Moscow – One evening last summer, Mikhail Khachaturyan decided that his living room was not cleared enough so he called his three teenage daughters one by one and doused each with pepper spray.
There was a little unusual in the evening in the Khachaturyan household, according to court records, except for one thing: The sisters decided that they could no longer take violence and abuse. They waited until their father fell asleep in his rocking chair and attacked him with a kitchen knife and a hammer. He beat a fight, but died within minutes.
The Khachaturyan sisters, now aged 18, 19 and 20, were charged last month with pre-mediated murders in a case that has drawn violence and shining light in the way the Russian justice system handles domestic and sexual abuse .
More than 200,000 people have signed an online petition calling on the prosecutors to lose the murder charges that could land the sisters in prison for up to 20 years.
Supporters of the Sisters have protested outside Russian embassies at more than 20 places abroad, and a theater has played a performance in solidarity. They had planned a major rally in central Moscow on Saturday, but said they had to cancel it and quoted the City Hall's refusal to provide security for the collection.
"The Khachaturyan case is quite indicative of the general situation of domestic violence and how the Russian state responds to this problem," said Yulia Gorbunova, who wrote a comprehensive report on domestic violence at Human Rights Watch last year.
Suppressed by conservative family groups, President Vladimir Putin in 2017 signed a law that decriminalized some forms of domestic violence that have no definite definition in Russian law. Police routinely block house abuse cases while preventive measures, such as Retention orders, missing or not to a large extent.
Court applications showed that the kachatsky sisters were repeatedly beaten by their father, a war veteran and sexually abused. He had kept a stock of knives, pistols and rifles at home, even though he had been diagnosed with a neurological disorder and knew to shoot indoors. He repeatedly threatened neighbors and family members with violence.
The khakarutian sister's lawyers say the girls were driven to the edge.
"The first day we met," said Krestina's lawyer Alexei Liptser, "she said she was better off in prison than staying at home as she had been."
Going to the police was not an opportunity for Khachaturyan & The victims who feared that their lives would only get worse. The girls had some of the horrors they had gone through with school friends, but asked them not to go to the police. In the year before the attack, the girls participated in less than two months of the classes in total, but the school management did not have prosecutors.
Prosecutors acknowledge the extraordinary violent circumstances that pushed teenagers to attack and eventually kill their own father, but they insist that Maria, Angelina and Krestina be tried for murder. The sisters' lawyers claim that they acted in justified self-defense in circumstances of permanent abuse and life-threatening violence.
The sisters have been released on bail and are prevented from seeing each other, witnessing in the case or the media. They are supposedly in good spirits. "At least no one beats them up," says Liptser.
# It & # 39; s snotmyfault
The case of the three timid teenagers has inspired the 29-year-old Zarema Zaudinova to lead a performance at the Underground Theater Doc last week, combining the sister-driven experiences of artists with their own personal stories . Some members of the audience went for one of the more abusive graphic accounts.
For Zaudinova, the Khachaturyan case was the last straw.
"We have no protection," she says. "We will either be raped or we will be thrown into prison if we defend ourselves."
Research on Russian criminal cases prepared by media outlet Media Zona shows that out of 2,500 women convicted of murder or murder in 2016 to 2018, nearly 2000 killed a family member in domestic violence.
Human Rights Watch has documented cases where "a very clear case of self-defense" was not recognized as such by prosecutors and led to the victim's prison, according to Gorbunova.
"The choice is not whether you go to the police and get help," she says. "The choice for these women was either to die, or they had to protect themselves according to their best ability."
Nearly 2,000 people have recently submitted first-person abuse and victim accounts for social media after a young woman is facing criminal charges for harming his alleged rape promise launched hashtag # It & # 39; snotmyfault.
The bill to replace prison terms with fines in some cases of domestic violence breezed through the Russian parliament in 2017 and was immediately signed by Putin. But despite the detrimental effect on victims of domestic violence, the measure expired a rare public debate on domestic violence and violence in a country where a saying goes: "If he strikes you, it means he loves you."
Gorbunova says that the public's perception of domestic violence has changed from the highly publicized trials such as the Khachaturyan sisters or Margaritas Gracheva, whose husband previously reported to the police on threats of violence, took her to a forest and carved by both of her hands. Gracheva endured online bullying and accusations of "provoking" her spouse before her husband was sentenced to 14 years in prison last year, a rare gain for victims of violence in Russia.
Theatrical women say the verdict in Khachaturyan's sister case would send a strong message to Russian society.
"We have to fight for it and talk a lot and do it," says Zaudinova, who himself told a story about being crumbled by a male family of 12 years. "If the girls are sent to jail and the court does not acknowledge that it was self-defense, they will put more people in jail and you will not be able to do anything for the person who decided to rape you."