In June 2022, domestic violence was officially considered a crime in Ukraine, but the war in Ukraine has stunted access to support and resources for abuse victims. According to WhoWhatWhy, there is a stigma surrounding the topic of abuse that has only gotten worse through the war, preventing victims from coming forward with their stories because they aren’t considered important. The national hotline for physical and sexual violence in Ukraine, La Strada, reports that about “89 percent of the 380,472 calls it has received since February 24 have been related to domestic violence.”
In order to illustrate the larger issue of domestic violence in the country, WhoWhatWhy tells the story of one victim, a Ukrainian woman known as Katya, who asked WhoWhatWhy to withhold her real name to maintain anonymity. She had suffered physical and verbal abuse from her husband for a long time, mostly due to his drinking habits. When she and her family fled to Spain at the beginning of the war, the abuse only got worse with the tension of their daily lives. In order to save herself, she was granted a restraining order against her husband in Spain, where she also was helped by a government housing system for survivors of domestic violence. Resources like this are much more readily available in Spain and other European countries, while the Russian military has destroyed the majority of the facilities in Ukraine that offer help.
Katya fears the possibility of her husband finding her and the lack of recourse, resources, and protection she’ll have if he does. The same goes for the other thousands of women who continue to suffer under the lack of action taken by authorities for domestic violence. If the laws are being ignored by spouses, and looked over by the police who aren’t enforcing them, all of those callers from the hotline are still in danger.
“Those who were suffering from domestic violence would try not to report because they would think this is not that serious compared to the war, to the bombing. The survivors also face the attitude where they were told [by authorities], ‘Come on, sort out your own things, we have a war in the country, take care of yourself, we have more serious things to do,’” said Katya.
On February 22, 2023, the Guardian published an article focusing on the spike in sexual violence in Ukraine since the Russian invasion, and in March 2023, TIME published a story discussing Ukrainian soldiers’ PTSD, resulting in higher rates of domestic violence. As of April 2023, no other corporate sources have reported on the neglect of Ukrainian abuse victims’ during the war.
Alexandra Topping, “Ukrainian Women More Vulnerable to Sexual Violence after Russian Invasion, Says IRC,” The Guardian, February 22, 2023.
Anna Conkling, “Russia’s War on Ukraine Creates Hidden Violence,” WhoWhatWhy, February 11, 2023.
Student Researcher: Anjelina Grisafe (Drew University)
Faculty Evaluator: Lisa Lynch (Drew University)