the distressed woman pushes open the church doors, letting them slam behind her with a disturbing sound, echoing pain and fear in the entire sanctuary. she notices that her presence has turned the heads of a few people so she lowers her head in embarrassment, trying to hide her pale, tear-stained face. her hands were deep inside her old, raveled cardigan, hiding the obvious cuts and bruises on her knuckles. anyone who cared enough to take a look would know for sure one thing about the mystery woman: this time, she fought back.
everyone who had bothered to look at the unfamiliar face had already returned to whatever they were previously doing. in a place that represents (or is supposed to) such love and care for the world, a new-comer would definitely think otherwise of these church-goers. they were there to pray for themselves- for them to get better or for money to drop out of the sky. you would think that a woman with an obvious violence-filled past who storms into a church crying hysterically would at least raise some question marks, no?
she walked quickly towards the wooden benches and was just about to sit down in one of the empty ones at the back of the church, but suddenly changed her mind and decide to go way up front. she squeezed herself in between an older gentleman and a young boy- both who tried to go unnoticed as they quickly glanced up at the ‘unexpected visitor’. she was pretending to pray, her hands glued together in front of her dead-looking eyes, mouthing the words to whatever prayer was being read. every once in a while she would look towards the back of the church with a terrified look on her face, almost as if she was expecting something to go horribly wrong at any given moment.
i wish i could get this out of my head- her shaky, petrified whisper: ‘dear lord, please make him go away’. over and over and over again. i keep envisioning her. the blood on her knuckles had started to dry up but her tears just kept on rolling down her cold cheeks. make. it. stop. why do i keep seeing this? get this out of my head.
when we were out of the church, heading towards the car which we had parked a few streets down, i saw her for the last time: she was hiding behind the heavy door, her eyes scanning the surrounding area as if searching for someone. the man- well, him i didn’t notice until she came out of her hiding place. she had taken her first step outside and her body seemed to have filled up with hope and adrenaline, until the man grabbed her arm. for a fragment of a second, it’s almost as if her dead-looking eyes were more alive than the entire planet and you could see that she felt so free that she even dared to smile. until he grabbed her arm. i don’t know how to describe the look on her face. it’s so painful i haven’t been able to get it out of my head for the past couple of years. it was like someone being imprisoned and taken away from anything and everything that ever made them feel anything else but fear- but worse. it was like a holy man being so close to speaking to God but waking up and realizing it was just a dream. it was like a pregnant woman finding out that she had a miscarriage. it was like a flower finally blossoming after months of horrible weather and then someone stepping all over it. it was all of that and everything else, all in one.
and maybe i shouldn’t want to forget. maybe this is my punishment. because a woman with similar dead-looking eyes was in the newspaper the next week, except this time her eyes looked dead for a reason. and a few months later another woman was in the paper. and then another. and another. and another. do i need to go on? this is our fault. because i recall attending a wedding and the preist reading ‘and may the woman be afraid of the man’ and i recall seeing a man slap his partner on the street in the middle of a crowd of people and no one reacting and i recall romanian people being asked as part of a survey if it’s okay to hit your wife and over 50% saying ‘of course’. do i need to go on? maybe i do. because i recall a neighbor’s wife running out of her and her husband’s home yelling ‘he’s going to kill me! he’s going to kill me!’ and phoning the police, but them doing absolutely nothing about it because ‘nothing was wrong’ and i recall seeing her the next day covered in so many bruises i almost confused her for a goddamn avatar. they don’t live here anymore. i wonder why.
would you slap me? would you punch me? i’m a woman, so why not?
Among women aged 15 and above:
– 1 in 3 women has experienced sexual violence, physical violence, or both;
– 1 in 3 has experienced psychologically abusive behavior by an intimate partner;
– 1 in 5 has experienced stalking; ?
– Over 1 in 2 (55%) have experienced sexual harassment;
– for women in top management and professional occupation 3 out of every 4 women have experienced sexual harassment;
– 1 in 20 has been raped.
what will you do about it?