It took Eleonora Ugulava two decades to realize she had had enough. For 22 years, she suffered beating, slapping, pushing, kicking and yelling. When the love she had for her husband was finally shattered, she left him. Now 48 and a mother of eight children between the ages of five and 25, she is a deeply scarred woman trying to gain a sense of identity apart from her past.
Ugulava’s story is unique, yet tragically common. Domestic violence against women is widespread in Georgia and it affects all strata of society, cutting across divisions of income and culture. A 2017 UN Women study from Georgia reported that about 14 percent of roughly 6,000 female respondents who had ever been married or in a relationship with a man said that they had “experienced physical, sexual and/or emotional violence . . .” from their partners.
The violence does not spare pregnant women: the study estimates that about 15,000 women in Georgia have been a victim of domestic violence while pregnant.
Most women endure in silence. They are accustomed to strong patriarchal social norms and resigned to the fact that law enforcement may not help them -- as Ugulava knows far too well. Whenever she called the police, she says, they only just warned her husband.
In late 2013, she approached Sapari, a non-governmental organization supporting victims of domestic violence, for legal help with a divorce.
She lives today with her children in the family’s house outside of the Georgian capital, Tbilisi. Her husband has moved out, leaving her to rebuild her life and heal her wounds.