I was born in 1929 in the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina. When I went to Buenos Aires University to study Social Service, my family was disappointed. They thought I should become a lawyer or a doctor. By the time I graduated, I was working at the Children’s Hospital. I got married, separated very early and started working in the Ministry of Social Action, specifically in the Maternity and Childhood department. That’s where I learned how to do field work. My experience as a social worker in the field helped me design Las Víctimas Contra Las Violencias (Victims Against Violence), a program I launched in 2006 that operates under the Justice and Human Rights Ministry.
Victims Against Violence
The name of the program is filled with meaning. The word “against” signals the existence of a victim who is active. Not a victim who inspires resignation or pity, but rather one who – in the short time we spend with her – is going to learn to work with the violence she suffered.
Within Buenos Aires there is a number that victims of domestic violence can use to call Las Víctimas Contra Las Violencias: 137. But we’re not just a phone number. When a victim calls to tell us where she is, we go to her in an unmarked car driven by a law enforcement officer with a social worker and psychologist on hand. We examine the location where the violence has occurred, take her to the hospital if needed and also help take care of her children. We have worked hard to set up these emergency teams in an ethical manner because — as difficult as it may be for us to recognize — the victims naturally see us as part of the same system of oppression.
Reading news reports, it’s surprising to see there has been an increase in the cruelty of the violence employed over the past four or five years.
It’s not that the number of cases has risen, but the cruelty has.
People want to be heard
Anybody across Argentina can call 0800-222-1717 to report child sexual abuse. We receive dozens of calls daily. The number of adults who call to talk about the abuse they suffered as children is remarkable. But they call really to be heard because when you talk about filing a formal police report, they usually decline.
Often it is a grandmother or a neighbour who reports child abuse. But they rarely want to file criminal charges. This leads me to the inevitable conclusion that there is lots of complicity in sexual abuse of children and teenagers, because people do not want to be seen as accusing abusers. Also, not all people are spurred to help victims. That’s why our work is a challenge.
In 1962, when I first began researching violence, I carried out the first study on parents and punishment at the Children’s Hospital. I looked for those who had been the victims historically: the elderly, children and women, and was shocked to find that 90 percent of mothers said they beat their children. This shows that violence is naturalized.
Never dreamt I would hear those words
A few days ago, I was shocked when a union leader expressed support for a women’s strike on 8 March. He said that the men would take our places at work so that we could strike. In my 89 years, I never dreamt I would hear those words from a union leader.
This is what has been gained. It is a step beyond the #NiUnaMenos (#NotOneLess) movement that pushed back against the rising number of femicides. It marks a breakthrough that’s limitless. We are on our way to change the world, which is what the women’s movement intended to do when it rose up to say: We want a different world.
Eva Giberti is a social worker and a psychologist. She was one of the first experts to disseminate psychoanalysis in the Argentine media. She has been in charge of the Justice and Human Rights Ministry’s programme Las Víctimas Contra Las Violencias (Victims Against Violence) since 2006.
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