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What I Learned – Ignored at Home, Battered Russian Women Take Cases to Europe

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MOSCOW — He beat her. He kidnapped her. He threatened to kill her.

But this was Russia, where domestic violence is both endemic and widely ignored. Every time Valeriya Volodina went to the police for protection from her ex-boyfriend, she got nowhere. “Not once did they open a criminal case against him — they would not even acknowledge there was a case,” she says.

So Ms. Volodina turned her sights out of the country, and this week, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled emphatically in her favor. Rejecting arguments from Russia that she had suffered no real harm, and that she had failed to file her complaints properly, the court awarded her 20,000 euros, about $22,500.

The ruling was the European court’s first on a domestic violence case from Russia — but it may be far from its last. Ten more Russian women have similar cases pending before the court.

Ms. Volodina’s lawyer, Vanessa Kogan, the director of Astreya, a Russian human rights organization, hailed the ruling in Strasbourg “as a crucial step toward tackling the scourge of domestic violence in Russia.”


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