• Beyond the Canvas

Drawing the unbreakable cycle of violence

Domestic abuse is a gendered crime. According to data from 2019, 92% of the defendants in domestic abuse-related prosecutions in the UK were men, 75% of the victims were female. The pandemic has made things worse, providing a breeding ground for a sharp increase in these crimes. In Russia, data provided by NGOs indicate that the number of victims and cases of domestic violence may have doubled. The same figures are up 30% in France, 25% in China. The pandemic within the pandemic.


Ruslan Mellin is a surgeon at Kemerovo Hospital in southwest Siberia where he reconstructs people's faces, many of which are women. Every day, Ruslan operates on as many as 5 women with severe facial injuries inflicted by their husbands, partners and exes. And as he provides medical assistance, Ruslan also listens to the victim's stories and sketches their horrific wounds, using his colleagues' faces to protect the patients' anonymity.


There are two reasons why I have chosen to post a drawing Ruslan made of an abuser rather than a victim: 1. As a woman, I find it incredibly distressing to look at battered sisters and I do not feel comfortable sharing images of graphic violence. Maybe I am just a coward. 2. The focus of the conversation should shift to the men, because they are the problem. This red-eyed, crazed-looking man we see here, although this is certainly not his real appearance, had been assaulting his wife regularly for many years. After he found out that she’d been putting money aside so she could leave him, he yanked her from the dinner table by her hair and proceeded to give her the umpteenth beating. And to make sure that each blow would inflict as much pain and damage as possible, he made sure he was wearing his chunky gangster rings.


Earlier this week, I saw the many jubilant celebrations of International Women's Day, but when I see these figures and think of the enormous social and gender inequalities they stem from, I just want to scream. I do not know if and how this cycle of violence can ever be broken, but positive change can only come if supported by meting out solid and consistent penalties for domestic abuse, by properly funding support services and by helping women become financially independent.


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Photo credit Ruslan Mellin via Meduza Project

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