In Vino Verena: The lousy normality of domestic violence

As a result of the corona pandemic, incidents of domestic violence have increased massively. Many crimes, however, remain in the dark. Our columnist herself was not aware for a long time how many forms of domestic violence there are. And that we urgently need to talk more about it.

There they were now, the new curtains that grandmother had sewn for me. They were bright orange and shiny as silk. In addition, oversized waterfall flounces hung under the curtain box. I thought the rich color was a damn good idea, because it gave the often gray world in front of my windows a nice frame. I lived in a small room with a large wall unit in a prefabricated building. The wall unit was so shiny that you could reflect yourself in it, and it was liver sausage-colored.

It was the time when my mother often scolded my father for drinking too much again. And my father, in turn, scolded my mother for always hiding his schnapps. My parents worked hard, we were, as Father put it, a Malocher family.

I still remember the day when, after a long wait, the wall unit for the living room was finally delivered and how proud my mother was when she put in the great-grandmother’s punch set and arranged it nicely and my father put the plug on the radio relocated, which now finally had its place. It was perfectly normal for us to have Father drink. Most of the time he was in a good mood when he was drunk, sometimes not. This socially recognized drinking was just the way it was. And hardly anything about it has changed to this day.

Different families and big sunglasses

One afternoon, my father was a year and four months away from rehab and Alcoholics Anonymous, when he got so wild that he took his plate of lentils, mother had lunch, and tossed it in the middle of the wall unit. It splashed, rattled and clanked terribly loudly and I crumbled into my room on the spot, where every time my parents argued again, I lay lengthwise between the door and the wall unit.

I was 10 years old and my body fit exactly in between. I thought that was incredibly awesome, because now father always had to yell in front of the door. The room doors had no keys. We wanted to avoid that a whole door frame suddenly breaks out again somewhere, which father then had to repair the next day and wrestled with tears in the process.

Domestic violence: I thought for a long time whether I should write about this sensitive, personal topic at all. Admittedly, also out of fear that someone might condemn my father as a thug or a tyrant. Because he was a perpetrator, but also a victim at the same time. Father is literally drowned from his alcohol addiction.

I recently saw the Maid series on Netflix. It’s the story of a cleaning lady and I actually watched her because of mother, who was also once a cleaning lady. I used to be ashamed of it sometimes, but soon I couldn’t have been more proud of her. Because she always told the coolest stories. At least as good as Father’s when he was sober.

And while I was watching this series, which was also about domestic violence, I felt something break inside of me. Something that has always been there, but which I never talked about because it was “normal” for me. Whatever that word means. I had no comparison between what was normal and what was not normal. The fathers of friends drank too, even the mothers. And sometimes you heard screams somewhere in the stairs or saw Ms. L. in the supermarket with big sunglasses on her nose. From an adult perspective, of course, I know that what I experienced as a child was domestic violence and not “normal”.

The idea with the clothesline

At that time, however, almost up to the present day, I did not consider it particularly bad if hot anger reigned in our four walls. After all, as I had always said, dishes only flew around and doors broke out of their frames. Mother never had to put on sunglasses. It was the other families who were bad. Everything was pretty okay with us, I think.

And after the screaming they lay in each other’s arms again and cried and mother made bread for father. Once, when my father came home full of stars from skat, the doorbell rang. The neighbors complained about disturbance of the peace. My father went mad as hell and now rumbled around even more. Mother feared that the police would be coming soon.

There would be talk and whispering and people would only tear their mouths apart about our family more than they already did. So mother grabbed the clothesline and we heaved father into the bedroom, where we tied him to the bed together. I remembered that we were even considering gagging him and that in the middle of thinking about it out loud, we suddenly had to laugh because we felt like criminals. And we’d rather laugh so we wouldn’t cry.

So I watched this series in which the main protagonist Alex and her daughter flee to a women’s shelter after an incident of domestic violence. One of the first scenes was the father of her child, also an alcoholic, throwing a bottle against the wall. And to be completely honest: I thought in all seriousness, while I saw this scene and at the same time it broke into me: what? That’s all it was? We should have ended up in the women’s shelter three times a month! But there wasn’t. And if we did, we didn’t know anything about it. And it wasn’t talked about either. Just as even today domestic violence is very often played down and withheld. Because people are ashamed. Or forget the incidents so as not to confront yourself with this topic.

The filth of broken dreams

My father’s withdrawal was followed by a life as a dry alcoholic. He forgave his life and was, in the end, the one who had forgiven the past the least. Domestic violence takes many forms, but it was only now that I realized that it wasn’t just about being beaten. Domestic violence is often not even perceived as such, true to the motto: it happens in the best families. It does happen. Will be again.

more on the subject

The Federal Ministry for Family, Seniors, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ) writes on its website: “Physical violence is only one facet of a complex behavior pattern (…) Those affected are often also psychological violence such as humiliation, threats, insults, intimidation, social isolation or economic violence Exposed to pressure from the perpetrator. (…) Children who live in the household are also directly affected, as they often (…) witness the violence. “

And so, as a child, I often lay between the door and the cupboard while half the kitchen was dismantled outside. And while I – lying there on the floor – waited for the storm to dissipate, I always looked out of a window with orange curtains into a world in which there were parents who did not scream, plates with stew did not end up in the cupboard walls and where behind Freshly painted woodchip wallpaper didn’t stick to the filth of broken dreams.