A survivor of violence in Moldova supports other women in breaking the vicious cycle during the pandemic

After various years of enduring violence by her husband, Rodica Carpenco managed to escape and start a new life with her five children. The long-term specialized support Carpenco received from maternal center ‘Ariadna’ in Drochia, northern Moldova, has become instrumental in her decision to escape and her safety afterwards. Since then, Carpenco became a volunteer to help other women in similar situations and is now offering psychological counselling to survivors of domestic violence. Carpenco talks about how continued isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic can be dangerous for women experiencing domestic violence.

Date: Friday, June 5, 2020

This story has originally been published by UN Women Moldova.

The opening event of the "16 days of activism against gender-based violence" campaign. Photo: UN Women Moldova/Dorin Goian 

How did the work of counsellors change during the pandemic?

The counselling process became more difficult now that women are constantly in the same house with their perpetrators. They do not always manage to notify authorities about violence or call their counsellors from our center. Some women are forced to hide in the garden or even in toilets to be able to contact me.

At the same time, it is very difficult from a psychological point of view. Our counselling meetings are more efficient when we have have face-to-face discussions. This allows women to discuss freely the problems they face.

How important are these individual psychological counselling sessions for women affected by violence? What about their children?

Living with the fear of stigma, most of the time these women do not talk with other people about their problems. There are cases when women contact me for the simple reason that they need to talk to somebody and to feel that someone is hearing and helping them. Even though many women refuse to ask for authorities’ support, we know that our own success stories help them a lot and they are guided by the belief that if other women managed to escape, so can they.

However, each situation is different and so is each perpetrator. As a result, professionals should work separately with each victim of violence. We cannot ask for the support of authorities on their behalf. Women should acknowledge by themselves that it is time to start a new life and leave the violent past behind. We know that it is difficult, but we have great results that makes us happy. When a woman receives support and understanding – she has the power to move on.

We also work with child witnesses of domestic violence. When we have difficult cases, we ask for the help of a psychotherapist with experience in working with children of different ages. The maternal center Ariadna has a specially equipped room for interviewing children.

How accessible are online counselling services for women victims of violence?

Basically, every woman who requests our service has a mobile phone or they manage to get one from their children or relatives, which allows them to contact us or the counsellors. At the same time, we conduct face-to-face meetings. For example, from time to time, I meet with a group of women from my community and we talk for hours. They know I provide counselling services and usually they find me on their own.

Rodica Carpenco and Maria Scorodinschi, both are currently offering psychological counselling to victims of domestic violence. Photo from Rodica's personal archive

Can you speak to us about a former case, which had a positive evolution due to counselling meetings?

A woman found out about me through the media and came to my gate with her child. After a long talk, she came to the conclusion that she needed another place to stay. I am very glad that her husband was referred to the center for perpetrators and he attended all the counselling meetings. Eventually, the family got back together. Moreover, her husband helped her to launch a small business in order that she does not feel financially dependent on him anymore. Right now, her husband does not allow himself to insult or assault her because he knows that she is aware of her own rights and that she will no longer keep silent. After three months during which her husband attended the meetings for perpetrators, this man has changed radically.

What would you say to women victims of domestic violence who hesitate to report the case?

You should look at your children and understand that this situation leads to the gradual destruction of their personality. We do not have the right to expose our children to violence because this is a traumatic experience for them. The responsibility of being a mother comes with the obligation to ensure the peace of our children.

There is no doubt that we must trust the authorities. There are people who do their job very well and who can help you. Without the help of our centers’ professionals I would have not been able to obtain the results and the peaceful life I enjoy now.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, about 64% of women faced at least one time in their life a form of violence from their husband or partner. During the period of quarantine recommended to fight COVID-19, the risk that the number of cases of violence will increase is high. In the Republic of Moldova, the number of calls to the helpline for women and girls increase during the quarantine by 35%.

If you face violence, please do not hesitate to contact the service 112 or to call the helpline for women and girls for legal and psychological counselling 24/24: 0 8008 8008. It is free and confidential!