COVID-19 lockdown and domestic abuse

Emphasis is currently being placed on people to self-isolate from their places of work and leisure, posing the home as a place of relative safety during the coronavirus pandemic. However, there is growing concern about what impact this might have on those trapped in intimate relationships with people who use violence and abuse.

For some people, home is not a safe place to be, so the prospect of large parts of the population being confined to prevent the spread of the coronavirus opens the potential for increased incidents of domestic violence.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned of a “horrifying global surge” in domestic violence during the coronavirus crisis and urged governments to step up efforts to prevent violence against women. Why only women though? Why not all people irrespective of gender? Violence and abuse is never ok. That applies equally whether the victim is a man or woman.

Figures suggest that as many as one in three victims of domestic violence are male, therefore it is important to ensure male victims are not left out from the anti-violence efforts.

Abuse of men happens in both heterosexual and same sex relationships. It happens to men from all cultures and all walks of life regardless of age or occupation. However, men are often reluctant to report abuse because they feel embarrassed, fear they won’t be believed, or are scared that their partner will take revenge.

Of course, domestic abuse is not limited to physical violence. Emotional and verbal abuse, blackmail, harassment, threats can be just as damaging.

Here are a few things to consider during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Understand that stress and anxiety does not cause domestic abuse but it may increase it in families where it is already being perpetrated. Acknowledge that this is an extremely unsafe time.
  • Check in with someone who you are personally worried about.
  • If it is safe to talk when you call, arrange a codeword or phrase that the victim can use if interrupted, eg if you need to end the call at any point please say “no, sorry I’m not interested in taking part in the survey”.
  • Where there is not a complete lockdown and people are still able to leave their houses to go for a walk if not ill or in quarantine, suggest they go for a walk as a “time out” technique to de-escalate the situation. If there is a complete lockdown then a garage or garden shed could also work.
  • Suggest they get evidence of the abuse. Report all incidents of physical abuse to the police and get a copy of each police report. Keep a journal of all abuse with a clear record of dates, times, and any witnesses. Include a photographic record of your injuries and make sure your doctor or hospital also documents your injuries.
  • Suggest they obtain advice from a domestic violence program or helpline available in your area.

And let’s stop making jokes about domestic violence and abuse like in that Russian video below called ‘In all houses in our country….” that depicts a woman abusing her partner for forgetting to wash the dishes, not watching the movie she wanted, not tidying up his clothes etc. a week after Putin’s call to the nation “Trust me, the safest place at the moment is at home” that appears at the end of the video.

Abuse is never fun no matter the victim’s gender!


Image from Domestic violence debate dominated by women’s perspectives

Change your story, change your life…

You might have seen a video of this gifted LA subway singer that went viral. A truly beautiful lady with a tragic story. Given up for adoption at two, a gruelling Soviet childhood and a violent marriage…

Domestic violence often features in such tragic stories, often shapes such tragic lives… I had my personal experience with domestic violence. In my experience domestic violence is much more complex than historical example described by Dostoevsky more than a century ago. And not only ‘peasants’ are affected. My sister-in-law’s nose was broken once by her ex – he was a medical doctor by trade. ‘First do no harm’ says the Hippocratic Oath of ethics historically taken by physicians – yeah right…

Domestic violence knows neither geographic nor cultural borders.

Looking back I can see how my personal experience with domestic violence started shaping my life, shaping my story, leading to a bad end… Luckily I had a wonderful friend who made me stop, read and re-shape my story

Every day is an opportunity for you to change your life, to change your story. Change what you do not want in your life. Change what makes you unhappy. You have the power to change your thoughts and your thoughts have the power to change the story of your life….



Credits: Image from Change your story, Change your life.

The most beautiful people I’ve known…

Have you met such children in your life?
Or, may be, you’ve been one of them?

I was not “removed” – I stayed with my family – well, with whatever was left of it by then… No one cared, no one noticed – it was better that way. I was ‘caught’ only a few times at school. Once I struggled with completing a test in writing because my hands were shaking too much. On another occasion I punched a girl. She saw my dad coming home drunk and started making silly jokes about that in front of the class. My fuse was short – my fist was fast… I was taken to the principal. He could not make any sense of it: “You’ve always been such a good quiet student, always getting the top marks, always listening to the teachers. I can’t understand why you did that?” I had nothing to say.

I never invited anyone to my place, I never talked to anyone about my family – except my only school friend Lucy and later Ivan.

From Digital Deconstruction

I felt very sorry for Lucy. She lived with her parents and her only sister. Her dad wanted to have sons – no luck. Both children turned out to be female. He never got over it, blaming them and their mum for that. He was often verbally and physically abusive – with both girls and their mother. I felt much luckier – at least, my dad was not bashing me.

Lucy’s sister got married as soon as she reached the ‘legal’ age, which was 18 – just to get away from her dad. Lucy ‘lasted’ a bit longer. She phoned me before her wedding day: “You might be surprised that I’m marrying a man who is 10 years older than I’m,” she said. “While it was the norm a century ago, I know it looks pretty weird nowadays. With a more mature dad, I hope my children will be growing in a better environment and won’t see the hell I went through as a child…”


Ivan was raised by a single mum. His dad was complete alcoholic. I saw him only once. He was so ‘marinated’ after decades of drinking, that it was even impossible to tell when he was drunk or sober, if he ever was sober. He was trying to say something friendly to me, but I could not understand even a single word. Poor Ivan needed to ‘translate’ for me from Russian to Russian. I felt very sorry for Ivan – my dad at least could still talk properly and was not always drunk.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is drunk-dad-1.jpg
From a letter to my drunk dad…

Alex never talked about his family. It looked like his family did not care about him at all. I had a feeling that there was a history of alcoholism in his family too, because Alex would never touch anything with alcohol, whether it was vodka, beer, wine or cider. Not a drop. For that reason, other lads were always mocking him with their usual ‘you are not a man if you are not drinking’ tune. My gender helped in those cases – as none of that ‘be a man’ crap applied to me I could easily get those lads ‘out of tune’ to shut them up.

From Russian Men Loosing Years to Vodka

Victoria was the only surprising exception. Her parents divorced when she was little. Her dad was married three times, her mum – twice. It always puzzled me how they all managed to maintain good relationships. Victoria lived with her mum, however if she needed her dad he was always there for her in a blink of an eye. She had very good relationship with all his children from other marriages – her half-sisters and half-brothers. Her step-dad treated her well too. May be, that’s why she turned into such a carefree chatter box with a beaming smile: always happy, always confident, always giggling…

Happy girl

I’m very proud of my friends. They did not have a good start in life, but they all managed to get their lives into a pretty good shape and provide safe, stable and loving environment for their children. They became wonderful teachers, doctors, train drivers, tradespeople.  It was a hard work – and still is I’m sure. However they never complained, they never blamed their fate or difficult childhood, they never gave up and while steadily getting up on their feet, they never put anyone down.

I do admire their self-discipline, strength, determination and kind hearts. They are real heroes for me, the most beautiful people I’ve known.


What about you?
Who are the most beautiful people in your life?


The Complexities of Domestic Violence

Parents-Fighting-Children-300x199From Digital Deconstruction

Domestic violence is a very painful topic for me because I spent most of my childhood in a very unstable and violent environment, as some of my close friends, other children I met at school and in the neighbourhood. When I was a child, there was not much support for people ‘stuck’ in such violent relationships.

The widespread impression is that women are the victims of domestic violence while males are the bastards who are inflicting all the pain on women.  In my experience most cases of domestic violence are much more complex than that.

I’ve spent years pulling my mum and dad apart to prevent them from killing each other. And I do mean that literally. I knew how easily domestic violence can spin out of control and turn into a murder as one of my neighbours died a few metres from my apartment’s door after he was stabbed in a domestic argument. And I heard a few times my mum shouting in an argument that she is getting close to using a kitchen knife..

I’ve spent decades thinking of everything that went wrong in my parents’ relationship and brought my parents to that hell. I came across a lot of other stories of domestic violence during my life. Only a few of them were as simple as the one described by Dostoevsky.

My parents did love each other when they got married. Neither of them denies that fact. Not much of that love was left between them by the time I went to school. My parents had different ideas on what marriage is about. My mum was full of myths about handsome princes from fairytales and was not well prepared for real family life. My dad was much more realistic – he simply wanted to have a good family with a few children and peace at home.

After my brother’s birth, my mum decided that having children was not much fun. The next one went down the drain – she did not even bother to tell my dad, that the next one was there, until the abortion was over. No luck – she got pregnant again. She let me live only because she realised from her previous abortion, that aborting babies was not much fun either. I was given a very clear impression, however, that I was not the wanted one. I was a ‘daddy’s child’ as she used to call me with contempt in her voice.


From Domestic Violence… Against Men

There is not much love in my childhood memories. All I can remember is toxic oppressive environment at home with my mum constantly bossing everyone around. She was particularly toxic with my dad verbally abusing him and putting him down all the time. It looked like everything he was doing was wrong in her eyes: the way he walked, the way he talked, the way he breathed, the way he sneezed. It looked like she wanted to change everything in him. Everything was supposed to be her way or no way. Supported by her mother, who lived in the same apartment with us, she gave my dad no moment of peace for more than a decade. My dad had no one to support him – his family was thousands of kilometres away…

My dad was a man of a few words, but I always knew that he loved his children – especially me, and could not imagine his life without us. He did not want to break our family. He did not want to be kicked out of the family and out of his children’s lives. Unfortunately, at that time children were always left in mother’s care after divorce. Father’s rights were rarely acknowledged in court cases. Dad tried to be strong, dad tried to placate my mother, dad tried everything he could – nothing worked, so he started drinking in despair. And that’s when he started getting violent towards my mother.

I don’t remember my dad ever being violent towards anyone else and I was always struck by the fact, that no matter how drunk and angry he was, he never ever hurt me, even though I was the only ‘shield’ stuck between him and my mum. I was the only one dragging him away and putting him to sleep before things would spin out of control. And that was not easy with my 40 kg against his 80kg and my mum still hysterically shouting abuse at him provoking him further and further. I wished so much she would just shut up…

My mum…  Actually, for decades I found it hard to call that woman ‘my mum’. She always seemed to be a total stranger to me. I could never understand her – her behaviour and way of thinking always seemed to me so bizarre, so illogical and so different to mine.

“Your dad loved me so much when we were young. He was so caring with me,” my mother once said to me.
“What were you always nagging and grumping about then? Why were you constantly putting him down? Why were you constantly unhappy with him?”
“Well, but that’s what all women did.”…

When I had kids of my own, she told me about her abortion.
“How do you think it made my dad feel?” I asked.
I got a blank stare and total silence in response. I don’t think she ever asked herself this question…

I came across a lot of stories of domestic violence during my life and most of them were as complex as my parents’ one. Unfortunately, most approaches to domestic violence deny that complexity. Most approaches deny the fact that males can be victims of domestic violence.  Most approaches deny the fact that some women can be very aggressive, manipulative and abusive. Such women might not leave visible bruises on their victim’s bodies, but they can leave plenty of scars and painful sores in their victim’s souls.

Not surprisingly, when Erin Pizzey founded the first refuge for abused women and their children in Chiswick in 1971, she discovered that “the women who came to these shelters were equally as violent as the men they were escaping from. They were also violent towards their own children!”

I firmly believe that the issues related to domestic violence can’t be successfully resolved unless we:

  • overcome all gender-based prejudices and take non-sexist approach to domestic violence
  • recognise the complex nature of domestic violence and its triggers
  • provide all parties involved with appropriate communication, conflict resolution and anger management skills
  • provide real-life examples of how relationships can be built and sustained in a positive way
  • recognise father’s special role in his children’s lives and ensure that men are treated fairly when it comes to divorce and child custody.

fathers day from we are one first blog


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