While the microscopic SARS-Cov-2 locked a good part of the planet at home, a woman discovered in a village in Galicia the large virus with which she had lived for more than three years.
María, 37, decided to break up with her partner just a couple of days before the state of alarm, fleeing a relationship of submission and psychological torture that had left her without a job, without family and without friends.
"Two days after I left him, I was confined alone with my two children," she says now that she has found her way out of the labyrinth.
"It was a continuous hell, he sent me more than 300 messages and phone calls threatening me with death."
The history of Maria's cell phone between March and June is a horror story.
"I'm going to break the confinement to stand there."
"I'm going to separate your head from your body."
"Answer or count on me tomorrow, the hell you don't beat me."
"I'm going to wallpaper the town with the men you slept with."
He telephoned her obsessively, until the early hours.
Even if he blocked it, the cell phone kept communicating his call attempts and increasing the anguish.
He was looking for other terminals to continue with the harassment.
“He told me that he loved me and then he threatened and insulted me.
I sometimes unblocked him to try to calm him down so that he wouldn't come to ride her home where I was with my children ”.
While assimilating how the coronavirus turned the whole world upside down and attended to her children with their homework from home, María had to deal with the attacks of a “psychopath”, she says.
To survive, she received telephone assistance from friends who a few days before had opened her eyes.
“Thanks to them I said 'up to here'.
They sat me down for several days and told me what I did not see and what the rest of the people around me did: that he was hanging out with other women, that he had never divorced his previous partner and that it was he who had done to kick me out of my job. "
During the confinement, they accompanied her into the distance, calmed her down and advised her on how to act.
The purchase was taken home because she had no way of getting around.
He had to hide his car to prevent his ex-partner from executing one of his many threats: setting it on fire.
As soon as the confinement ended, he denounced his attacker with all the evidence of harassment collected between March and May.
Now she is protected by a restraining order and has undertaken a process of "healing" to leave behind the accumulated wounds after more than three years of psychological violence.
He never hit her, but once he threatened to beat her and Maria thought that her end had come: “I think psychological violence is worse than physical violence.
With a blow you recover, but what he did to me destroyed me inside, made me feel empty.
He ruled my mind. "
During the relationship, her partner controlled the slightest of her movements and the way she dressed and was annoyed when she talked to other men.
Maria even went to the bathroom and hung her clothes glued to the cell phone.
When he called her, she had to answer immediately or she would go into a rage.
He destroyed her self-esteem by insulting and harassing her and spoke ill of all her surroundings to leave her alone in front of him: “He isolated me from my family, my friends and my co-workers.
He tried to confront me even with my children and turned me against all my neighbors, except for some who were the ones who helped me when I dared to leave him.
I never believed what he told me about them ”.
I gave him "one of lime and another of sand."
One day he showered her with gifts and the next with humiliation.
He maneuvered behind his back so that he lost his job and depended on him financially.
“A lot of people ask me 'why did you hold on?'
and I don't know how to answer… For not seeing me alone, for fear that I would be violent, for not seeing me helpless… ”, analyzes María.
“I was aware that I was a victim of gender violence but I didn't want anyone to know it and I covered it up as much as I could.
He wanted people to stay with the facade of a couple in love because he, socially, had good times and was charming ”.
Five months after setting foot out of hell, María is recovering her self-esteem so as not to fall back into a toxic relationship and wants to help other women to get out: “That fear that anguishes and slows you down, not letting you live, you have to make it the force that opens you to a better life.
To those who are like I was, I would like to tell them that they have to think that they are wonderful people, that they just don't let them see it. "
The stress of the pandemic fuels the aggressors
Requests for help from victims of sexist violence have skyrocketed since the pandemic broke out.
According to data from the Government Delegation against Gender Violence, between March and September, telephone 016 received 52,760 calls, 28% more than the 41,072 registered in the same period of 2019 and 19% above the 44,252 of 2018. Last April, this help line created by the Government in 2008 broke the second highest activity record in its history with 8,692 alerts from battered women.
Marisol Rojas, a psychologist at the women's attention service of the Sant Boi de Llobregat City Council (Barcelona), sees her fears confirmed with this sharp increase in requests for help.
The pandemic and confinement have multiplied the "anxiety" and "stressors" that incite the aggressor, whether he lives with his victim or not, from economic precariousness to alcohol consumption, he explains.
"Confinement has increased impunity for the aggressors because they have kept their victims totally isolated," says Rojas.
"And also the situation at home has become more tense and conflictive."
At the same time as the calls to 016, the visits to some attention services that were already "saturated" have grown.
“We are prioritizing the most serious cases.
A woman who makes a complaint, for example, must be dealt with as soon as possible, ”says Rojas.
For many victims like María, he concludes, what suffered in confinement has been "the straw that broke the camel's back."
"This is how I got out of the labyrinth of gender violence"
The hell that Maria lived for more than three years is a paradigmatic case of psychological violence.
She herself tells how her attacker caught her, how one day she finally said "enough" to the relationship and how she has begun to "heal".
She wants to help other women to get out of the maze of sexist violence.
1. Tight control of movements and dress
María says that she lived attached to her cell phone so that her ex-partner would not go into a rage because he did not answer her calls.
He forced her to dress the way he wanted.
2. Social and family isolation
Her attacker managed to distance Maria from her family and friends until she was completely alone in front of him.
3. Cancellation of self-esteem
Her ex-partner gave Maria one of lime and another of sand.
One day he showered her with gifts and another with humiliations, insults and humiliations.
4. Economic dependency
Maria's ex-partner did everything possible to make her depend on him and even maneuvered to cause her to be fired from her company.
5. Blockade: "I was aware that I was a victim but I covered it up"
Fear prevented Maria from breaking a relationship that condemned her to a life she did not want.
He knew that he was suffering sexist violence, but he hid it and lived "by appearances."
After losing almost everything, María opened her eyes thanks to some friends and asked for help to report her ex-partner and get out of the well.
Maria has gotten another job and has gotten her friends back.
She is convinced that she will come out “stronger and much happier”.