MOTHER’S DAY – HAPPINESS AFTER VIOLENCE
Today is Mother’s Day. A day for families to celebrate mothers, if they are present, and a day to commemorate them if they are not. My Mother’s Day this year has been a day that I will quite surely remember for a long time – not because of its beauty, but because I have lived for a while in a reality which I wish no one had to live in.
Without names and without too detailed informations, within a week I’ve become a witness of mental and physical violence. A man and a woman met each other on the internet five years ago, and after a couple of dates, the woman fell pregnant. As culture often has it, they decided to move in together and start a family – from different cultures, barely knowing each other.
Five years later, they have two wonderful sons. The mother’s love for her children is as obvious as the man’s will to keep the family together. Between the coupe there is affection, there is dependence, but love? I, myself, cannot sense it.
Last night I went out in the town where I am, returning “home” a bit after midnight. What I returned to was a woman sobbing in a fetal position in a corner behind the kitchen door. “He beat me up”, she kept sobbing. The man, instead, was standing in front of me, hysterically saying: “I don’t know what to do”. Between them was their five-year-old son crying and saying: “Daddy beat mommy up, I want to go home” (we’re all elsewhere for Mother’s Day).
As me and my travel companion appeared on the scene, our true mission was to calm the couple down. I stayed with the woman, hugging her and trying to console her that everything would be ok. She sobbed and trembled and kept repeating she wanted to die and that there was nowhere or no one else to go to. She plead me to help her and I promised to do whatever I could – and started to act.
Me and the woman talked for two hours, me finding out it wasn’t the first time such a thing happened. It wasn’t the first time there was physical violence and it probably wouldn’t be the last either. The woman has only a few more months of life left due to cancer and all she said is that she wants to live her last moments happily. What I saw in her was someone exhausted of fighting and trying and living a life of eternal disappointment.
Soon thereafter the man wanted to talk to the woman. Me and my travel companion listened to them, trying not to interfere, but also making sure the situation wouldn’t escalate anymore. The man talked himself out of everything and bit by bit also the woman thought she had exaggerated in everything she had said. The man plead forgiveness and the woman forgave him. The couple went to sleep and I was left with the image of the small child telling his mother: “Don’t cry, mommy. It’ll all be ok”.
This morning I woke up to happy laughter. The family was reunited again, everyone was joking, everything was just like it used to be. No one was angry anymore and both the woman as well as the man were trying their very best to make each other feel good and loved. All was swell on the outside. Yet, I felt horrible in the inside. Only eight hours ago I had witnessed a scene of domestic violence and utter despair.
At lunch, the five-year-old suddenly said: “Dad, why did you beat up mommy?” and look at his parents with his beautiful, big eyes. The man’s answer came immediately: “Honey, how can you say something like that? I would never do such a thing. You had a bad nightmare and woke us both up crying, you remember?” The child fell silent and continued eating. “It was just a bad dream, dear”, the man repeated. “That’s right, honey”, the woman stated and smiled at their son. “Nothing ever happened”, she said.
To all other woman who suffer from domestic violence in Ecuador, there is a refuge for women in Quito called Casa Refugio Matilde (tel: 02 252 6316), but before contacting them, one should make an official claim to the police of Quito (tel: 02 398 5800). Another instance to contact is the Comisaria de la Mujer y la Familia, a legal instance which protects victims of domestic violence.
My own mother has taught me: when there is violence, you leave. PERIOD.