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Rafael Doesn’t Hit Me Anymore
For fifteen years, Amanda suffered in silence from a problem without a name. At night she experienced severe insomnia, and during the day she felt sick, exhausted, depressed, and achy. Seeking a solution, the housewife and mother of two visited Profamilia, our Member Association in her native Colombia. After weeks of tests, Amanda was shocked to discover the diagnosis: domestic violence.
Her husband, Rafael, had never hit her. He did, however, abuse her in other ways that didn’t leave visible scars. Over the years, Rafael insulted, humiliated, and threatened her regularly. He also exerted control over her most basic decisions. Like many survivors of domestic violence, both in Colombia and around the world, Amanda didn’t realize that her experience had a name, or that she deserved to be treated with respect and dignity.
Sadly, Amanda’s story is not unique. According to a National Poll on Demography and Health conducted by Profamilia, domestic violence rates in Colombia are alarmingly high. The poll found that 65% of women experienced psychological violence from their husbands or partners, and 26% endured verbal violence. Furthermore, 1 in 3 women who had been in a long-term relationship reported experiencing physical violence in the form of shoves, hits, kicks, rape, or threats and attacks with firearms or knives.
Domestic violence is so pervasive throughout Colombia that the country’s chief advisor on women’s equality, Cristina Plazas, classifies it as a top national issue.
“I understand that there are other enemies like paramilitary and guerrilla groups, drug trafficking, and gangs,” said Plazas in an interview with TrustLaw. “But really there’s no enemy greater than domestic violence. The home has become a much more dangerous place for many women and children in Colombia than the street. We have to fight against that as a country.”
Domestic violence in Colombia is a multi-faceted problem, fueled by factors such as silence and legal impunity. Domestic violence is rarely talked about publicly, and when it is mentioned, women are often blamed. Furthermore, there is an overall lack of confidence in the country’s legal system, which contributes to the fact that 73% of domestic violence survivors do not report it to the authorities.
While the statistics paint a grim picture of domestic violence in Colombia, the Profamilia team works tirelessly to support survivors by providing critical detection and treatment services. Through its Comprehensive Care Program on Sexual Violence, Profamilia provides medical, psychological, and legal services to domestic violence survivors. With these services, staff are able to diagnose domestic violence through trauma risk detection, and treat survivors with crisis counseling, STI and HIV testing, medical exams, and contraception services. Additionally, Profamilia provides assistance in navigating the legal system through its orientation on survivors’ rights. These services, in addition to sexual and reproductive health care, make Profamilia a beacon of hope for many people in Colombia, including Amanda.
Today, Amanda describes herself as a survivor, not a victim—thanks in large part to the help she received from her family at Profamilia.
“Counseling, talks, tears, and laugher with the different professionals at Profamilia gave me back my courage,” she said. “Their work makes me feel brave enough to take over my own life. I’m not really sure what I want out of life at this point, but I do know what I don’t want. I don’t want to be part of Colombia’s domestic violence statistics.”