Lala Mikeladze, 24 years old, Kutaisi
“There was another fight in our house. As usual, it was about nothing. He was drunk. At least he could restrain himself when he was sober, but once he was drunk, he couldn’t hide his aggression anymore. He cursed at all of us. I tried to keep myself calm and not get involved and walked out, but when he started beating my mom, I turned back, I had to do something. He threw a chair at me and hit me hard. He thought he could stop me that way, but I always protected my mom, so how could I stop?! When he saw me take a hard stand, he went to another room, brought out a gun, loaded it and took me in target. “I will kill you, you little bastard,” – he screamed. Everyone ran out of the room, my mother, my neighbors, my brother. Only my sister and I remained there alone with the gun. I heard the trigger sound and closed my eyes. I had no doubt that he would shoot me. I won’t run, shoot me, I said. It was at this time that my mother screamed from the outside, that the police has arrived. She lied. We hadn’t actually called the police. My father got afraid and ran away”.
I grew up with my grandmother and grandfather since childhood. They disliked my father, and since my mother couldn’t imagine life without her husband and wasn’t leaving him. They took me with them to raise me. When my grandmother died, they moved to our house and exactly that’s when everything has started – daily violence on mom, on children, on grandpa. I had no Idea how I could protect myself. After the threats to kill me, my mother, my siblings and I ran out to Kutaisi and started living with our relatives. My mother got a job. I started looking for a job too. Later we rented another apartment but within a month my mother decided she wanted to return to her husband. She said my brother – Giorgi, needed a father. I didn’t go back there and my protest became a reason why my own father threatened me to kill me. I lived in constant fear. My father wasn’t willing to accept that I turned against him and would not obey him. During this period, my mother came to e several times beaten and she went back every time. I asked not to, many times. I promised her that we would start a new life, a better life. But there are women who can’t imagine their life without men. They can’t stand up to violence, they don’t have the financial independence to live alone, neither have they their own homes. It’s not easy to resist all this and and all this people, and also the expression – ”what will the people say”. But for your personal freedom and a chance to live a quiet life, you can find the strength in yourself and win the battle.
”I got sick and was lying in the bed with a fever. My mother was out, visiting our neighbor. My father came home drunk again and entered my room. I felt in sleep that he was kissing my lips and it was not a father’s kiss! I maneured him away with my hands and threw him out. He cursed at me. My mother heard the fight and came in, but I didn’t tell her anything. I didn’t tell it anyone, buried it inside myself. But I always remembered it and feared it could happen again”.
My sister escaped abuse by getting married at the age of 15. Giorgi is 10 years old and he is studying well, but I care a lot about his mental state. He is under a social worker’s observation but you know how well the legal system works, right?! if they don’t see the exact fact of violence, or they can’t detect anything physically, nobody can confirm if someone was trying to beat or even kill you. If you don’t get really killed, you can’t claim that someone tried to. Once I read Giorgi’s letter to Santa. Every child believes that Santa Claus can do anything and you can ask him whatever you want. Do you know what Gio asked for? papers and pencils. My heart sank. I sent him some drawing materials. My family responded that they didn’t need anything from me. Sometimes I think, maybe it would be better for my brother to move to a children’s shelter. I know, he might get mad at me now, but when he’ll grow up, he will understand that it was better for his future.
Our main problem is that we don’t have the information about how we can actually protect ourselves, what our rights are and how we can demand justice. For years I couldn’t go out in the streets alone, in every car I saw I imagined my father with a knife. Once our neighbors told him, (the same neighbors who actually saw how he was trying to kill me with a gun) that I got in a car with some random guys. Once my friends brought me from the village to Kutaisi. My father came in Kutaisi to kill me with a knife. I was hiding. I was lucky that I found the office of ”Identoba” in the city. Everything that we actually should have learned in school, our rights, how to protect ourselves and how to handle violence, I learned all of it here. I also underwent sychological therapy here. It took a lot of time before I started talking about it loudly. And not only talking but fighting. He came here to the office once. That was the first time I formally filed a suit about him. I also told the police about the gun incident, but the case was closed due to lack of evidence. All of our neighbor witnesses choose Ruslan’s side. My mother testified against me. As I told you, until you get really killed, you can’t prove that they were trying to.
,, My mother called me, she got sick and wanted me to visit her. I went to the village with a friend of mine. In fact, they had a plan not to let me out of there. Somehow my father thought, that I went back to apologize and to stay there. When he found out that I was leaving, he became aggressive again and remembered how I complained about him in the police. He cursed me again. He tried to hit me and hit my friend by accident. I left. He caught up to us on the road by car. He had a gun and screamed he would kill us and throw us into a nearby channel. We ran and asked women in the neighboring building to help us and let us hide. They refused and actually when they saw it was Ruslan, they started fighting with me, accusing me of placing my father in that kind of situation. I called the police. My mother was so afraid when she saw a gun that she told us the exact address to tell to 112. We got help from a neighbor from the upper floor. When the police came, my father has hidden already, but everybody heard the shooting sound. Even though everybody saw the fact of violence, my neighbors still chose my father’s side and told the police, that I put him in that kind of situation, because of how I looked. They couldn’t understand how I could have taken action against my father and called the police. The policeman told me the same, that I didn’t have to complain, they could solve it all by themselves without making any more trouble, as they have done elsewhere. At this time I was already informed about my rights and knew how I had to talk to the police. I threatened them that if they didn’t take care of the case I would inform the General Inspection. After that, they did all the procedures as required. My father got arrested. They couldn’t find the gun. My mother still denied it; there was no gun, she said…”
My father has been released on bail and the court case is still ongoing. The case is based on domestic violence with homophobic motivation which is considered an aggravating circumstance. I lost all of my relatives; nobody chose my side since I complained to my father. Some of them told me, that he beat me because he wanted me to be good. I don’t really care about losing them. I only have a relationship with my uncle, who never once betrayed me in action.
I’m trying to recreate my life. The only good thing I have learned from my father is the auto mechanics. I started studying at the vocational school for building and car electricity. I’m the only girl majoring in it. In the end, I want to become a professional car maker. Otherwise, I won’t be able to establish myself in this field full of professional men. Eventually, I have to work twice as much, but I’m not afraid.
I’ve been fighting against violence since I was 18. Maybe some people think that there isn’t a violence problem anymore, but I know what’s happening in the regions, in villages, where girls voices aren’t heard and these girls don’t know how to protect themselves or are ashamed to talk about it. I speak about it loudly, because if somebody reads it, I want to to let them know that violence is not a final verdict. I can’t be a lawyer in court, but at least I can help them by providing information about where to go for help and how to save themselves from terror.
Author: Maiko Chitaia