It was Sunday, and we were having dinner with my future mother-in-law on the balcony at sundown. My Greek counterpart called our friend “Wife” to ask how she was to which she inquired when we’d last talked to “Husband.” Though my fiancé had spoken to Husband only two days before, it was clear he avoided a major subject and we were in the dark. Something was disclosed, and the phone conversation ended quickly.
Because my future mother-in-law knows our friends and their parents personally, my partner purposely withheld the contents of the conversation and changed the subject. I didn’t push because I understood it was private and likely something bad. Within seconds of finishing dessert, my Greek counterpart rushed us out of there, we got into the car and he told me that Wife and “Son” moved out and were no longer living with Husband.
On the way home, we speculated about what it could be. We knew there were some issues with Husband spending thousands of euros on self-indulgent shopping instead of using the money to pay for household expenses, which Wife pays with her now part-time salary since agreeing to stay home almost full time to take care of their 2-year-old son. I’d always been bothered by the restraint I felt from Wife, as if she had secrets. Husband is also impatient with Son, spends little or no time with him, is annoyed by everything he does and treats him like a house pet. Concern has been expressed by others, both male and female.
Several months ago, I also heard a comment that disturbed me enough to change my opinion of Husband, which I’ve been unable to reverse or forgive. He said, “If Wife doesn’t want to move with me to another country, I’ll do it after I’m divorced and leave her with the kid.” I immediately jumped on his case and told him that whether or not he’s joking, I think it’s a shitty ass thing to say. Since then, my interaction with him is limited.
My fiancé has tried speaking to him about his actions out of concern, but these words fell on deaf ears and met with outrage that it’s none of anyone’s business how he conducts his financial and personal affairs.
Although everyone is innocent until proven guilty, it was difficult for us to not play judge and jury. To us, it was not a matter of guilt but the degree.
I talked to Wife the next morning and made a point of starting the conversation by expressing how upset and worried we are for her, and said that she should only share whatever she feels comfortable with as she is not obligated to tell us everything or anything if she chooses. We respect and support her in whatever she needs and wants.
In a straightforward way without name-calling or wild emotion, she told me that an argument had broken out last Monday night after she put Son to sleep (the night after we saw them and a full week ago!). The yelling woke up Son and he started crying, Husband was further angered by the crying and hit her. (!!!) As she tried to grab their son and run for the door, he locked the door and repeatedly hit her until he unlocked the door and pushed her and her son out the door and into the street with nothing but her purse and the car keys she managed to sneak into her pocket when Husband wasn’t looking. (!!!)
Husband was not drunk, the fight was not physical until he hit her, she went to the hospital but did not need extensive treatment, was at a friend’s house until her parents came back from vacation on Friday and managed to purchase some underwear, clothes, toiletries and other basics. She also filed a police report to gain legal access to collect her things. She and Son are doing fine.
Wife has absolutely no plans to go back or reconcile since she knows if it happens once, it will happen again.
The truth was worse than anything we guessed the night before, and I was speechless when she finished.
The only thing I could think to say was the truth: “I have no idea what to say to you, except I’m sorry and I hope you know I deeply care about you and Son, and I’ll be here for anything you need.” After we hung up the phone, I tried to digest what I’d been told before calling my fiancé and breaking the news. He had the same reaction.
Both of us have revisited the same mixed feelings of shock, sadness and confusion.
If there was a way to immediately cut Husband out of our lives, we would. But, of course, we can’t just yet.
Husband and Wife are our koumbaros and koumbara. Husband is also the son of a fairly well-known local politician in Athens.
My fiancé until today considered Husband one of his best friends, like the big brother he never had. Now he doesn’t know what to do with those feelings or how he might react when he sees him again, which could happen at any time since they train together and see each other at work on occasion.
Husband is also the reason we are friends with Wife and Son, though it’s clear where and with whom our loyalties now lie.
My fiancé doesn’t see any other option but to let the friendship fade away and end, but it will take time. So the charade of pretending we don’t know anything and keeping our mouths shut as requested by Wife begins.
I decided I cannot see Husband because I don’t know whether I would go for his jugular or be diplomatic enough to stay silent and walk away. How do I separate the person who is/was my friend from the person who is a wifebeater and made my other friend a statistic? They’re the same person.
At least I know Wife will be fine. She’s a strong-willed intelligent young woman, athlete, great mother and educated professional with a career, good sense and a strong network of family and friends. The restraint I felt previously is gone, and she’s an outgoing and joyous person.
Why I did this post
I know that domestic violence isn’t a cheery subject, but it’s prevalent in every nation and does not discriminate according to age, race, class, social status, education level or gender. It’s also never been at my doorstep until now.
It got me thinking about the women who are not like Wife — women who may be foreign, may not speak Greek, may not have a job and depend on their husband for financial support, don’t have friends or family to turn to in Greece and/or abroad, feel alone and don’t know what to do, where to go or who to call.
Everyone always talks about how women stay silent and don’t leave, but they don’t tell them who to call to let their voices be heard and where to go if they want to leave.
Where to go for help
If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence in Greece — whether it’s physical, psychological, emotional, verbal or $exual — there are people who can help. It’s never too late. Most of the centers are in major cities, however a counselor can dispense advice by phone or may be able to recommend someone local who can provide support and assistance.
Non-EU spouses who hold a residence/work permit because of ties to a Greek citizen retain their permits when domestic abuse has occurred, no matter how long the marriage lasted or the length of stay in Greece.
There is never a good reason to abuse a woman, man, child or animal.
Police – Domestic Violence line in Greece
The National Center for Immediate Social Assistance
Counseling For Women Victims of Violence
Tel: (210) 331-7305
SOS Support Line
Tel: (210) 644-2213
Tourist Police (for visitors)
French, German, Greek and English spoken
Center of Family Support of the Archdiocese of Athens (KESO)
Tel: (210) 381-1274, (210) 384-1536
Center for Mental Health, Foreign Counseling
Tel: (210) 883-1784
Counseling for Women – Victims of Violence
Athens Office: 11 Nikis – Tel: (210) 331-7305/6
Piraeus office: 76 Alkiviadou – Tel: (210) 411-2091
International Social Service
Tel: (210) 321-7758
National Center for Immediate Social Assistance (EKAKB)
135 Vas. Sophias
Tel: (210) 649-7706
Americans Overseas Domestic Violence Crisis Center
* I don’t have first-hand experience with any of these centers, and I welcome any further contact info that can be added to the list. You can use a nickname or be anonymous, if you’d like to share your experience or advice.
* Domestic abuse is defined by experts as a pattern of behavior used to establish power and control over an intimate partner
* It is a myth that domestic violence is committed by lower class people with low education levels
* It occurs just as often among educated doctors and lawyers, it’s not just lower class workers and drug addicts
* There are different forms of abuse: Physical (74%), emotional, psychological (often starts before marriage), verbal and $exual
* 1 in 5 women are abused and 20% of them report that the physical abuse started shortly after getting married and another 20% say it started after getting pregnant
* Only 1 in 20 will ever report it
* More than 30% of women who go to emergency rooms sustain injuries as a result of domestic violence
* Women will stay an average of 4 years in a relationship before leaving, whether by choice or an event that forces them to leave (permanent physical injury, death)
* Half of women murdered each year are killed by their spouse, boyfriend or partner
* Many women suffer from low self-esteem and blame themselves for provoking a man’s behavior — it’s not true!
* New laws will make it possible to arrest, charge and jail a violent spouse without a formal complaint
* Although 90% of abused are women, men are abused also
You are not alone, so please reach out for help.
– Some 28,000 cases a year of ill treatment and abuse (Kathimerini)
– Battling a hidden epidemic of child abuse (Kathimerini)
– SOS Children’s Villages in Greece provide refuge for the abused (Kathimerini)
– Abuse blamed for family tragedy (link broken) — Athens News
– Bill tackles family violence (Kathimerini)
– Domestic Violence in Greece (White Ribbon Campaign, Norway)
– Few battered women walk out on abuse (link broken) — Athens News
– Greece aims to curb pedophilia, domestic violence (Reuters)
– Greece fails to allocate funding for activities aiming to combat and prevent domestic violence; shelters remain empty due to insufficient protection and laws (Amnesty International)
– United Nations recommendations to Greece regarding domestic violence and other abuses (Greek Helsinki Monitor)
– Women called on to break silence of domestic violence (link broken) — Athens News
– “Μαθήματα κατά της κακοποίησης” — Eleftherotypia
“Hotline for abused women received more than 10,000 calls” — Kathimerini
Καταργήθηκε το παράβολο για μήνυση από θύματα ενδοοικογενειακής βίας
4055/2012 and 3226/2004