‘I will never forgive him’

Maria is a slightly built woman of nearly 50. She sits opposite me, almost bent over, reserved but not afraid – not any more. For the past year, she has been visiting the «Stegi,» the Athens Archdiocese’s shelter for abused women, run by lawyer Irene Dorkofiti. Maria studied fashion design in Athens and worked for a few years in the trade until, 18 years ago, she met and married the man who has systematically abused her psychologically and physically. «I shouldn’t call him a human being. I say it out of respect for you, for he has never been a human being,» she said, describing him as irresponsible, cruel and cunning. The last five to seven years in particular, she said, have been «martyrdom.» «He stopped me from doing everything, from going out, shopping, working, seeing my women friends, talking on the telephone. He had set out to destroy a human being, I am sure of it. After my parents died, the situation became unbearable. I knew that if I left him, he would make accusations against me that I had gone off with another man.» «The last time he hit me was last year on December 17. Things got very dangerous, so I left the house. Only once has he asked me to forgive him, but I never will. We still live together because I am unemployed and penniless. I came here to the Stegi and spent the happiest Christmas of my life. Now I feel stronger.»