Unusual

Love letters from abusive partners document crisis in Peru

LIMA: After Raquel’s boyfriend assaulted her, he wrote her a pleading, apologetic letter promising it was the last time.

“I swear it will never happen again. You are the love of my life. FORGIVE ME,” he said.

After receiving the letter — a forlorn, earnest paragraph scrawled in print across a sheet of notepaper — Raquel decided to take him back.

Five weeks later, he beat her to death.

The case is one of 25 published in a new book in Peru, “Don’t Die for Me,” a collection of love letters, emails and text messages from abusive partners to their battered women, accompanied by the story of what happened next.

Many of the stories echo Raquel’s.

Pleas of “I swear I’m not really like that,” “I didn’t do it on purpose” and “I won’t do it again” are almost systematically followed by repeat episodes of violence.

Peru is among the most violent countries in the world for women.

In the past six years, 680 women have been murdered by their partners, according to the government, which declared such crimes “femicide” in 2011 and introduced harsher sentences.

– Bad in Peru, worst outside capital –

A 2005 study by the World Health Organization found that in the country’s interior, 61 percent of women had suffered physical violence by a male partner, the highest rate of the 10 countries studied (Bangladesh, Brazil, Ethiopia, Japan, Namibia, Samoa, Serbia and Montenegro, Thailand, and Tanzania were also included).

It found 49 percent of women in Peru’s interior had suffered “severe physical violence” — being punched, kicked, dragged, or threatened or attacked with a weapon.

The book, which features a prologue by Nobel Prize-winning Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa, seeks to approach the problem in a new way in a country where many victims are afraid to speak out.

“It’s been difficult to reach women who are exposed to abuse, because they don’t report it,” said Nelly Cancion, the head of women’s rights group Vida Mujer, which edited the book together with advertising agency Circus Grey.

“We appealed to women, who have a vocation to protect and care for others, and exhorted them to care for other women through their testimony in this book.”

The book, which can be viewed online in its entirety, is divided into two parts.

In the first part, abusers’ love notes are printed against a white background in their original form — letters handwritten on folded pages, screen shots of text messages, reprinted emails.

In the second, the women’s subsequent stories are told in white print against a black background.

Most suffered more beatings.

Some were permanently injured. Some were killed.

“Nearly all the women we help are torn over whether to leave their partners. Even though they are living situations of extreme violence. That’s what the book depicts. After the letter comes the dark part they have to live,” said Cancion.

– ‘I went crazy’ –

“You know I love you. Even though I made a mistake, it will never happen again,” Giankarlo told his wife Andrea.

After she took him back, he smashed her face up with a toolbox.

“I just wanted you to realize that you’re my woman. I went crazy thinking about how you could leave me for someone else. I went crazy and lost control, but I know it will never happen again,” Victor wrote to Carla.

A year later, she got pregnant and he beat her until she miscarried. She is now unable to have children.

The “sweet side” of these messages often persuades women not to report the perpetrators, said Cancion.

“There’s a point in time when women who are suffering like to hear those ‘I love you, I need you and I’ll do betters.’ They’re little lights of happiness, but human behavior persists over time,” she told AFP.

Her organization is working on another volume with the gifts that often accompany the messages — teddy bears, necklaces, engagement rings.

“Don’t Die for Me” is available online at notemueraspormi.com. -AFP

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