From: Ehljijana Zeka
Perspective: Seeking Help as Victims of Domestic Violence in Kosovo

How Far Can Patience Take Us with Domestic Violence

It is a well-known fact that in Kosovo the horrors of domestic violence can span years, as women are exposed to long periods of harassment and torture. And it’s not just physical violence that is very hard to deal with. As most of us know psychological violence continues to be a hidden burden whose signs can be easily missed in the beginning.

Many would consider psychological violence something easier to bear but when it lasts for years, and when the victim cannot cope with it, then it becomes serious, and the victim is already in need of help. Many women, however, do not know where to turn. They don’t know how to leave their abuser, or how to protect themselves from various forms of criticisms, belittling, ridicule, not only from strangers, but from their own families.

Feeling alone and helpless can be a paralyzing and terrifying feeling. You are left to feel like there is no one who can help you, like there is no one next to you. This happens because the bully creates the circumstances, they can separate you from everyone around you, so no one is there to say, “You are a victim of domestic violence, you should report the perpetrator.”

This situation can tear you down, until your sense of self disappears, and you are gone. You begin to get feelings of withdrawal, restlessness, suicidal ideation—they become your constant companions.

But I wanted to resist all of this, I wanted to say NO to violence and start something new.

When you don’t have anyone who to turn to, where do you go?

Believe it or not, I was lucky to find out about the Safe House in the municipality of Zubin Potok. I was surprised because the conditions are like that of a hotel. My first sensation was that of relief, being there meant a new beginning. Like many women, I thought I would be in precarious and poor conditions, but that didn’t happen.

A safe house is a place that provides opportunities and support for victims of domestic violence. The first thing I found there was peace. And you can’t put a price to peace.  I also received support from all employees, as well as support and protection from many institutions. I had never thought that foreigners would be the ones to provide the right support and the kind of help that I needed after coming out of a life of violence and catastrophe.

To be in that situation, to look at life as a path with no way out, like a labyrinth you are stuck in every day, and having no idea when the light of salvation will appear.

Not every victim is the same, many do not see the full picture and do not recognize that they are actually living with violence. These are the signs that helped me recognize the violence I suffered:

• Loss of patience and tolerance
• Comparing your life to that of others
• Stagnation
• Desire for change
• Insight
• Lack of energy to fight your bully
• Deterioration of your mental and physical health
• Awakening awareness through conversation with other people and peers living in violence.

Whoever says this is not hard has obviously never experienced something so difficult. Overwhelming to the point of losing the desire to live. I kept questioning myself: why can’t I report this violence? Why do I suffer through all of this?

These are the reasons why I did not report earlier, and I am sure many victims will recognize them:

• Fearing your bully and what he may be capable of
• Hope that the situation will change and the violence cease
• Desire to save the family
• Financial dependence on your bully
• Blackmail by the bully
• Finding reasons to stay
• Desire to forgive
• Tolerance
• Trust in others
• Indifference by others
• Feeling pangs of consciousness
• Seeing the goods in your bully
• Feeling guilt
• Losing the desire to live and fight

Many cities in the territory of the Republic of Kosovo do not have Safe Houses. For the rest of their lives, many women remain eternal slaves to a situation where they are mistreated in every way while protecting the perpetrator.

I was lucky that my town has a Safe House and that I was able to receive the support that I needed. As I said, it’s great luck to get out of captivity. First of all, this is a prison of a psychic nature. There is a blockage in the head, pain in the heart, and you feel like all paths to salvation are closed. That is how I lived.

Thanks to the many people who worked to build this institution, and above all its head, Mrs. Adrijana Hodzic, from whom I received great support. If it weren’t for her, her employees, I would never be in this position where I could write a story about domestic violence, and if I might be another name in the global list of the many women who are killed by their bullies.

Staying at the Safe House for five months introduced me to a new side of life. I would recommend to many women that they be brave and report the violence they have experienced. No matter how alone we think we are, there is always someone else who is ready to help you.

This one state institution changed my life. Here are the many advantages of staying in a safe house:

• Sense of security
• Awakening in peace and without fear
• Getting to know your self
• Ability to talk to people of different occupations
• “My problem is not the most difficult”
• Start thinking about your own life
• Experiencing a world without violence
• Opportunity to dedicate to yourself
• Organizing the day in a way that suits you
• Safety for the mother and child
• Learning new skills
• Mental stability and gaining mental strength
• Thinking rationally about the future
• Spotting one’s own mistakes
• A sense of belonging to a particular community
• Reuniting with long-forgotten (and forbidden by the abuser) relatives
• The emergence of a new personality

In the end, I would like to conclude this piece by expressing my gratitude, first of all, to Mrs. Adrijana Hodzic – Deputy Mayor of Kosovska Mitrovica, who created a team of eloquent staff, and thus also gave a part of herself through this institution. The victim is never guilty of the violence she experiences from the abuser. A bully always remains a bully! A community of brave women can lead to the salvation of us all.