FIRST PLACE OF THE CONTEST. Breaking the Circle of Violence against Women

By: Maria Elena Ponciano

Being a survivor of gender violence, allows me today, to contribute to the guidance, help and training of other women who feel trapped in this distressing alley of life and promote the eradication of all forms of violence that afflict us through all possible means.

This is my story.

Maybe I was one of the last brides that were stolen; I was still in high school. The wedding was soon and although I was only 18, I assumed the role of wife with all the responsibility that this entailed.  Between the demonstration of his feelings and the confidence that grew little by little, I was noticing the real strength of his character, and cold expressions were being born, teasing and small abuses that made me feel bad.  His arrogance increased and he made me feel smaller and useless, less important, less deserving of his feelings, his attention, and of him.

Those sweet gestures of couples disappeared in an agitated sea of indifferences, shouts, insults and aggressions that hurt.  His fury was so resolute and unhinged that one Christmas night, he hit me in the face and broke my heart.  There was no dinner, hug, or any blessing, only anguish and pain between bitterness and frustration.

We were renting a room in a tenant house.  The next morning, he didn’t let me leave the room to hide the evidence of his mistreatment.  That day, I was very sweet and loving, until he cried showing his remorse.  He didn’t want me to visit my mom, claiming that I’d make him look bad in front of her, so we stayed home.

The d a y s passed in a strange calm, like those that follow a strong earthquake but, like a circle that ends and repeats, the frictions and abuses started again.  Between that coming and going of aggression I was able to return to study the next year, when I got pregnant with my first daughter. I became a mother in a hostile and macho environment with an increase in aggression and the trouble of infidelity, and ‘Shut up! Because a man is a man, right?’

On top of all this came the threats, intimidation, excessive increases in blows, and little money for expenses that also came to drips, which forced me to leave with my daughter in my arms to sell what little jewelry I had to buy milk and food.  This was followed by renting a house and working there, taking care of my children, there were now two, and assisting pensioners.  Of course, the day they paid, he took everything, leaving me with nothing; with this he paid the expenses and services, demanding more every day.

My sentimental life no longer existed and the years continued with torturous acts of all kinds: sexual, patrimonial, economic, psychological, moral, emotional, familiar; under the constant reminder that marriage is forever and everyone takes what they’ve got, before a society that suddenly makes us feel deserving of such suffering, where the cries for help are drowned in a heart that fights not to die at the hands of her aggressor.

My studies remained in limbo; he took me away from my family, from my friendships and the rest of the places that weren’t the house and the church, where he showed his mask of a “good man”, with the same sarcastic smile with which he told me that if I said something, nobody would believe me.  Nevertheless, inside of me, I’d firmly made a decision.  One night, when everyone had gone to sleep, I told him that I would divorce, that it had already been 13 years of violence and that the children had also suffered from his outbursts, which was completely unacceptable.  I hadn’t yet finished talking when he came at me with blows and started to threaten me, in such a way that I needed to go to the hospital to be attended because of the beating he gave me.

Through that agonizing pain, I felt a first ray of hope, that light of hope that makes you feel that you’re not alone and that the possibility of smiling again exists.  The medical staff that attended me, guided me to denounce this abuse and told me that I would receive prompt assistance for myself and my children with respect to the legal and police protection we needed.  From the hospital, I headed to the police station to report the incident.  I returned home with a document that demanded that the aggressor leave in a time stipulated in accordance with the law, and with a document for me where they offered me police protection measures.

Those hours that they gave him to leave the house were the most eternal and decisive, since his pleas for me to withdraw the complaint and not separate him from his children were constant. He cried and cast himself as a victim in front of the children making me feel responsible for our home being destroyed and what could happen to him. This is where we are subjected to the crucible of the test, before the pleas and that request for one “last chance” that we’ve already heard so many times, so that in the end, everything is worse than before. This moment is crucial, there is nothing else to do but end that circle of gender violence, where the word chance is already so worn out and tired. My priority was to live in peace and quiet with my children, so the judicial process continued.

I then received an invitation to attend a training session against domestic violence by the Executive Committee of the Quetzaltenango Justice Center. This coincided with my birthday and was a new life gift for me.  On that day, many women attended, and it was surprising to see that this scourge does not respect age, ethnicity or social class. Upon entering the training, we were given a brochure with all the necessary information and guidance; As the presenter spoke, we all felt that they were recounting what we had suffered, because the aggressor always showed the same patterns of behavior. That day we reaffirmed our resolve and our self-esteem strengthened.

Days later, the voluntary separation act was drawn up, with a maintenance allowance and other legal requirements established. Together with my children we received psychological counseling in order to heal all the emotional wounds suffered. I continued working at home and between school hours, I worked as a sales consultant for catalog products and finally, a year and a half later, I got a divorce, regaining my self-esteem and my dreams.

After 23 years, I resumed my studies and last year I completed a degree in Psychology at CUNOC. Now I am a Psychologist, photographer, poet, grandmother and I’m still dreaming. No one can tell us that marriage is forever, when what we live is a hell of torture and rape. The law and protection entities are with us.

Everything is possible when you say, ENOUGH! You act and denounce. Remember that bad words, indifference, contempt and betrayal, also hurt, so don’t think that violence is only physical. “Rise up woman, you can! It already breaks the circle of your torment, which is not a lover who kisses and then attacks or one who crushes virtues with machismo”.