Special issue of
Personal project of Masha Gelman
«You are mine» is a series of portraits of women who have experienced abuse from their partners. It is a story about the power and control of one person over another, about the desire of one partner to control the actions and emotions of the other. It is a story about violence as disbalance of power, in which gender, orientation, age, education and income do not play any role.
Violence does not always mean “hitting” -- it also means ignoring and controlling another person, as well as neglecting his or her wishes. It is very difficult to prove any kind of abuse, even physical one, in Russian courts. Russia has no law against domestic violence. Policemen often do not want to initiate a criminal case, and so they try to persuade the women against filing legal complaints over the abusive actions of their partners. Additionally, women are usually afraid of exposure, stigma and repeated abuse, and thus are left facing their problem alone.
Russia does not have educational programs on gender abuse. Many people simply believe that «If he beats you — he loves you», and «You yourself are to blame».


23, Moscow It was my first mutual love, the ideal relationship. Three months later he cheated on me and tried to hide it but I found out everything. He crawled on his knees; I felt sorry for him and was afraid of being alone, so I forgave him. Then pity and fear of loneliness made me forgive the beatings.

He hated it when I was running late. It did not matter if I was late for 5, 10, 20 minutes — he went mad and sometimes stopped talking to me for hours afterwards. One day I was late for 15 minutes — I went for a walk with my friends and lost track of time. He was waiting for me in subway with straight face. I only had time to say: “Do not be offended”, when he pulled me to the wall, grabbed by the throat and began to yell. I gasped and tried to push him away. He hit me and cut my lip.

Without understanding what I was doing I broke away and ran to the end of the hall screaming for help. He ran after me. A young patrol grabbed him and would not let him go until my train pulled up. I came home and stopped responding to his calls.

If a person requires you to change, does not trust you, watches you, prohibits something – these are disturbing symptoms. If he hit you — just run away. Seriously. This will never end. It has never ended that way.
35% of women have experienced
abuse at least once in their lives
According to World Health Organization, every third woman in the world experiences physical or sexual abuse by her partner or is sexually abused by a third person during her lifetime. Information:
World Health Organization


22, Moscow Ours was a long-distance relationship: we talked on Skype and sometimes visited each other. When I visited him for the first time, he behaved in a strange way — sometimes he got annoyed and started yelling. He could go away and leave me alone in the streets of an unfamiliar city. He did it with no explanation or apology. I wanted to give it up at once, but he begged me not to leave him: “Everybody left me. I am useless. Who will love me if I am like that? But you're different. Forgive me, and I'll change for the sake of both of us”.

But it went on like that each month. If I started talking about breaking up, he replied that I did not love him the way he loved me, and that my love was not real. That made me feel ashamed.

He called me favorite music shit, my friends — blunt, my hobbies — silly, my photos in social networks — ugly. He said: “I want to see the beautiful face of my beloved, but not the way you do faces”. Last six months of our relationship I constantly cried and asked myself what I did wrong this time. I made some kind of hellish plans for the future — how to behave so he would not get mad. He told me, “You went to your America to study, and I squirm here washing the dishes! Why should I be happy for you?” I agreed and blamed only myself: “I was lucky in my life so I deserved such treatment”.
38% of women are abused by their partners According to WHO, women are most frequently abused by their partners.


41, Saint Petersburg He wanted traditional relationships — he goes to work and I have to cook, clean, wait and smile all the time. He kept all the money. The power over me and a child was what he called a family. I was materially dependent on him because of my pregnancy first, and of a small child later. I had no money or relatives and therefore no rights. He used to say: “I am feeding you and you have a roof over your head — what else do you need?” I lived as a slave.

He repeated all the time — “Look at yourself — who needs you?” He drank. I stayed alone and stopped believing in myself but I decided to leave anyway because I could not take it anymore. I told him that I was leaving, and then he began to push and insult me. He grabbed the child and yelled: “Mommy wants to separate us”. Then he followed me for a long time; he attacked me once on the elevator and started suffocating me. I was hiding from him in stores, clinics, and hotels. I had a concussion when he hit me in front of my child. No one witnessed it. The police refused to initiate a criminal case. I could not protect my child or myself. I received no alimony because he had a grey salary.

But psychologists, to which I turned because of stress and frustration, traumatized me even more. They tried to convince me that child needs father and that I should forgive him otherwise I will lose my son. They said: «He beats you therefore he loves you». They just killed me with their words.
43% of women in EU experience psychological abuse According to European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, almost half of all women in EU have experienced some kind of psychological abuse by their partners. Information:
World Health Organization


24, Saint-Petersburg There was a period in my life when I was in a relationship with a person who hit me. In the beginning everything was beautiful: flowers, courtship, emotional declarations of love. Then he started reading my diary, going through my things, looking through my messages. I felt that he saw me as an object that fully belonged to him rather than a person who had a personal space, life and rights. At some point I stood up to him and said that I was tired of feeling this pressure. That’s when he slapped me for the first time. A couple of days later he came to me on the verge of tears and for hours begged me to forgive him. Then it happened again. But that time he hit me so hard that I fell on the floor. In that moment I understood that I was in danger. After that incident I decided to never communicate with him again.

When he hit me I felt tremendous pain that left me breathless and impotent rage, but I didn’t end our relationship immediately. Why? Honestly, I didn’t know how I should react. No one ever told me anything about violence at school or at home. Violence was taboo in my circle.

I think that if we want to change this, it is important to start discussing these issues in our everyday life. To call out people who blame victims. We should not underestimate the importance of such things. Women who find themselves in such situations are in desperate need of support. And public opinion can drastically change — in one direction or another.
10% of women
receive threats
According to European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, every tenth woman has experienced cyberbullying since she was 15, receiving text-messages with sexual threats or intimidating messages through social networks


20, Saint Petersburg I was dating a transgender — a woman who wanted to become a man. He attempted to show that he is a real man — in the way he understood it. In public, he tried to look like a gentleman by holding doors and so on. But when we stayed alone he became rude.

He harassed me publicly although I showed that I did not want it. Several times, he paid for tea and then said: “I express my love in money, and you be so kind and pay by sex”. He forced me to have sex and did not pay attention when I said “no” and called for neighbors’ help. He beat my head on the wall, hit me in the face, I was covered in bruises. He had to prove that he was the chief, that he was a man.

Once I told him that I wanted to apply for a university and he began to dissuade me. He wanted to rent an apartment so I would sit at home and wait for him; of course, I refused. Then he «punished» me —locked me up for a day and a half in a room without food and water, so I would think this over. I thought I would go mad.

He said that he loved me and could not live without me. He told me that apart from him no one would protect me and nobody would ever love me. He did not let me socialize with friends — I became isolated and could not understand anything. I blamed only myself; I thought that something was wrong with me.
23% of non-hetero women
experience abuse
According to European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, in 2014 almost a quarter of non-heterosexual women in EU who responded to a questionnaire reported experiencing physical or sexual abuse from females or males. Information:
World Health Organization


18, Moscow He hit me in the face, extinguished his cigarettes on me — I have 12 scars and burns. He raped me sadistically; he left bruisers on my neck and wrists so I would not wear revealing clothes.

He controlled me — read text messages on my phone, on social networks, and on my email. He demanded detailed reports on where I was going and with whom; he asked what time I would arrive there and when I would be home. If I was behind my schedule he lost his temper, yelled and beat me. He called it care — “I must know everything about you because I love you”.

I understood that I needed to break up with him but he made me stay using blackmail. He knew that my friend had problems and threatened to turn her in to the police if I leave. Every Saturday I arrived at his house at 8 pm — he beat and raped me. His justification to this nightmare was that he loved me. Once I contradicted him and he hit me. I was taken to the hospital from his home with a traumatic brain injury. Now I am afraid of any serious relationships.
40% of serious and particularly
serious offences in Russia happen in families
According to Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs, women in Russia are three times as likely to be abused by a family member than by a stranger Information:
World Health Organization


20, Moscow I still do not quite understand whether this was violence. I was not beaten up or insulted in plain text. All his actions were neutral from an ethical point of view — I suffered from them only because I was in love with him.

He was my first. I said that I did not want sex but he continued. I lay beneath him as if I was dead, and he asked me: “Why are you making such a face? All men know that women feel pain. I do not need a reminder”. He refused to use a condom. I tried to persuade myself for a long time that it was nothing serious. But what hurt me even more were his words in the morning: “All women have terribly stupid faces.”

A year later, we began slow rapprochement again, which eventually led to close relationship. I was terribly worried and lost four kilograms in a week. Finally, I broke down and decided to clarify the status of our relationship. He said that we could not date, because I was too difficult. But I was dear to his heart and he felt bored with anybody else.

We had a dispute about feminism: he asked me to explain who oppresses women. I told him, and in response I heard all usual stupid sexist comments. After that he stopped communicating with me — he never answered my messages and never greeted me. He unfriended my in social networks without a word. It might seem insignificant for other people but at the time I was in a terrible state. For the first time in my life I could not eat or sleep, I self-harmed almost every day.
17% of women have been
According to WHO, 42% of women abused by their partners have reported physical traumas a result of abuse Information:
World Health Organization


28, Saint Petersburg She oppressed and manipulated me so I would stop seeing my friends. For example, I am going to a meeting, and suddenly she starts a fight over a random thing so my mood is going down and I don’t go anywhere. Or she makes such a face expression that I feel guilty. Eventually, we spent all time together and my friends became estranged.

Physical violence also had place — she grabbed my hands and hold them if I tried to escape. Also we played in one roller-derby team — it is a contact sport; people bump into each other, do blocking although it is often prohibited. And so she did this to me anyway — she beat me despite breaking the rules just to hurt me. She used to say after: “If nobody saw it then nothing happened”.

If I tried to discuss our relationships she responded aggressively like: “It only seems that way to you”, “I am just like that and nothing can be done” or she explained to me that it was my fault. I understood that our relationships were unhealthy but I kept them. I thought: “Maybe it just seems that way to me” or “Perhaps she will change”.

By now I’ve learned to distinguish manipulation — it is always based on the same models. I began to defend my borders more roughly and be more careful while choosing my girlfriends.
70% of women keep silence According to research performed by the center “Tyoply Dom” ( Warm House), 60-70% of women who are abused by family members do not contact the police. Information:
World Health Organization


25, Saint Petersburg He courted me in a nice way and after three weeks offered to live together — with his parents and severely ailing grandmother. I had some doubts, but he rebuked: “So you do not love me and you do not see us together in the future”. I moved in, and the relationship became unbearable. He demanded reports on where I went, with whom, the exact arrival and departure times — even if I just went out to buy some milk. He read my correspondence with my mother, where I complained about horrible living conditions. Then he began to isolate me from my family and friends; conversations with new people were permitted only in his presence. He wanted to have everything under control.

I felt physically threatened. He kept hitting with full force into wall next to my face and destroying furniture. He was so strong, that he opened the door communication simply by pulling the door handle. He did not need any sexual consent: my refusal to have sex was not something to argue about.

He said that I was ugly and stupid. Because of all this my self-esteem became low and I fell into an emotional coma.

One day I went to St. Petersburg to relax and remained there; I cut all contacts with him. My friends’ support helped me to get out of this relationship. Without them I would not cope.
38,4% of happy families
face problem of domestic abuse
Research performed by Female Council of MGU has shown that economic and psychological abuse, as well as sophisticated psychological manipulations, is more frequent in families with high educational and low income level. Domestic abuse that is common in families with high income is usually physical and sexual in nature. Information:
World Health Organization


29, Moscow Those qualities, due to which he fell in love with me — inner freedom and independence, became my terrible drawbacks. He asked: «Who do you think you are to do this or that?” At some point the relationship soured, he became aggressive. I should have left at once but I hesitated. Then I decided to leave and told my friends about it. Later I learned that he had hacked my profiles in social networks and read all my messages.

In the morning I woke up when I had some hard blows — he sat on me, fixed my arms and legs, so I could not move, and hit me in the face. He shouted that my friends and I conspired against him. He made maybe two dozen strokes, then stopped and said: «Now this is your true face, Anya». My face was swollen like a balloon.

I made it to the court, so he has a criminal record now, although he was pardoned. In our country my case is very rare — if you do not have money for a lawyer and good connections it is impossible to achieve anything in court.
119 countries have laws against domestic abuse


30, Saint Petersburg I have just moved in with him; I did not work and was busy with my daughter’s affairs trying to enroll her into a kindergarten on Vasilyevsky Island. Once he came home from work drunk as a skunk; he was drunk and aggressive. He turned on the music so loud that all our neighbors began to knock on the walls. My daughter woke up and started crying. I asked him to turn the volume down but he yelled: “I don’t need your headphones!”, “Who are you?”, and “This is my house and I will do whatever I want!”

He came in to the kid’s bedroom and got the child out of her bed. I begged him to leave the child alone and talk to me in the other room. Then he grabbed my neck, pushed me against the wall, lifted me up, and started suffocating me. My daughter jumped out of bed; it was difficult for me to breathe but I tried to smile and kept repeating: “Don’t be afraid, it is just a game”.

Next thing I remember me sitting on the floor and my daughter crying next to me. He yelled that he would throw us from the balcony. In the morning, when he fell asleep, we escaped from his house — I took only passport, birth certificate and two children panties with me. I stayed alone in a strange city with no belongings, no money, and no shelter and with a little baby. I couldn’t do anything. 1.5 months we lived in various places and only four months later I could express some emotions.

He sold my jewelry, destroyed my documents and belongings. I had to begin my life from scratch.
125 countries have laws against sexual harassment


26, Saint Petersburg At first, it seemed that he just cared about me, “Do not walk alone because something might happen to you”. But then the guardianship became tougher and things went from bad to worse. He forbade me to communicate with my friends and wanted to make all decisions himself. Once he figured out that I needed to go to Ukraine, and just bought me a ticket — my opinion did not interest him.

I remember him hitting me for the first time. I was cooking dinner in the kitchen and left my phone in the room, so I did not hear him calling. In the evening he went home, threw a bunch of keys in my face and shouted: “Why did you not answer the phone?! I was worried!” Beatings went on. If I argued, he found justifications for everything, and in the end I had to apologize. I apologized for being in a bad mood or looking bad and having thus provoked him. He called me a fat bitch and was angry because of the fact that I did not wear a mini skirt and high heels in our communal apartment.

Then he stopped looking for excuses — he would wake me up by hitting my back, because I breathed too loudly in my sleep.

When I decided to leave, he locked me in our apartment for a day and followed my every step — I went to the bathroom under his guard. He beat me in the face and shouted: “You are a beast, and you ruined my life. Don’t go. I love you”. I just did not know that a different kind of life was possible. My uncle beat my aunt and a neighbor ran after his wife with an ax — I have witnessed this since childhood. Now I am married and I realized that love is not a passion when we say: “I cannot live without you” or “You will be mine”. Love starts with respect.
52 countries have laws against marital rape