Protests against jail for Russian teenage 'abuse victims'

By Katherine Zeveleva & Georgina Rannard
BBC Monitoring

image copyrightDarya Ageniy
image captionDarya Ageniy launched an online petition calling for clarification of Russia's self-defence law

Women in Russia are using social media and protests to draw attention to the country's poor record of tackling violence and sexual assault against women.

Hashtag #NotHerFault (#саманевиновата in Russian) was started by Darya Ageniy, who could face nine years in prison for stabbing a man with a pencil-sharpening blade in "self-defence" when he allegedly tried to rape her in June 2018.

Police have not opened a case into the allegations of sexual assault, but Ms Ageniy is facing a criminal investigation.

Her victim says he has injuries to his abdomen.

The 19-year-old, who lives in Moscow, launched a petition calling for clarification of the law on the use of self-defence in response to attempted sexual assault.

image copyrightDarya Ageniy
image captionDarya Ageniy, 19, stabbed a man in "self-defence" who allegedly tried to rape her

Reacting to another high-profile case, about 350 people gathered in Moscow on Wednesday to protest against murder charges brought against three teenage sisters who killed their abusive father.

Krestina, Angelina and Maria Khachaturyan, who were 17, 18 and 19 when they stabbed their father to death, face up to 20 years in prison.

"The investigation established and acknowledged that the father had committed crimes against the girls, including those of a sexual nature, and that their mental health had been harmed," Angelina Khachaturyan lawyer's Alexei Parshin said in a Facebook post.

Domestic violence was partially decriminalised in Russia in 2017, while last year a survey found that 49% of women in Russia say they are at most risk of violence from family members in their home.

In October, a Human Rights Watch report concluded that gaps in Russia's laws, inadequate police and judicial response, and lack of protection orders often fail to protect women suffering domestic violence.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionKrestina (L) and Angelina, two of the Khachaturyan sisters, at a hearing in Moscow, where they were charged with the murder of their father

Darya Ageniy told Russian outlet Novoya Gazeta that she hopes her case will be considered as "self-defence" rather than "excessive self-defence".

"According to the criminal code, you can defend yourself in any way if your life is in danger. But I think to myself, how will I prove this? I can't even prove the rape attempt - they are not even accepting my statement on the rape attempt."

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Ms Ageniy told BBC Monitoring that she started the petition when young women messaged her after the case was reported in the media.

"They started telling me just awful stories how someone raped them or tried to rape them.

"Then I understood that something needs to be done. I thought that I have a great opportunity to draw attention to this issue," she explained.

She wants all women in Russia to know how to report attacks or attempted attacks immediately to the police and to tell friends or family.

"Victims do not speak out about abuse because, first of all, society disapproves of them and condemns them. And also because they are scared of the police. They believe the police will inflict psychological pressure and you will be told that it is your own fault," she added.

Some women shared their stories of experiencing sexual and physical violence, including one social media user who described being raped by her partner.

"Abuse is still abuse even if it is done by your partner," she wrote, using the hashtag #NotHerFault.

"Any one of us can find themselves in their shoes # KhachaturyanSisters" wrote one woman on Instagram, while another posted: "Looks and actions cannot justify abuse. No-one wants to be raped or beaten. Stop accusing the victim for wearing the 'wrong' clothes or make-up."

"I do not want to live in a country where the law is not applied to rapists. I can't wrap my head around what is happening in this world. I am disgusted by those who stand up against rape victims and accuse them. It is the rapist's fault", wrote @Rainbowpolina41 on Twitter.