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‘It’s not love’ 40 percent of Russia's women have faced domestic violence. A photo series

Источник: Meduza
Photo: Anastasia Rudenko

Official figures say one in five women in Russia have experienced domestic violence. (If you count verbal abuse, the number is a shocking 40 percent.) Only 12 percent of women, however, have turned to the police for help. The Russian parliament is currently considering amendments to laws governing domestic violence. If these reforms are passed, the decision to open a criminal case against an abuser in the family (or an ex-family member) would be based not on the report of the victim, but rather on the existence of probable cause. 

The following pictures were taken between 2010 and 2012 in the city of Vologda. The photographer, Anastasia Rudenko, shadowed the city’s police as they responded to reports of domestic violence. Sometimes, she returned to the victims’ homes for follow-up interviews. “In Russia, there’s a saying: It’s not love unless he hits her. Maybe that’s why only a very small percentage of women ultimately leave their abusive partners,” Rudenko says.

Photo: Anastasia Rudenko

A local police officer outside the apartment of a family in a domestic violence dispute.

Photo: Anastasia Rudenko

Natalia's partner beats her frequently, and the police are regular visitors to their home. In Russia, there's a saying: "It's not love unless he hits her." Natalia won't leave her partner because she is loved.

Photo: Anastasia Rudenko

Sergei lives with his family in a dormitory room. There's almost nobody left in the apartment, because rent now isn't much cheaper than an ordinary flat, so there aren't many people around who might be bothered by the family's fights. Nobody even calls the police anymore.

Photo: Anastasia Rudenko

Irina is my age. I met her when she was drunk and barefoot, walking down the street. He parents are drinkers, too, and so caring for Irina's 7-year-old daughter falls to the child's great grandmother. This picture was taken in the apartment of one of Irina's friends, who at the time was fighting with her teenage daughter.

Photo: Anastasia Rudenko

In a dormitory. One of Sergei's friends has come over to hang out. He brought his son a basket of tangerines.

Photo: Anastasia Rudenko

This is Pavel. His partner's name is Galina. This family is also on file with the police. Alcoholism is considered one of the main causes of domestic violence in Russia.

Photo: Anastasia Rudenko

Nastya, Irina's daughter, watches TV.

Photo: Anastasia Rudenko

Alexander during a fight with his wife.

Photo: Anastasia Rudenko

A woman tries to find her son, a drug addict, in the neighboring apartment. He stole 700 rubles (about $12) from her, which she had earned for a week's work as a conductor aboard a bus.

Photo: Anastasia Rudenko

A couple argues about who started the fight. A knife was involved.

Photo: Anastasia Rudenko

Inna puts up with beatings from her elderly husband because she doesn't want to return to the countryside with her three children.

Photo: Anastasia Rudenko

Sergei's son in the dormitory's kitchen.

Photo: Anastasia Rudenko

Larissa called an ambulance when her drunk husband broke her nose. The police arrived with the paramedics, but Larissa quickly reconciled with her husband, so there wouldn't be a police report and "her guy" wasn't taken in by the cops.

Photo: Anastasia Rudenko

The police arrive after a call about a domestic dispute. There was a knife involved. The husband denies any responsibility.

Photo: Anastasia Rudenko

Tamara and her partner live in an abandoned house.

Photo: Anastasia Rudenko

A courtyard outside an apartment building in the city of Vologda.