Each year the Inamu, the National Institute for Woman of Costa Rica, advises 13,500 women in search of help, tired of being victims of domestic violence. The institution gives them legal advice, talks and support to cut off situations of aggression.
In the most extreme cases, they even provide shelter.
One of these victims – whom we will identify as Andrea – told us about her case. She is 39 years old. This is her story.
“My ex-husband and I have three children. When the last one was born he started drinking and hitting me for anything. I always justified it, he told me he was going to change and I forgave him, I believed him. I am a professional, but he would not let me work or go out with my friends or anything, my obligation was to the house. One, blinded, thought that was fine. Before we were married, if he did not like how I dressed, he told me to change and I would give in”.
She says that her husband beat her so many times that she lost count. He also attacked her verbally and emotionally.
“One day he hit me in front of my children. I wanted to be brave and I confronted him and not so that he would hit me. Without knowing it I was pregnant and he kicked me on the floor. I spent several days without being able to move, when I did not have any bruises he took me to the doctor because I felt sick and I was bleeding. They told me I had lost the baby. ”
What led her to find the courage to leave was that one day he hit one of the children.
“It was like living with a stranger, the one night he started telling me he was going to kill me and then I did not sleep anymore. He beat me like a boxer, with a closed fist, once he even hit me with the stick of the bathroom curtain,” she said.
Andrea had distanced herself from her friends and family. Her partner then took her cell phone so that she could not call anyone and kept it turned on so they would think she did not want to answer.
One day something started to change.
“My son told the teacher that daddy beat mom very hard and that he always told her he was going to kill her. She came to my house, but I could not open the door, through a window I asked her to leave, I told her everything was fine,” she recalled.
She adds: “Days later he grabbed my hair and hit my head against the wall, tried to suffocate me, my children screaming, asking him not to hit me anymore. The next day my son again told the teacher and she came back, I asked her to find my brother and tell him everything.”
Andrea’s brother managed to get her out of her house with the children.
“I received help, but the restraining orders did not work. He was pursuing me, once he even hit me in the street, I got a job and he came by to make scandals, they fired me and I know that was why,” said Andrea.
“The harassment was too much, I did not want to live anymore, my brother even hit him to protect us, I could not go out alone anymore. And he swore to me that the day he found me alone he would kill me with my children,” she said.
Andrea went to Inamu and was taken to a shelter where women go whose lives are in danger.
“It’s been a long time, we were protected, we had years of not feeling that peace. They helped us and guided us, they helped us to face life without fear. Now I work and I raise my children alone, he never heard from us again, my children do not ask about him “.
Today Andrea has a clear message for those who go through nightmares like the one she lived: “I beg those who are suffering to seek help or those who know someone who does not leave them (alone).”
Ana Hidalgo, coordinator of the INAMU’s Department of Gender Violence of Inamu, said the shelters “are spaces of protection whose main purpose is to guarantee the lives of people. Those who can enter are the women who are in a high risk of death due to domestic violence and assaults and who have no other option to protect their lives.”
Hidalgo says it is essential that every woman knows that she can call 9-1-1 and ask that they communicate her with the INAMU operator.
“People believe that 9-1-1 is only called when the woman is already attacked or the attack is over, but through this line we can listen to them and give them legal advice. They can also go to the offices for a legal specialist to look after them or to look for social workers in the health centers, they can also give them guidance,” she said.
Doña Ana says that it is best to ask for help from the first time the violence occurs.
“If something happens that made you feel bad or that you are mistreated or beaten, do not let the situation pass, violence is prevented from the first moment,” she said.
Found in 1955, the National Institute for Woman is the autonomous institution whose charge is the protection of women of Costa Rica, to fight domestic violence and the discrimination towards women, interdisciplinary social, legal and political advice, as well as the promotion of development of Costa Rican women.