Fear has struck not only the women in the battered women’s shelter that Anastasia Rusanov passed through just a few days before she and her partner were murdered Wednesday. Fear has come over those women’s children, too.
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“You know that she was here and she was murdered yesterday?” two children, ages seven and eight, asked the woman who runs shelter’s childcare center. “Will it happen to our mother too?”
Rusanov, a mother of two, was shot to death along with her partner, Eliezer Kandinov, in their Rishon Letzion apartment. Police are searching for her ex-boyfriend, whose stalking and threats drove her to the shelter, somewhere in the center of the country, for a tragically brief time. She spent only a few hours there, then left, but the female residents are finding it difficult to continue their daily routine. They understand that while the shelter may protect them and their children while they are there, the reality is that the violent men who abused them and whom they fled are still waiting for them on the outside. They may be feeling the pain for Rusanov, but mostly they fear a similar fate of their own.
Wasn't only one to leave shelter prematurely
The shelter has room for 12 women and their children. At the moment, only 10 women are living there. Rusanov’s spot, as well as that of another woman who left the same day despite concrete threats to her life, have yet to be filled. The location of the shelter is kept a secret out of fear the violent men involved will try to find it and attack them.
The women deposit their cellphones when they arrive to prevent their being located via the phone’s signals. In some of the rooms, televisions show the pictures from the many security cameras deployed in and about the shelter.
“Her picture never leaves me,” says Dana (an alias), the social worker who cared for Rusanov in the shelter. “I yelled at her to wait another minute, but she wasn’t willing to listen. Since I heard the news I see the picture of her back turned to me. We did everything we could, but it is hard,” she says.
“She knew her life and the life of her partner were in danger,” says Dana. “She told us: ‘He is threatening both of us but we will get by.’ I was afraid when she left. I called the police immediately to notify them she was leaving. Everyone tried to persuade her. There was no one to talk to. I asked her to wait a few hours, but within two hours after she arrived, she had already gone. She burst into my office even before we had time to call her, dressed and ready to leave – she was under very great pressure. She didn’t stop saying that she needed to take her children to the Lag Ba’omer [celebrations], she had customers waiting for her. ‘It’s not for me, being here,’ she never stopped saying.”
The form Rusanov signed read: “I confirm that I am leaving the shelter for battered women of my own will and on my sole responsibility, even though it has been made clear to me by the staff that I am at risk.” The spot on the form for her destination was left blank. “She would not agree to tell us where she was going,” said Yael Gold, director of the No To Violence Against Women nonprofit organization that runs the shelter.
'Throws reality in their faces'
Yesterday morning was an especially difficult time there. The staff convened all the women for a talk about what had happened. “It is a shock that throws reality and the danger in their faces and raises the level of fear a great deal,” said Gold.
One of the women began to cry after reading yesterday’s newspaper. “She was just here, she had the same lipstick on.” Another woman, who has been living in the shelter for six months, spoke of her fears of the day her husband will get out of prison: “He is obsessive, he won’t let me live. When he is released, what will happen to me?”