“My dreams were more important than my parents’ abuse”

Anna is 20 years old, lives in Thessaloniki, has a cat and is studying fashion design. Her dream is to travel to Cuba and the Netherlands and be able to attend fashion classes through her school in Milan next year. Knowing Anna, no one can imagine that this young woman was a victim of domestic violence, that she attempted suicide six times and lived in a shelter of abused women. “The violence in my home started very early, before I was 10. At first I was watching my father, who was an alcoholic beating my mother. My mother never wanted me, she never treated me as her child. My father was physically abusive to me and psychologically to my mother,” Anna tells us.

Twice her father attempted to kill her, once he doused her in petrol and another time he stabbed her. Her mother didn’t do anything. Depression, bulimia, bullying by her classmates, suicide attempts, this was Anna’s life. The psychologist who was following up with her tried to give her antidepressant and antipsychotic drugs. “It was very difficult for me, I didn’t have a person to talk to. Although I had experienced all this rejection, I’ve decided to help myself,” she tells us. At the age of 16, Anna reported her parents for domestic violence at the NGO “To Chamogelo tou Paidiou” and with the support of a woman living in the apartment next door – who reported Anna’s parents to the police – managed to escape from hell.

A police car outside her home, one night at a police station, one night in a hospital with an exclusive nurse watching over her in order not to attempt a suicide, and a women’s shelter in Thessaloniki, where she will be staying until her 18th birthday. “Within three days my life changed. I felt free, I had escaped from hell,” she states. What kept her alive were her dreams. “I thought, I don’t want to end up like my parents. I want to study, to travel the world, to have my own home, to adopt 10 cats. These were bigger than my parents’ abuse. All these made me pursuit them,” Anna confesses.

She came to *SolidarityNow’s Thessaloniki Solidarity Center seeking psychological support because she was not feeling well. “I’ve never had good chemistry with any psychologist, but with Vicky there is chemistry! I feel that I can open up my heart to her,” she says and adds “I have been supported not only by the psychologist, but as well by all the people who work at the Center; by the accountant and the social service. Beyond the basics they are telling me that ‘I’ll be here for whatever you need’; something that is important for me to hear”.

Today she can openly speak about all the things she has gone through. In the past, talking about all these would have caused her uncomfortable feelings. Today, she does not speak to us as a victim, but as a woman who survived, she tells us. Like Anna there are hundreds of other women who are making the first steps to survival. “From the age of 16 I realized how much inner strength one can have. You must reach an extreme point to realize it. I want to tell the women, the girls who are experiencing what I have experienced, that there will always be people out there who will listen and help them,” she stresses.


* Thessaloniki Solidarity Center is supported by the Open Society Foundations.