From love to pain and grief


Love can end up in violence. Some signs of such a transition are visible; many others go unnoticed.

This is the case of Dalia Martínez, a 40-year-old professional living in Havana. "I could never imagine I would experience grief," she said.

She has a 12-year-old daughter whose father is still her husband and became her boyfriend when she was 18.

After 20 years of an apparently strong marriage, Martínez has had to take her case to court because her husband does not want to get divorced. "He has moved from passive opposition to threat and blackmail," she added.

"I cannot understand why he has changed so much," she told SEMlac.

There were some signs she did not pay attention to at the beginning. He was terribly upset every time she stopped to say hello to friends in the street, and started to criticize her for anything she did.

"These expressions of violence went unnoticed for a long time," she recalled.

Experts feel that most acts of violence against women are based on patriarchal culture and male domination.

They define gender violence as any action (physical or psychological) perpetrated by men against women.

"Blaming women for any failure to provide education and care for children or other family members and making it difficult for them to re-build their lives after divorce are forms of violence," said Lourdes Fernández, a psychology professor at the University of Havana.

In an article entitled Invisible violence, she lists a number of signs that turn into daily practices under the cloak of romantic, possessive, unconditional love.

They include authoritarian behavior, intolerance, women's exploitation, unequal care and rights, lack of affection, irritability, criticism, verbal attacks, fits of jealousy and/or rage, complaints, reproaches, and moral condemnation.

"These signs are typical of couples waging true battles for power," Fernández indicated.

Other forms of abuse include completely ignoring women's presence, not talking to them, making them feel inferior, desperate, dependent or intimidated, keeping strict control over their expenses, and overwhelming them with chores.

"Emotional maneuvers often seek to make women develop negative feelings about their attitudes and actions," she stressed.

Experts also believe that any act of violence (physical, psychological or otherwise) is always based on an imbalance of power and superiority criteria.

They think patriarchal culture has sought to naturalize violence in the name of love.

"This helps explain why there are frequently invisible, subtle, difficult-to-identify forms of violence based on cultural traditions and symbols," said sociologist Clotilde Proveyer.

"These are small acts of control and domination that restrict and damage women's autonomy and psychological balance, and go against just gender relations," stressed Argentina's Luis Bonino, coordinator of the Masculinity Study Center in Madrid (Spain).

"Such acts often lead to low self-esteem, subordination and frustration, and involve silence, insinuations and gestures," reporter Aloyma Ravelo told SEMlac.

She has had a section in Mujeres (Women) magazine for years, receiving and replying to letters from all over the island.

"The idea of romantic love makes them mix feelings and emotions and ignore that they are enduring violence," she added.

"Some of them suddenly begin to glimpse the nature of these acts, but fail to associate them with violence," she remarked.

Martínez is going through this hardship now. She is about to get divorced and has been living away from her husband for months.

"The man I am dating is the complete opposite of my ex. I can now see why our marriage failed so miserably," she concluded.

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