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Domestic violence hunger-strikers set up camp again in the Puerta del Sol
A GROUP of women who staged a hunger strike in Madrid's central Puerta del Sol square calling for better protection against domestic violence are now back on the street.
The Association Ve-la-Luz ('see-the-light') have set up camp again to call for the central government's 2017 budget – which is still awaiting approval from all parties – to include greater measures to protect the mostly-female victims of violent partners and spouses.
They call themselves 'domestic violence survivors', in allusion to the dozens of women a year murdered by their current and former boyfriends and husbands, and say the government has failed to fulfil its promise to set up a dedicated taskforce aimed at protecting victims and helping them regain their lives.
Gloria, Martina, Susana, Celia, Sara, Sonia, Patricia, Tatiana, Juana and Ruth staged a hunger strike in February, although at least two of them ended up having to drop out as they were hospitalised.
Now recovered, all 10 can be seen dressed in black wearing T-shirts reading, Con el maltrato, no hay trato ('no deal with domestic abuse') and Atención, mujer sin miedo ('Caution: Unafraid woman'), wearing white face masks and gagged with black tape.
They are carrying banners reading: ¡Basta ya! ¡Ni una menos! ('Enough already! Not one more life lost!'); No permitas que nada ni nadie las silencie ('Don't let anything or anyone silence them'), and Depende de mí, depende de ti, depende de tod@as ('It depends on me, it depends on you, it depends on everyone').
A circle of black shadows has been drawn, with one each for the women murdered by their husbands, boyfriends or former partners or spouses this year, and red trainers and red roses to signify their blood along with cards in their memory arranged on the ground.
Association leader Gloria Vázquez says their aim is for a minimum of €28 million to be set aside in this year's budget to help domestic violence victims, with at least 70% of this aimed at prevention.
She explains that for victims to receive any financial help – often necessary, since they have to flee their homes in a hurry for their own safety – they are required to report the matter to the police and have an injunction already in place against their attacker.
But many are frightened to press charges unless they have a sound protection network already around them, such as a place in a 'safe house' of undisclosed location, for fear of reprisals, and an injunction awarded by the court takes time to obtain.
Also, in some cases, women have been denied injunctions – only to later be murdered by the man they sought them against.
Of the 142,893 women who reported their ordeal in 2016, according to the General Council for Judicial Power (CGPJ) through its Domestic Violence Observatory, a total of just 28,000 victims were given injunctions and protection measures, and only 4,689 were given a 'safe house' – either a residential home of their own to stay in, or a place at a shelter.
“There's no way out of it when this is all that happens,” Gloria argues.
The women have been strongly advised by their doctors not to repeat their hunger strike because of the effects on their health they are still suffering from the one in February, but the Association will not be put off until it achieves its goal.
Members have revealed their own stories – Sonia, 49, one of the 10, who comes from Villalba in the Greater Madrid region, was a victim of domestic abuse along with her two children, but managed to escape and rebuild her life.
Tatiana, 37, from A Coruña in the north-western region of Galicia, had to flee for safety with her three children.
Both say they intend to keep the pressure on 'to stop even more women and children dying while nothing gets done about it'.
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