In Perm, a center was opened to help women who were imprisoned for the murder of rapists. According to a study by Mediazona and Novaya Gazeta, 91% of women convicted of exceeding self-defense defended themselves from their partners or other male relatives.
Men convicted under the same article defended themselves from their partners only in 3% of cases. The authors analyzed more than four thousand sentences handed down to Russian women from 2016 to 2018 (2,552 sentences under part 1 of Art. 105 of the Criminal Code “Murder” and 1,716 sentences under Part 4 of Art. 111 of the Criminal Code “Grievous harm to health, resulting in death by negligence” ), and found that the majority (namely 79% and 52%, respectively) of the accused women were victims of domestic violence.
In early June, when the renovation is over, a multifunctional center “Nechuzhie” for such women will be opened in Perm. Victims of violence and those who have served time for the murder of abuser – this is how people who are prone to violence against their partner are called – will be able to get help from a psychologist, lawyer, human rights activist, and a teacher here for free. They will be assisted in collecting documents, finding work and housing, restoring housing and parental rights, and will offer other assistance based on the specific situation. The “strangers” will accept women from other regions as well.
We visited the center and talked about its work with its creator, the president of the interregional public organization for social prevention of offenses “Vybor” Anna Kargapoltseva.
“He raped his ex-wife in front of the children.”
The new women’s center is located in a two-storey building on the outskirts of Perm and occupies the entire first floor. The premises were donated by the city administration. Previously, there was a children’s Orthodox school here. Now volunteers are helping to make repairs; in the future, the project organizers hope to win a presidential grant.
Two large rooms are allocated for living in the center; there is also a kitchen, shower, toilet, and a large conference room. Eight women will be able to temporarily live here. We already have three applications.
Anna Kargapoltseva has been working for a public oversight commission for several years, which checks the colonies for the observance of prisoners’ rights. At the same time, 12 years ago, Anna created her own organization “Choice”. They are engaged in the prevention of crime, including relapse, carry out educational work with convicts and with those released from colonies, as well as provide psychological and other assistance to persons in difficult life situations. Also, “Choice” is engaged in the adaptation of those released from the colonies and under the administrative control of the police.
Anna calls her project “The Center for Assistance to Convicted Women Victims of Violence”. Its essence is not just the resocialization of freed women, but an opportunity to solve the problem of stigmatization of such convicts in society.
– Until 2017, I did not visit the women’s colonies at all. When I began to go there, I was faced with egregious cases. The girls told me their stories, – Anna recalls. – To put it in dry language: women dealt with rapists. But it was domestic and sexual abuse, and systematic psychological abuse, and abuse of children, and lasting a long time. When I listened to these women, I realized that in their place I would have taken a heavy object … It seems to me that mechanisms should work in our country so that victims of domestic violence are protected. Preventive work may be needed. And we are working only with the consequences of domestic violence.
Vybor begins to help the convicted woman already in the colony. As a rule, women are sentenced to 5-10 years in prison for murder, says Kargapoltseva. Many of the released women need temporary housing, shelter, at least a lodging for the night.
– What we can do? Meet her from the colony, help her go through the courts at large. And the third thing we wanted to do was to open this center, ”Anna lists. – Here she will receive free consultations of a lawyer, a psychologist, she will be accompanied by social workers. There will also be a visiting doctor. If unfavorable symptoms are detected, he will give a referral to the hospital to an appropriate specialist. We will also conclude agreements with hospitals to provide medical assistance to these women.
Now “Vybor” is negotiating with the administration of Perm to open a crisis apartment in the city, where the released women can find shelter for a longer period of time with the right of temporary registration.
“The defendant did not know that a woman’s honor is worthless”
Among the applications for accommodation in the center is an appeal from a resident of Novosibirsk. Anna has already spoken with a former prisoner. Tells: she was serving a sentence for the murder of her husband after prolonged violence against her. While she was in the colony, the relatives inherited the apartment and quickly sold it. Now she has nowhere to go, she has no one. After the experience of violence, she was left disabled, she has a leg injury. Anna notes: this happens often.
Kargapoltseva gives another example – from the Chusovsky district. Almost every night, the ex-husband burst into the apartment of a local resident, breaking down the door, and raped her in front of her five-year-old daughter. This lasted for a long time. The police, the public figure notes, for some reason did not react or it did not give a result due to the specifics of the legislation. The woman turned to Vybor, where she was advised to write a statement about the torture. This is already a criminal article, the man was put on the wanted list, he began to hide. It didn’t come to the tragedy.
Anna also recalls a very young convict who was serving time in a colony for murder. The tragedy happened when her parents were at work, and she was alone in a private home. An unknown man broke down the door, began to strangle and raped the girl.
– I studied this criminal case. She was attacked by a complete stranger. This is a village, many of them do not close their doors, – says Anna. – The victim hit the rapist with a heavy object, he died on the spot. There was a trial. There were no witnesses. Nobody heard anything and could not confirm the girl’s words. She received eight years in prison. The girl was sure that the court would regard her actions as self-defense. The fact of rape was proven, but the defendant did not know that the woman’s honor was worthless. The logic, probably, is this: he did not try to kill you, but only raped, what’s the big deal, and you killed a man.
Kargapoltseva is sure that convicted women are triple stigmatized. The first is domestic violence experienced. The second is a real long term in a colony. Third, this woman will forever remain a criminal in the eyes of society.
“For me, this is an example of blatant injustice towards a woman,” says the interlocutor. – We have an organization in Perm called Territory of the Family, which helps women and children who are right now in a situation of domestic violence (today there are 9 mothers and 15 children in this center, and a woman with 2 children is expected to settle in. – Ed. By ed. .). But women who have been convicted and served time in colonies are not yet being helped in the Kama region. Where will the girl from the colony go? Simple social support is not enough here, because these are three broken lives. I find them more difficult to recover. It will always be difficult for them to rehabilitate themselves in front of a free society, because today the stigmatization in our country is generally invincible.
In total, there are five women’s colonies in the Kama region: in Kungur, Perm, Berezniki, and Kizel. Women can also do their term in penal colonies. Anna gives an example of initial re-socialization: in the colony-settlement No. 26 of the GUFSIN, they practice going out with convicted girls to theaters and shops. They teach basic things that need to be explained: for example, how to shop in hypermarkets. After 10 years in a colony, a woman can be confused and panic-stricken.
“I killed a man, I am to blame”
Anna Kargapoltseva notes that convicted women themselves often cannot get rid of their feelings of guilt.
“Every time I talk in colonies with women who are serving time for the murder of an offender, they tell their terrible stories about violence, and after that they say with a repentant air:“ So I killed a man, ”recalls the interlocutor. “That is, after going through the process of investigation and serving time, she says:“ I killed, I am to blame ”. Name me a woman who would have acted differently? Any woman will defend herself. And the courts say: why did you take a heavy object? I do not know how to effectively prevent these situations. Again, our center will only deal with the consequences. By the way, a psychiatric examination in a number of such criminal cases suggests that a woman could not commit murder in a state of passion. That is, if a man beats a woman systematically, she simply could not kill him in a state of passion!
During her work, Anna Kargapoltseva faced a separate category of victims of domestic violence – these are religious women. According to the interlocutor, thanks to their religion, they are accustomed to respecting their husband and the issue of obedience is very acute for them. And it often happens that in a situation where a believing woman always feels guilty that she has not pleased her husband enough, being subjected to violence, she is silent for years.
“We have a story when in Yekaterinburg a believer threw his wife from the third floor in front of their own children,” says Anna. – She was able to survive, but her spine is broken. And before that, the beatings continued for many years. And my wife always hid it. Now she is in the hospital and refuses to write a statement to the police, because she is afraid that her husband will be disgraced in the church.
Anna Kargapoltseva hopes that the clergy of the confessions will help her in such situations. Now “Choice” is negotiating a joint agreement with the Spiritual Directorate of Muslims. The same agreement will be concluded with the ROC.
“I’m sure that church norms are not aimed at humiliating women,” Anna emphasizes. – I think that beating and humiliation are problems of a purely nature. What other upbringing can be beating a wife? Another side that suffers from such violence against a woman is children. How does it feel for them to see their father throw their mother out of the window? This trauma is forever. I always project everything onto myself and have no idea at all how I would have experienced it. We have so many law enforcement officers, and who are we protecting?
The center is looking for jobs for women with convictions in advance. As of today, three companies agree to provide vacancies with a starting salary of 12.5 thousand rubles – this money can be used to rent a room and buy groceries in the future.
“It’s hard to break the habit of being free from the regime”
On March 17, the first guest arrived at the center. Agnia left the colony just a day ago, the woman has nowhere to go. She did not serve time for murder, the woman’s article is different, but the center agreed to help her.
– Anna Kargapoltseva came to our colony several times, explained how former convicts could adapt, where they could get help, and mentioned this center. I served 8 years and 4 months in a general regime colony, ”Agnia says. – During this time, my relatives died, I myself am from the Sverdlovsk region. When I left the gates of the colony, I called Anna Vadimovna. I was allowed to move in here for the first time. Now I am looking for a job, the center offered a vacancy.
According to Agnia, the most important thing she is grateful for is getting help on time.
“Help on time is salvation, otherwise there is a risk of falling back to the bottom,” the woman says. – During these 8 years I have lost all social connections. Now I have to register with the police, register with the hospital, get a group – I am disabled. Register with the Pension Fund, I want to live a normal life.
According to Agnia, in the colony in her detachment there were many convicted women who killed her husband for domestic violence.
“But it is not customary among us to pour out our souls. Everyone just knows that she has article 105 (“Murder”). Usually, in the zone, you choose one friend and you hardly communicate with anyone until the end of the term, ” says the woman. – You try to go to work, they also offer participation in amateur performances. The most terrible and difficult thing for me in the colony was to get used to the prison regime, to live according to the order and local rules. I got used to it for two years. I was scared to accept the very idea that I was locked up, I could not go anywhere. It is difficult to accept both physically and mentally. And now the most difficult thing at large is to break the habit of this regime.
“The overturned sentence is a bad indicator for the court”
The Perm project to help convicted women is supported by other public organizations. As Sasha Graf (Moscow), an employee of the Russian Center for the Protection of Victims of Domestic Violence under the Consortium of Women’s Non-Governmental Associations, told 59.RU, the number of women imprisoned in Russia is more than 40 thousand. This is a huge figure.
“If we are talking about a crisis center for women who have served time for killing their partner or husband after torture and violence, then there are no such projects in Russia,” the expert says. – I do not know of any such center. These women in our country drop out of resocialization. There is a wonderful study by Mediazona and Novaya Gazeta that 80 percent of women who were convicted of murder actually defended themselves. And they should have been tried either for exceeding the limits of self-defense, or should not have been judged because they exercised their right to self-defense. With this, everything is very difficult for us.
Sasha Graf also often communicates with women who have served their sentences. It is very difficult to talk to the woman who was imprisoned for the murder, the social activist notes.
“I’ve met several of these women,” Graf recalls. – Their story is the same – there is a domestic aggressor who has been beating and mocking for years. The woman suffered. Social control over women plays an important role here: in the sense that if she decides to part with her husband, especially if she has a child, then she will be condemned. I have an interview with a woman who very honestly talked to me about why she killed her husband, how she defended herself, what she thinks about it. And she said one interesting thing: “It seems to us, women, that we can endure eternity, but at some point something breaks in you and a biological mechanism turns on. Your body – it itself protects you. ” In fact, what she describes is similar to a state of passion. Your body understands that either you will die now, or you will have to kill the aggressor. At this point, the situation depends on the decision that your brain will make. You cannot control yourself. The woman I spoke with compared this situation to the case when she met a bear in the forest. At that moment, she ran. But, she says, if the meeting with the bear was in a confined space and she had nowhere to run, she would defend herself: “I would find anything to protect myself.” I have not met a single woman who, having committed the murder of her partner, would not repent. All this is unbearable stress for her. This stigmatization leaves an imprint on her psyche. if the meeting with the bear was in a confined space and she had nowhere to run, she would defend herself: “I would find anything to protect myself.” I have not met a single woman who, having committed the murder of her partner, would not repent. All this is unbearable stress for her. This stigmatization leaves an imprint on her psyche. if the meeting with the bear was in a confined space and she had nowhere to run, she would defend herself: “I would find anything to protect myself.” I have not met a single woman who, having committed the murder of her partner, would not repent. All this is unbearable stress for her. This stigmatization leaves an imprint on her psyche.
As follows from the annual report of the Russian Center for the Protection of Victims of Domestic Violence under the Consortium of Women’s Non-Governmental Organizations (the document is at the disposal of the editors), in 2020, 1,327 women from all over Russia applied to the consortium. 44% of those who applied indicated that they had been subjected to physical violence. At the same time, 10% of all those who applied said that they tried to get help from law enforcement agencies, but did not get it. 5% of appeals – these are 54 cases – relate to sexual violence against children. 94 appeals related to sexual violence against women. During the year, the consortium took on 111 new cases in defense of women to support. Of these, 59% are criminal cases under the articles “Murder”, “Beat”, “Harm to health”, “Threats”, “Torture”, “Rape”,
With the question of why the courts most often pass sentences against women under the more serious article “Murder”, without re-qualifying it for “Self-defense”, we turned to lawyer Vsevolod Alferov. Now he is leading a criminal case against a woman who killed her husband – a police officer – after domestic violence. The woman has already been convicted under the article “Murder”. Now the lawyer has appealed the verdict and insists that the case should be re-qualified to the article “Self-defense”.
– Everything is very simple. Everything is always charged to the maximum. Because if the court wants to re-qualify for a less serious article, then it can do it itself, but if it sees a heavier article, then it cannot, – Vsevolod Alferov notes. – It is easier for the investigator to immediately present a heavier composition, because if the court speaks about the need for this, then for correction the case will be returned for further investigation, which is bad for statistics. With self-defense, everything is bad with us, the courts simply do not want to justify, because an acquittal means that the prosecutor’s office and the investigation did not work well, and they will get it. And convictions are more persistent on appeal than acquittals. And this is important for the court, because again, statistics, a revoked or amended verdict for the court of first instance is a bad indicator.