines steps on how to identify abuse and also how to stop the cycle. The importance for the WRCA and the stop to domestic violence against women in Armenia goes beyond words. These women, young and old, are either going to be the future leaders of the prospering country or will raise the future leaders. The country cannot afford ignorance.

The time is now to educate the men and women of Armenia. No longer will the citizens live in the dark ages where violence is a way of life. The education needs to flourish so that a law can be successfully implemented in the future. Women must fight for their rights and learn to value themselves. In a survey done by the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe, over 45% of victims reported doing nothing after being subjected to domestic violence (OSCE.org/Yerevan. Chart 25). These women need all the help they can get and it is an international fight that needs to be fought.

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