The shattered bones on her face will heal. The swelling in her brain will subside. The tube inserted in her trachea will be removed. She will be able to breathe on her own again. The bruises on her body will fade and be replaced by a youthful glow. The trauma, one distant day from now, will no longer be a physical pain.
If she survives.
If she survives, she will feel something else. A different kind of pain that eclipses the physical, an affliction so deep and traumatic, that she may never be the she she once was, if she ever was that she.
She, is a 13-year-old girl who was beaten within an inch of her life by her mother’s partner in their home in the northern Armenian city of Gyumri. After the vicious beating, her attacker left her in that state for eight hours before calling an ambulance. When her battered body was finally brought to the hospital, she had a broken nose and jaw, she had bruises all over her body, fractured ribs, abdominal swelling, a cerebral contusion, she was bleeding internally, unconscious, her body in complete and total shock.
Her 43-year-old mother was also beaten. She didn’t survive. She succumbed to her injuries, leaving behind her daughter, with a broken and pummeled body, to somehow survive on her own.
Once news of the incident spread, the ugly and grotesque questions followed: What had the woman done to deserve the beating? Why was a 43-year-old woman with a 28-year-old man with a criminal past? Was she an immoral woman? She must have been to provoke the wrath of her lover, no?
One reporter, speaking to the principal of the school the girl attended, asked if the mother ever attended parent-teacher meetings and then turned around and asked if the girl, who lay in a hospital bed in ICU, had a penchant for boys...
It’s easy to blame the victim, isn’t it? Because assigning blame is much more pleasant than facing the even more grotesque reflection we might see in the mirror, if we chanced a glance that is.
The “questionners” were followed by the amenayn hayots (all-Armenian) psychoanalysts: If we eradicate poverty, men will stop beating their wives. If women knew their place or were smart enough, they wouldn’t have gotten themselves in such a situation. If she was married, this wouldn’t have happened. Armenian society reveres mothers and women, this must have been a one-off thing.
And then there’s that group of men who have set up shop outside parliament for the past several months, collecting signatures to prevent Armenia from ratifying the Istanbul Convention (on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence) because it goes against traditional Armenian values, because it will destroy the very fabric of Armenian society, the family. To be fair, at this juncture, for me, it’s a moot point.
The Armenian government can ratify as many conventions as it likes, but unless there’s domestic legislation criminalizing domestic violence, unless police officers and first responders are trained to deal with violence in the home, unless there is education and public awareness about fundamental human rights, unless every institutionalized cultural stereotype that demeans a woman’s life is wiped away, men will continue to exert their “privileged right” to violence, not only against women and children, but against each other.
Sunday is International Women’s Day. Restaurants will be full, flowers and gifts will be passed around. For the next several weeks, round tables and conferences will be held about equal rights, discussions and arguments will take place on social media platforms, warriors of all stripes and colors will be flexing their finger muscles to write the next magnum opus on their Facebook page and an orphaned 13-year-old girl will be fighting for her life in a hospital bed.