Story of salvation and protection: how the Emergency Fund for Combating Domestic Violence helps in Silistra

  •  November 20, 2020

The Women’s Association “Ekaterina Karavelova” – Silistra is one of the organizations that received financial support under the Emergency Fund for Combating Domestic Violence in the conditions of COVID-19. The initiative was organized by the Bulgarian Fund for Women at the end of May in partnership with the Bulgarian Donors’ Forum and the “Bcause” Foundation.

In a little over a month, the Emergency Fund managed to raise BGN 73,192 with the help of corporate and individual donations. It was all made possible, thanks to the corporate donors – the companies Biersdorf/ NIVEAEasy PayExperian БългарияMelonProgress and Foundation Luchezar Tsotsorkov, as well as thanks to the hundreds of individual donors, to whom we express our sincere gratitude!

The funds were urgently directed to crisis and counseling centers across the country, which work on the front lines and provide protection and assistance to women victims of violence and their children. They were distributed to 14 organizations, according to their urgent needs.

Here is what the Women’s Association “Ekaterina Karavelova” shared with us about their work on prevention and protection of victims of domestic violence, during the last months, that was made possible thanks to the help provided by the Emergency Fund.

“With the financial assistance from the end of July to the end of October 2020, 31 women victims of domestic violence and their children were supported by providing them with food, lunch coupons for pupils and other humanitarian aid.

COVID-19 testing was performed both on women in need of emergency accommodation at the Crisis Center for Victims of Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking. There were also provided disposable protective masks and other medical consumables and disinfectants for the needs of the employees and users of the Crisis Center and the Center for Public Support, managed by the Association.

Specialized care was also provided to a child with severe heart disease and his mother that was subject to domestic violence. They were transported for treatment and for consultation with a cardiologist to the city of Varna. An inhaler was also purchased for the child. As a result, the child’s health improved and the mother was reassured about her child’s health and life.

Food and consumables for a mother with three children, who were accommodated in the “Resilience” transitional house were provided along with 36 pieces of lunch coupons for two of her children. Medicines were purchased for 6 children aged from 3 months to 1 year. Diapers and milk formulas were also provided for 8 children up to 1 year of age.

There were also purchased contraceptives for 2 women victims of domestic violence. Fees for summer kindergarten were paid for 3 children in order to prepare them for the upcoming in the autumn school environment.

Part of the funds of the Emergency Fund for Combating Domestic Violence were used to support the retention of key personnel in the team of the Association, that was able to hire a specialist psychologist / social worker.

During the summer months of 2020, the Crisis Center in Silistra continued to operate, but not all places were filled due to the increased requirements in the procedure for referral and accommodation of victims, as well as due to the need to conduct tests for COVID-19. In the transitional house “Resilience” (an innovative social service managed by the Women’s Association “Ekaterina Karavelova”) only users whose period of residence in the Crisis Center has expired are accommodated. In recent months, the capacity of the transitional house has been fully filled.

After the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the calls and those seeking counseling at the Center for Counseling and Prevention of Domestic Violence – Silistra, increased. Most clients seek one-time counseling and guidance. There is also an increase in the cases of children at risk, on which the Center for Public Support in the district, works.

The “Ekaterina Karavelova” Association supports its clients by providing shelter, psychological and legal consulting and material support.

Here is the true story of a victim, client of the organization:

I have been living with M. on a family basis for 13 years. We have three children from our relationship, aged 10, 6 and 3, respectively. From the very beginning of our relationship I have been subject of physical and psyhological violence. Insults and humiliations, all kind of threats, including for murder are commonplace as well as beatings almost every night. He has punched me, strangled me with cables, threatened me with a knife, knocked me to the ground and kicked me with his legs, pulled my hair. Very often, after beating me, he rapes me. The children almost always witnessed the violence against me, and when they were not direct witnesses, they heard the shouts and blows from the next room. It got to the point that when they saw him, they began to hide and tremble of scare.

In the evening of February 2020, M. got drunk again and started punching me in the face and head. I do not remember how long the beating lasted because I fainted. He flooded me with water and I regained consciousness. He had sex with me, despite the helpless state I was in (I couldn’t move), then he kept beating me. He sat on top of me and punched my head and body until I fainted again. When I regained conscious, M. was not in the room. I was so scared that he would kill me when he returned that I managed to mobilize and run away from the house. I sat on the streets all night until dawn. At 7 o’clock I went to the Mayor of our village and ask him for help. He called an ambulance and the police. I was taken to a hospital, where I stayed for 8 days for treatment. Following this abuse, I filed a case to the court and received an Immediate Defense Order.

However, M. did not stop looking for me, apologizing, promising and begging me. I believed him and withdrew the file from the court. My calmness, however, lasted less than a month – he began again with beatings and rape.

At the end of April 2020, M. beat me again. He was very drunk and he hit me in front of the children with his fists and kicks all over my body. Our little children hid under the table in fear, and the eldest tried to stop him, but M. pushed him away violently. He made me get out of the house and put me in the car. He drove to a remote area, where he pulled me out of the car and continued to punch my head and kick me all over my body. Then he left me and drove away. I felt terribly sick, but I managed to walk slowly to the village. However, he returned and put me in the car. He took me home, but locked the car door and started hitting me again. I miraculously managed to unlock the door and escape to the neighbors, who called the Mayor, and he called the police.

After the last time, I already know that I will not return to him. No matter how hard it is for me, no matter how scared I am, I know there is someone to help me. I have no relatives to rely on, but at the moment I am accommodated with my children in the Crisis center and I am certainly safer than in my own home… I know that the service is up to limited date, but I am sure that I will make it. I have wonderful children and the most important thing is to be healthy, calm and to live without fear!

The “Ekaterina Karavelova” Association address the general public with the following appeal: “We would very much like to reassure mainsteam people that violence is not a solution to their problems. Therefore, our work and the effect of our activities are aimed not only at working directly with the victims, but also at preventing violence. In 2020, our organization created two new manuals “I am not a victim” and “Aggression is not a power” – aimed at victims and perpetrators, respectively, as well as a short film. All these materials can be found and downloaded from the organization’s website.

“There are people who are on the edge of poverty. There are women who are economically dependent on their abusers. There are children who cannot escape their parents… What motivates us to continue our work even in this difficult situation and with insufficient funds, are the successful cases when our clients manage to cope with their problems and move forward”, explained from the Association.

And they add with gratitude to all donors: “That’s why your donations are especially important – they can save lives!

“Thank you for your help! With this project, in addition to supporting all the beneficiaries listed, you have enabled a woman with three children to believe that she can stop the violence against her and mobilize her own resources to deal with it. This is especially important for us as a team, because success motivates us to continue.”

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