16 Days: Sugeri’s Story of Survival
Jenny Shapiro, Project Design Coordinator
“I have a strong character – when something bothers me, I have to say [something].” said Sugeri. “At home I wasn’t able to speak up. And I knew I wouldn’t be able to get out of there on my own.”
Home should be a place where everyone feels safe from harm, where family members feel comfortable communicating freely. But for women like Sugeri, a 31-year-old mother of two living in Santo Domingo, home was where she felt the most in danger.
“At home I wasn’t able to speak up,” said Surgeri. Married to a machista man who controlled her every move, at home Sugeri’s life was like that of a prisoner. She had no family in the area and was forbidden from making friends. Her husband screened Sugeri’s phone calls, listened to her voice messages, and sabotaged every attempt she made to reach out to people.
“My self-esteem was so low that I didn’t want to keep living,” said Surgeri. “I cried all the time.” The abuse soon became physical. Sugeri’s husband forced her to have sex with him against her will. Furthermore, he was freely having sex with other women, putting her at risk for sexually transmitted infections and HIV.
Surgeri, who often feared for her life, knew she wouldn’t be able to get out of the house without help. A concerned neighbor told Sugeri about PROFAMILIA, IPPF/WHR’s Member Association and the leading sexual and reproductive health organization in the Dominican Republic. According to Sugeri, she felt hopeful that her circumstances could change after only one session.
“Now I see life from a different perspective,” she explained.
After nine years of marriage, Sugeri finally gained the courage to end her relationship with her husband. “Thanks to PROFAMILIA, I came to value myself as a woman, as a person, and as a mother,” said Surgeri. “PROFAMILIA not only gave me the strength to leave him, but [also] the support I need to make it on my own,” said Surgeri of PROFAMILIA’s legal and employment services.
Since leaving her husband, Sugeri has encouraged several friends in similar situations to find hope, speak out, and stand up for themselves and their children. She tells them that while the low self-esteem often associated with violence against women is difficult to conquer, it can be done by “being positive and moving forward.”
“There are many women who suffer all types of abuse in their home. Some get out, but many live this hell day after day," says Surgeri. "We all deserve respect and dignity.”