Losing and Finding yourself: Domestic violence

Domestic violence is a massive problem in our society that cuts across all social classes. Statistically, women are particularly frequent victims of physical and sexual violence in partnerships. KOPFZEILE talked with a victimised women about her experiences.

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On her Instagram account “Jenni B an der Spree”, Berlin-based Jenni spreads good vibes. More than 11,000 people follow the life of the self-confident young woman. In December 2020, Jenni shared her experiences with domestic violence there for the first time. Since then, messages from women in similar situations have reached her regularly.

In conversation, Jenni has the same presence as on her Instagram account. Unadorned, but no less self-confident and interrupted every now and then by her dog Monk, she begins to tell – of two violent partnerships. “It’s difficult to have a sensible relationship with unstable men,” she says.

After her then-partner beats Jenni up so badly that her tailbone is permanently deformed, the young woman finally manages to press charges against him.

“It was really a mudslinging,” Jenni says of the proceedings, “in court you felt like an object. There are old, conservative men sitting there questioning you about issues like this, and you haven’t even opened your mouth yet, and they’ve already convicted you.” In Jenni’s case, the perpetrator eventually makes a confession. He must pay court costs and pay a fine.

At this point, panic attacks prevent Jenni from attending lectures or shopping for groceries. After the trial, she decides to start therapy. “Otherwise, I think I would have given myself the bullet and I didn’t want that.”


source: Pexels, Karolina Grabowska

Dwindling self-confidence

Petra Lorenz deals with victims of domestic violence on a daily basis. She works in a counseling center where she helps women strengthen their self-confidence through stabilisation exercises. “Physical and emotional violence often lead to personality changes,” says Lorenz. “It doesn’t matter what position the women are in beforehand, whether businesswoman or unemployed.”

Jenni talks about dwindling self-confidence and loss of identity too. In a downward spiral of shame and guilt, the situation in their partnership gradually escalates.

At first, the abuser becomes verbally aggressive, especially when drunk. He accuses Jenni of cheating on him, is pathologically jealous. Then physical threats begin as well, until at some point he puts them into action.

“Then when he beat me up, I didn’t talk to anyone. I also didn’t go to the doctor at first. I didn’t dare, I didn’t even understand what was happening,” Jenni says. It’s only when her mother takes her aside that she breaks her silence. She is diagnosed with a torn capsule and a deformed coccyx – Jenni can hardly walk due to the pain.

“Never again”

“Never again,” she tells herself and wants to do everything right in her next relationship. At first, her new partner seems to be the complete opposite of the previous one; Jenni is open about her experiences and fears. “He played that against me very specifically, over and over again, but it took me a long time to understand that.”

Particularly with psychological violence, warning signs are often not apparent until after the fact, Lorenz says. “This mad infatuation that clutches you and won’t let go” quickly turns into emotional dependence. The abuser begins to test boundaries through humiliation. “When the victim fights back, that’s when it starts to get mean. Then the man starts unpacking verbal and physical weapons.”


source: Pexels, Mart Production

High number of unreported cases

Although men are also victims of domestic violence, women are at about four times the risk of suffering serious bodily harm in particular. Sexualised violence in a partnership is directed against women in 98 percent of cases.

In Germany, this means that every 45 minutes a woman becomes the victim of such violence. Almost every third day, this violence escalates into a femicide committed by the male partner or ex-partner. Due to the shame still attached to this topic, experts assume that the number of unreported cases is much higher.

Jenni remembers the constant tension of this time: “The bags under my eyes had bags under their eyes.”

The relationship is her center of life. It isn’t until she becomes aware of how her partner is treating his dog that Jenni realises it can’t go on.

“That really held up a mirror to me because I understood: I am this dog in the relationship. I’m permanently at his mercy.”
She leaves him.

“I feel so strong”

Today Jenni works in her dream job and shares her everyday life on Instagram. “I feel so strong, like no one can hurt me anymore.”

To the women who ask Jenni for advice on Instagram today, she says:

“Ask yourself the questions, ‘Do you deserve this? Really? I can only wish all those affected that they will also reach this point eventually. I wish that for all women. Unfortunately, there are far too many who experience domestic violence.”