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Video of man beating his wife forces Brazil to face up to gender violence

The recording shows the moments before the victim’s death, stirring national debate on domestic abuse and the vulnerability of women in a country that prefers to turn a blind eye

The video showing the moments before the victim’s death (Spanish captions).

This ugly tale of domestic abuse is related from various angles by the security cameras in a residential block in Paraná, southern Brazil. First we see the street as viewed from the front door of the building and a stationary white vehicle with a man and woman inside. On closer inspection, it appears that the man is preventing the woman from getting out of the car and, though the details are obscured, their movements can be seen to become increasingly agitated.

The man holds the bleeding body of his wife after retrieving it from the pavement where it landed

Cut to the parking lot below the apartments: the man gets out of the car and seizes the woman by the throat. She struggles free and hides behind one of the pillars. When he discovers her hiding place, she runs.

Cut to the elevator: the man pushes the woman inside and delivers the odd kick and blow as she tries to escape his clutches.

Cut to the elevator later that evening: the man holds the bleeding body of his wife after retrieving it from the pavement where it landed after falling from the balcony of their fifth floor apartment. Once he has taken the body back to their apartment, he returns to the elevator and cleans up the blood.

The footage was shot the night of July 22 and broadcast last Sunday on one of Brazil’s most popular programs, Fantástico, stirring national debate on domestic abuse and the vulnerability of women in a country that prefers to turn a blind eye.

Murder of this nature has reached a new record, jumping from 812 deaths in 2016 to 1,133 last year

Despite advances in recent years, women in Brazil cannot expect much support either from their neighbors or the authorities when they feel at risk in their own homes. Nor do those standing in the next general elections in October appear to be proposing any solutions. With the fifth-highest femicide rate in the world, the standard practice in Brazil is to keep one’s nose out of other people’s matrimonial affairs. Now, according to the NGO Fórum Brasileño de Seguridad Público, murder of this nature has reached a new record, jumping from 812 deaths in 2016 to 1,133 last year.

“The laws and legal instruments that we have at our disposal are very good in themselves but not useful as they do not offer protection to prevent femicide,” says political scientist Ilona Szabo. “Previous behaviors and aggressions, first verbal and then physical; the visits to the health center – all this should be registered and taken into account. It’s not enough just to pursue what is reported to the police.”

Tatiana and Luis Felipe’s neighbors admit to having heard raised voices and turning a blind eye

The tragedy that unfolds on the video shows the 32-year-old biology professor Luis Felipe Manvalier and his wife, 29-year-old lawyer Tatiana Spitzner, embroiled in a highly charged situation. Manvalier was later arrested as he fled toward the border between Brazil and Argentina and Paraguay, and is now in jail awaiting trial. He denies having murdered his wife and claims that she threw herself off the balcony. Meanwhile, Tatiana’s sister and several of her friends have spoken out about Manvalier’s prior aggressions toward his wife and their own lack of intervention. Tatiana and Luis Felipe’s neighbors also admit to having heard raised voices and turning a blind eye.

“The best way to detect and to stop this type of violent behavior is to openly discuss it when it first arises,” says Szabo. “Femicide is the conclusion of a cycle of violence, not an isolated incident and it’s important to understand that. Because we can avoid it, but we are not doing so.”

English version by Heather Galloway.

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