Two survivors of sexist violence explain how they get out in shelters

BarcelonaWhen she arrived at the foster home, Yuleisy (she asks that her last name not be published) was locked in her room for almost the first two weeks. Recovering from the hell that was the last two years with her partner, who had deployed against her the whole range of sexist violence: sexual, physical, emotional and also economic. She needed fifteen days all by herself – she explains one hundred days later – to put herself back together inside and out: she has regained her lost self-esteem and weight, but she is aware that her recovery will be a long process. “At least three years”, points out Irene Andrés, project director of theOn Way Associationwhich manages residential places for women and children who have suffered violence.

Yuleisy quickly went from living what she thought was a love story with a co-worker to one of terror. The breakfasts in bed and the thousand attentions disappeared, and the slaps, the insults, the “you’re worthless”, the rapes and the emptying of his checking account were everyday. “I couldn’t leave because I had nowhere to go and ending up on the street scared me,” says this 44-year-old woman. Until one evening, the couple left him there when he changed the lock on the door of the house without warning. She was left with nothing, not even her dog, which she had to get back later. A neighbor helped her to go to the Mossos d’Esquadra, who referred her to one of the emergency houses that the Agi Foundation manages about 100 kilometers away.

Looking out the window, Yuleisy, a survivor of sexist violence, says she is ready for an independent future.

Although the emergency ones are places to stay between 15 and 30 days, Yuleisy has been there for three and a half months, waiting to be found one of the long-stay ones or a flat with social rent. At the moment, the one who takes care of the expenses is the town hall where it is registered, which has committed to continue paying until the end of the year. Then it’s an unknown, admits Mireia Blanco, the person in charge of this house in Agi. Of the 16 females and 17 cubs currently on this resource, the oldest family arrived on the 4th of July.

There is a waiting list of at least three months to fill a temporary residential place, admits Laia Rosich, director general for the Eradication of Gender-Based Violence at the Ministry of Equality and Feminism. The Generalitat has 218 places throughout Catalonia, apart from the houses, hotels and flats managed by social organizations and foundations.

Women from the municipal or health services or the police arrive at the emergency rooms. There is no record of how many squares they represent. They are under municipal competence and, according to Equality, most municipalities with more than 20,000 inhabitants and county councils have their own or arrange or subsidize them when an emergency is activated and a woman has to leave the family home.

In order to accept a woman in a residential place, there are no other requirements than that of being a derivative: “It is not necessary that they have reported, nor that they have the residence papers in order or a protection order”, explains Rosich, who insists that his department has quadrupled the amount allocated to emergency care, up to 13 million in three years. However, it is not enough. Every day, In Via receives a request for entry that it cannot accept because the sixty places it offers in various resources are full. “The wait can be four months”, points out Andrés. It does not mean that women are left unattended or on the street and, at this point, Rosich points out that those who cannot enter specialized centers go to hostels, hotels.

The luckiest can stay with the extended family if they have room for them and often one or two children, or if they accept them, because many women still find it difficult for family and friends to stand by them in case of violence, explains Nati Veraguas, director of the Igualad organization Dones amb Empenta. “The big cap we have is the result of the housing crisis, which accentuates even more the vulnerability of these women and makes them unable to find social rents”, continues Veraguas.

Experts and statistics agree that you cannot make a robot portrait of who is the victim of male violence. Often in a victim – survivor, according to the feminist concept – different factors coincide that make it difficult to deal with it. The institutional racism that some encounter, with or without proper documentation, and the discrimination faced by those who do not fit into the heteronormative model, such as trans and lesbians, or those who engage in prostitution, are prostitutes and have addictions.

This is the case of Roxie, who also prefers to avoid the surname. 26-year-old Finn, three weeks ago she arrived at an In Via shelter with a protection order. “They only see that you’re an Ionqui,” he says in a video call. He started using at the age of 16 and has a terrible history of physical violence, rape and street life. “I was going back with my ex because he had drugs and raped me”, he explains.

Next to him, Rut Trujillo, head of In Via, denounces the lack of services for women with addictions and the absurdity of demanding that they “suddenly” give up alcohol or drugs, when in the majority of cases, consumption is a way of “surviving” the situation of violence. Although no one is forcing Roxie to do so, she has given up consumption of her own free will and is satisfied that a stage has opened in which she feels like “a new person”. In these three weeks she has made extraordinary progress because she can devote herself to taking care of herself, without having to suffer from being assaulted, robbed in the street or having to look for her daily dose.

Yuleisy is grateful, at the beginning of her recovery, that Mireia – an “angel”, she says – listens to her and takes great care of her. “Here they care about me, they appreciate me and they have made me value myself again because I had sunk in, I had hit rock bottom”, he says, adding: “I came out of hell and found peace” . Now his hope is to get a contract in thanatoesthetics and thanatopraxy at a funeral home, the specialties he studied as a young man. “I would be happy because I like to leave dead people looking good, which is the only thing we take away,” he says. In the houses there is psychological care and in specialized centers you can find legal, socio-educational or occupational advice. The goal is, according to Rosich, “the autonomy and empowerment” of these women. For this reason, the ministry’s bet is on flats and community care, which involves involving the environment of the survivors.

The biggest obstacle that women face is reporting. Dare to do it is, still for many, a bad experience because the judges do not believe them if there is no blood or blows, and they continue to apply the parental alignment syndrome, without any scientific basis, granting a visitation regime to the aggressor The Catalan courts are also those that grant the fewest protection orders to victims. Gemma Nicolás, lawyer specializing in violence at the Elna law firm, underlines the “frustration” that judges do not apply the suspension of custody and visits to abusers, despite the fact that it is included in the Catalan law of late 2020.

Neither Roxie nor Yuleisy have children in their care, but there are many women admitted with the children and, according to the Conexus Foundation, the homes are not always adapted to the security that the minors require. In this sense, they sign the Project Safe Shelter -financed by the EU-, which based on interviews with mothers and children and professionals, demand that these centers “create child protection and care policies” that take into account the risks and special needs of these minors. “You have to understand the behavior of these children and what is the relationship they have established with their mothers”, points out Heinrich Geldschläger, project coordinator and international research director of Conexus. “After hitting rock bottom, I can only go up,” says Yuleisy.

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