Three Russian sisters have been charged with murder for allegedly killing their father, who had purportedly abused them for years, ABC News reports. The Russian public is outraged at the case, which they say highlights the fact that the Russian legal system fails victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse.
So horrific were the sexual and physical abuses that the Khacharutyan sisters – Maria, Angelina, and Krestina – endured at the hands of their father that one of them, Krestina, told their attorney that they were glad to be in jail, as it was better than being at home.
It’s not clear when the abuse against Krestina and her sisters, now aged 18, 19 and 20, began. What is clear is that it went on for years. In school, they shared some of the horrors they endured with their classmates but begged them not to tell anyone. The girls didn’t go to the police, for fear that their lives would get worse, not better, if they did.
In the year before the women allegedly killed their father, Mikhail Khacharutyan, they were only at school for a total of about two months. School officials supposedly did not intervene, however.
Mikhail was known to have a stockpile of guns and knives, despite having been diagnosed with a mental disorder. He was known to shoot indoors and to threaten his neighbors, but police allegedly did nothing.
“She said she’s better off here, in jail, than living at home the way she had been,” the Khacharutyan sisters’ lawyer said of one of the women. Must read by @NatVasilyevaAP on the domestic violence case shaking up #Russia. https://t.co/ag8n2hRvvs
— Emily Sherwin (@EmilyCSherwin) July 5, 2019
Last summer, the abuse came to an end. Dissatisfied with how his daughters had cleaned the living room, Mikhail purportedly doused each of them with pepper spray. For the sisters, that was the last straw. They waited until he was asleep, and as he slept in his rocking chair, the women allegedly beat and stabbed him to death with knives and a hammer.
Prosecutors have charged the women with murder. Their supporters say the women acted in self-defense. In fact, 200,000 Russians have signed a petition asking prosecutors to drop the murder charges against the women.
Yulia Gorbunova, who reports on domestic abuse for Human Rights Watch, says that the women’s case is a metaphor for how the Russian legal system fails victims of domestic violence.
In 2017, Vladimir Putin signed a law that replaces prison sentences for domestic violence with fines. Even so, police routinely look the other way at reports of domestic violence, and abusers are rarely put to justice in Russia, where an old saying says “if he beats you, it means he loves you.”
As for the Khachaturyan sisters, they’ve been released on bail but have been barred from seeing each other or talking to the media. Their attorney says that, in spite of the harsh bail conditions and the prospect of spending 20 years in prison, they’re in good spirits because they’re not being routinely beaten anymore.