03.30.2015 13:04 epress.am

In her article, titled "Unethical Questions of Judges to Domestic
Violence Victim," founding director of "Women's Support Center"
NGO Maro Matosian talks about the trial of domestic violence victim
Hasmik Khachatryan's case.

- It has been noted many times that judges and lawyers in Armenia have
no training nor understanding of the specificity of domestic violence
cases, and this hinders, even more so, the outcome of the trials in
the detriment to the victim. This has been amply observed at the last
hearing in the case of Hasmik Khachatryan on March 17, 2015.

When a victim of DV is on trial, or even when a social worker or
a psychologist works with her, it is imperative that she is not
doubly victimized. Yet, the three judges, Ruzanna Barseghyan, Sergei
Chichyan, and Gagik Avetisyan, have asked the exact kind of questions
that victimized Hasmik once again, as if wanting to make her guilty
of not leaving an abusive relationship. Hasmik was repeatedly asked
by the judges: "Why didn't you leave him earlier?"; "Did anyone tie
your hands forcing you to stay?"; "Did you want to stay in such a
relationship just for a piece of bread?". Such questions are demeaning
and derogatory, not befitting of a judge.

For the past fifty years domestic violence has been researched
and studied by psychologists and social workers, and now those
knowledgeable in the field follow internationally approved methodology
in dealing with DV cases. Unfortunately, there has not been proper
training in Armenia for this field to be understood. So, why is it
wrong to ask such questions?

In a domestic violence situation, the reasons for women not to leave
the husband are manifold: fear, emotional and financial dependency,
economic reasons, no place to go or live, shame, fear or reprisals,
threats by husband to take away kids, to kill her or her family
members...no money to leave and no place to go.

Furthermore, a woman always hopes that her marriage could be saved,
and she tolerates the abuse year after year, in hope that things would
change. The abuser usually isolates the victim. In Hasmik's case,
she was not allowed to do anything without the husband's permission;
not even go to the doctor to treat her injuries. This isolation leaves
the victim with no place to turn for help.

Often, in Armenia women are tormented by what "people would say", the
shame of leaving the husband - even an abusive one. The stigmas put
on her - that she neglects the children, that she is a loose woman -
can be devastating, even more so for women from the regions.

Studies around the globe have shown that abuse has the psychological
effects of trauma on a person. This leads to the person getting
depressed, having feelings of immobility, being unable of making
decisions or seeing a way out. As a coping mechanism, the victim
gets used to the abuse until their life or that of their children is
in danger. When Hasmik came to the "Women's Support Center" she was
in a depressive state. Months of rehabilitation and psychological
counseling dissipated the effects of trauma caused by her husband.

In Armenia, only recently a shelter to women whose life is in danger
and centers where they are understood instead of being blamed has been
offered. That is what saved Hasmik's life - having a place to go to
where the abuser, and not the victim, must take all the blame and
punishment for abusing another person. Why didn't the judges ask:
"Was Sargis a good husband?"; "Did he ever work?"; "Was he taking
care of his family?"; "Was he a good father figure, having a mistress,
drinking and beating the mother of his children, exposing the children
to psychological trauma?" Why didn't the judges focus on the abuser?

Who are they protecting? A man like Hasmik's abuser, who cannot control
his violent behavior and is now in jail for attacking his own parents,
is obviously the person to carry the blame and not his victim, Hasmik.

Any person has the right to make their own decisions, to live a life
free of abuse and threats. Perhaps this article can enlighten the three
judges, Ruzanna Barseghyan, Sergei Chichyan, and Gagik Avetisyan, so
they may focus their attention on the abuser and not blame the victim,
who has already suffered enough physical and psychological damage.