On the way back from León on Sunday we sat in the last row of the bus, behind what looked like a couple – or rather, they sat in front of us. The man, who was remarkably unattractive, was stroking the woman´s hair. He put his face right up to hers, which was turned away from him towards the window. She kept turning even farther away from him, putting her head down to escape him, and then he gravved her by the back of her head and kissed her. She was shaking. He grabbed the rest of her and forced her into his arms, and he grabbed her breasts, and other lower parts of her body. She grabbed the back of her headrest with one hand, and the seatback in front of her with the other, and pulled herself away from him and his violating hands.
¨You know, we´re in public,¨I finally said in Spanish. He ignored me, though I´m sure he heard, and forced her hands lower on his body.
If this is how he acts in public, I can´t imagine what he does to her in private. The men sitting infront of them realized what was going on, and did nothing.
I wanted to give her a hundred dollars and tell her to run. But I didn´t.
What could her situation be, that she is with this horrible man? Is he her fiancée? What could her families´situation be, that they would allow her to stay in such an abusive relationship?
Two hours after we got off the bus, as I wrote this, I was still shaking.
What is this world we live in? What can we do?
Go to pronica.org/donate and earmark your donation for the Acahualinca Women´s Center
It all started when I got lost, walking to the library where I work every day. Directions were never my fortê, but luckily a wise bearded man once told me that you´re not lost unless you think you´re lost. So I kept walking in what I knew was probably the wrong direction, and then I suddenly came upon a sign:
Investigative Center for Women´s Assistance
Hostel for victims of domestic violence
ALHAMDULLALLAH! (Thank God!)
I walked past it alhamdulallahing, and then stopped in my tracks, wondering why I was passing by. I turned around, took a deep breath, and walked in.
¨Hi I´m Dina I come from the United States and I go to a university for just women and I am interested in women´s rights I saw something on the bus yesterday that upset me because a woman was being maltreated by her fiancèe and I want to work with you since I´m here in Esteli as a volunteer I work at the library but you know they have a lot of resources so I´m looking for other organizations to work with I can make you a website or a publication and try to raise some money or do anything maybe talk with the women I don´t know but you do can you tell me about what you do?¨
And then I was out of breath. And I did present myself that clumsily, in that single run-on paragraph (my creative writing classmates won´t be surprised) because I knew if I shut up for one second I would forget my Spanish and begin stumbling about while standing still and they would think I was a mess and wouldn´t want me to work with them.
I kind of was a mess, I was so excited, so desperate for someone to explain to me that there is help for abused women here.
When I had said my piece, I held my breath. I had to work with them. I had to do whatever I could to make them money, to reach out to more women, like that woman on the bus, who I should have … should have done something for.
The woman I spoke with, a brilliant and compassionate Lawyer named Rosa, invited me to sit down beside her.
¨We are a women´s help center, working with women who have experienced domestic physical and psychological abuse. We encourage women to leave their abusers and come here to our safe house to get help. We have psychologists, social workers, doctors, lawyers, security personnel, and teachers here for the women. We have group and individual therapy, and a solidarity group made up of former victims of domestic abuse who we have worked with. The women who were formerly abused, and had no self-esteem are now leaders. They aren´t afraid anymore; they go out in teams to the barrios and encourage maltreated women to come here and get help.¨
The office I walked into was the safehouse for the women who had just taken the step to leave their abusers. Rosa explained, ¨They stay there and attend therapy, get medical attention, human warmth and care, the feeling that they aren´t alone in this. And…¨she paused. ¨We keep them on suicide watch. It´s really hard to take this step in Nicaragua. Women often think it´s normal to be abused. They think they deserve it, that it´s their fault. We´re open 24/7 to deal with emergencies at any time. We always have a security team. We don´t hide here, we´re into outreach. I can´t tell you how many drunk abusers have shown up on our doorstep. But their wives don´t even know when they´re here. That´s how protected they are in our safehouse.¨
Acción Ya lawyers have helped many women win divorce cases and custody of their children, so they can begin a new life without abuse.
When a woman is ready to leave the womens center, Acción Ya staff visit the woman and her children in their new home at regular intervals to ensure they are doing well. Acción Ya provides each woman with a micro-credit loan and qualitative support to begin her new, independent life.
They enthusiastically agrees to let me do their website and work on publications for them. They also invited me to go and talk with the women, and I´d like to take them to the library to show them how to use computers and internet. This is all moving at Nica pace, so we haven´t a schedule yet, but I have faith.
After all, just when I thought I was lost, I found what I was looking for.