Column from Belarus: Testimonies about domestic abuse is not always what they seem to be


Christian Life

Zmicier Chviedaruk, CNE.news

Domestic violence against a child. Photo ANP, Roos Koole

How would you see an important person who was accused of domestic abuse on social media? We are easily spurned by angry emotions. But is trial by media fair?

Several weeks ago, the Belarusian liberal community tried to answer a rather difficult question: Should we trust people's stories posted on Facebook, and how should we react to them? The great argument started after Hanna Klimovich, who used to be an eco-activist and now works in IT, told an awful and emotional story about violence from her ex-husband. Her post had thousands of likes and comments. The most influential media made shows on the topic of domestic abuse against women.


Klimovich posted that her ex-husband Zmicier Pankaviec, who used to be a well-respected journalist from Radio Liberty before the story, had regularly beaten her, dangled her down from the window of their apartment, didn't let her out of the house and even had burned her passport so she could not leave him. You can imagine how such a story ruined the reputation, career and life of a well-known person who had a perfect reputation of a fair and independent reporter in a second.

The scandalous post was posted online just a year after their divorce. Klimovich didn't go to official court against Pankaviec and didn't bring any evidence for her accusations except for her emotional text and a picture of a broken window.


After her post, thousands of women asked to fire the journalist without any trial and without even listening to his side. "Why should we even listen to an abuser?" they said. You may imagine that the reporter was cancelled soon after.

After all, should we not trust a person who says she is a victim and received many likes on Facebook after she dared to speak out against a violent abuser?

Can anyone by cancelled for good without a trial?

I must say that the problem of domestic violence is huge in our country. Post-Soviet heritage and a materialistic worldview ruined the institute of the family and healthy relationships between men and women. And, of course, we are all totally depraved.

I still remember how our home, when I was a child, used to be a shelter for women from our neighbourhood who were beaten by their drunk husbands who used to work for factories or different governmental institutions. Several times, angry men even tried to break down our door to beat their wives and children. It was very scary.


You may imagine that blaming someone for abuse will not go unnoticed in our country. The Belarusian feminist community even posted an open letter demanding punishment for Pankaviec and removing him from the profession. "There is no place for domestic abusers in free journalistic society", they said.

Interestingly, they first and foremost demanded punishment for the journalist and only after that called for an investigation to see whether the story was true. Sounds a little bit creepy.


A famous Belarusian poet asked a group of feminists if it is ok to blame a person without a trial and if it would be of any help to the protection of women from abuse if the story turns out to be a fake and Klimovich made it up out of revenge for the broken relationship?

The answer was: "Even if 1 out of 100 stories posted online would turn out to be a fantasy, it would still be a huge step forward in the battle against sexism and discrimination". Apparently, the life and the reputation of a person do not matter in such a great battle for them. "Let him work as a loader to understand that there is no room for patriarchy and abuse in the modern world", they stated.

How would you judge and react?

We live in a tremendous era. Information spreads faster than ever before. We often don't have enough time to think deeply about what we have been told or read. It sometimes causes emotional reactions without thinking and getting deep into the theme.

How would you judge a person after such horrible accusations? And how fast would you shout "guilty" with great anger? Because a man beating a woman is ungodly and ugly.


It appeared that soon after the post on Facebook, the journalist answered on his page that he was accused unjustly. And that his wife was permanently acting violently against him. He also stated that he responded that way just once and feels guilt and shame for such behaviour. In addition, he filed a lawsuit against his ex-wife for a discredited reputation.

These statements really make you think that the story is more complicated than an emotional story on Facebook. It challenges you to ask for God's wisdom and patience, not to become a superior online judge.

The Bible calls us to be slow to anger. Also, Professor Jochem Douma says in his book "10 Commandments. Manual For Christian Life" that destroying someone's reputation without a reason is an act that God calls sin. Therefore, we should be very careful in how we talk about and judge others.

We should act carefully because our Lord is fair and just. Every time we want to judge someone, we should keep in mind the words from 2 Chronicles 19:6: "Consider what you do, for you judge not for man but for the Lord. He is with you in giving judgment.7. Now then, let the fear of the Lord be upon you. Be careful what you do, for there is no injustice with the Lord our God, or partiality or taking bribes."


These verses were even printed in our country at the beginning of the Statut, the great book of Law dating from 1588. It calls our society to treat everyone fairly: men and women, rich and poor, noblemen and peasants. As a result, the book states that everyone who judges should prepare their decision like a well-done meal in an expensive restaurant and not like fast food that causes stomach problems soon after. That needs the fear of the Lord and enough time, but results in right and justice and not quick revenge.



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