Malta is reeling from the brutal murder of Chantelle Chetcuti.
This unnecessary death has returned the malignant topic of domestic abuse in Maltese society back to the forefront of the public’s conscience – but the problem is more deeply ingrained than ever before.
Lovin Malta spoke to a Maltese mother who lived through domestic abuse at the hands of her husband and the father of her son. From being forced to have sex with him at all times of the day – sometimes drugged – to seeing her son screaming at home as a knife is held to her throat, with little police support, this harrowing tale of domestic abuse, violence and manipulation will show you the lived experience of some Maltese women every single day.
Maria* tells her story in her own words below, and gives the heartbreaking reason for opening up about her personal and painful past.
“I want to speak out because I know that sooner or later, he will come for me. If I die, at least I would have said something that could have helped other women rather than dying without making any difference.”
WARNING: Disturbing and traumatic accounts of domestic violence below.
The first time I went and filed a police report, he had held a knife to my neck after I told him I was going to leave him when I realised he was cheating on me.
He told me “if you aren’t mine, you won’t be anybody’s” as he pushed the knife into my neck. Our son, who was seven-years-old at the time, began screaming at him until he put the knife back in the drawer.
Some time later, I went to the Rabat police station to make another report that he had attacked me after he had punched me one day. But when he realised I was going, he chased after me.
When I got to the police station, the officers recognised him… Rabat is quite a small place after all.
My ex tried to punch me in front of the police officers. Later in court, an officer who saw it swore a court affidavit stating he saw nothing.
The male officers allowed him to smoke a cigarette inside the police station after my report. Later, my ex-husband told me that the police had let him go and told him “għax naf x’raġel int” (‘I know what kind of man you are’).
But I noticed the women officers helped more… once, one female officer even told my ex “is this how you treat your wife? You need to treat her with care” (żommha fuq wiċċ l-idejn). But the men stood up for him.
The worst thing was forcing me to have sex with him when I didn’t want to.
I would be cooking, and he would grab my hand and say “let’s go have sex”. He would then lock our 10-year-old son in his bedroom, telling him: “I am going to have sex with your mommy”.
I would be so scared, and just keep my mouth closed so my son doesn’t hear screams or anything… I don’t want to him to hear what he’s doing to me, or any shouting or screaming. My son had told me once that he didn’t want to hear any more fighting or shouting, so I would try to keep silent.
Other times, my ex-husband would wake me up in the middle of the night, at 3am, whether I was asleep or sick, and I had to have sex with him.
He would make me do cocaine so I would stay awake while he had sex with me.
I fall asleep around midnight, and he would tell me I’m like an old lady already going to sleep at that time. Three times I was forced to do coke.
Sometimes, he would tell me to let my son watch us have sex. As my son got older, my ex-husband began to show him how to masturbate.
He really got into the idea of swinging and would try to get me to join in on swinging parties in Malta. He took photos of me in the nude, without my face, and would send them to his friends and other men I didn’t know.
I felt so dirty when he did this to me. My body was being seen by other men, my body was exposed to other men and I had no choice.
He joined a Facebook group for swingers in Malta, and they would hold parties. He would want us to go, and I would tell him “yes yes let’s go this week” when he asked me and then in the last two days I would say “no”… he would get angry, but at least we had five days of peace this way.
He started doing more and more cocaine.
Sometimes he would get really high and begin hitting the wall. I would tell the police that he is taking coke, that he is being aggressive to us. The officer just told me “we cannot do anything”.
And it wasn’t just him – I had filed a police report that his mother had hit our son as well. But it ended there, we never went to court.
The police would always say the same thing: “don’t go to court, sort it out between yourselves quietly”.
That’s when we went to court u jiena ċ-ċuċ ahfritlu (and I forgave him like a fool).
They trick you and they manipulate you, they convince you… He even convinced me that he never really held a knife to my throat, though my son saw it as well.
He would say things like “if we go to court I’ll have a dirty police conduct and I won’t be able to have a job and it will be harder to feed the family”.
I had filed another report back in 2018 and, just this week, I had to go to court to ask for a guarantee to keep him away from me.
There were transcripts of his phone calls to me. He had called me once and said “Jien xbajt naħxi t-Theresa f’sormha u wara niġi nħollu ġo fik u nimlik bil-liba.” Theresa is a friend of mine. He went on to say that he was going to “pay me back” for not being able to see his son.
But there’s always a delay with the courts, the magistrate either needs to know this or that…
He would say he is going to commit suicide if we break up. One time I was at Victim Support Malta doing a session with a psychologist, and he kept calling and cutting. He would message me a lot of those kind of threats but this time I showed it to the psychologist and he told me to go make a report.
He then spent time in Mount Carmel Hospital, but he would always say the same thing.
“I’m going to kill myself, I cannot go back to work, ħenn għalija, those people who are telling you things against me don’t know how I am feeling…”
All my son talks about is how he can’t wait to grow up so he can beat up his dad.
Though he doesn’t like it when I call my ex his dad, or use the word “missierek” (‘your father’). He tells me “please refer to him as ‘dak’ because a father wants his child to be better than him, not like him or worse”.
My son hates him after all he’s done to us… my child had to go through so much. His school marks were all between the 70s and 90s, now it’s as low as 6 out of 100. He has ADHD and I know he is a little genius, but he had to experience everything between the ages of seven and 13 and it’s affected him.
Now, he’s always with a counsellor at school, or with a guidance teacher, and we also get psychiatric help. He was prescribed medicine by his psychiatrist, but his father refuses to pay the €50 a month for the pills, saying the child needs marijuana and not pills.
My son legally does not need to meet his father because he doesn’t want to, and he has been given a court order that he doesn’t need to meet his father until he wants to and is ready to.
But my ex used to show him how to masturbate. He would also take him when he went to buy marijuana, and he remembers all of this.
My son stopped believing in God now. For him, God definitely doesn’t exist… how can a God exist and let this family pass through all of this?
We’ve even filed a report of sexual abuse against my ex for what he’s done to my son.
“When he would be erect, or when he was shaving his pubes, he would call my son over so he can have a look, measuring himself with an inch tape and telling him “ara x’għandi hawn, kemm hu kbir!”
He would also show him blue films, with naked men and women, and ask him what he prefers… he wanted to see if he was gay.
Till this day, my sons mentions these things to me… I even found a measuring tape in his bed once. He asks me if he is going to be big one day as well.
I left my ex in 2017… and I honestly don’t know how I got the courage to do so because I was so terrified.
He’s always behind us…. I’ve had to leave banks because he would come in when I was with my son and make a scene. And all the policeman on duty did was kick us both out.
I also had to leave my hometown and move across Malta. Indeed, I’m terrified of going near places like Rabat anymore, because he’s always chasing, and would chase me if I went near that town, even if I need something from there.
My mom lives in a nearby locality, and every time she calls me to ask if I can give her a ride somewhere, I always have to see what excuse I’m going to come up with… I never told her what happened between us, I don’t want to worry her.
And the Vice Squad know about all of this. They’ve been working on it since 2017, but progress is slow.
Issa when he kills me then they can say miskina.
I now work in a field that my mom has and grow food for the family there.
I used to be an accounts manager, but I got another job after I had my child. Since then I’ve had to leave that too because my son’s school is constantly calling me about my son’s constant tension headaches. I’ve ended up fighting with the headmaster, even though he is right…
That’s why I want to tell women: don’t stay in an abusive relationship thinking its better for your kids. It’s not – you will make them suffer more actually.
And don’t believe what your partner is telling you, and don’t think it will be worse after you leave.
I used to look at other women who had a man who was cheating on them and they remained with them and think: ‘kemm hi belha’. But now I know.
The separation finally went through last year, but he still messages me through WhatsApp telling me I am turning our son against him. His Facebook wall is full of quotes about mean moms and how moms are evil, even though it’s his own son who doesn’t want us mentioning him.
My father is dead, and I say żgur he sent me my new partner.
I have a new partner, and he understands what I went through. I trust him, and he helps me and takes care of me. If it wasn’t for him… I don’t want to be a weight on other people, but he pays for the psychologists and lawyers…
My ex would tell me, when we were going out, to wear something tighter, or put on a shorter dress, so he can show off his wife to all his friends. My current partner is the total opposite of that.
When I heard about Chantelle, I thought: when is it my turn?
“I was with my ex for 16 years as well, just like her. I am worried for my son only, that’s why I want to speak out because I know that sooner or later, he will come for me.
If I die, at least I would have said something that could have helped other women rather than dying without making any difference.
*Names have been changed for the protection of the individuals involved. Maria is currently going through court proceedings in relation to the reports she’s made over the last decade.