How many women choose not to report an abuser due to fear of social judgment and losing in court against the abuser? “My life in its chaos”, written by Mariana D’Andretta, is a book that addresses the consequences of this silence in the lives of victims and the persistent damage of an abusive relationship even after the end.
In the plot, Elena believes she managed to escape from Matías, her ex-husband, by changing neighborhoods and changing jobs. She has never shared her disturbing experiences with those close to her, but she regularly goes to therapy. Despite the anxiety attacks and low self-esteem, she believes that the biggest problems are behind her, as she no longer has contact with the aggressor.
Everything changes when Elena, an architect, starts a new project behind the scenes of a movie without knowing that her ex-husband, a civil engineer, will be working in the same place. The two meet daily, and Matías does everything to manipulate the protagonist again. Although she believes she is strong enough to overcome the situation, she will face great periods of instability.
In addition to addressing the importance of reporting, the author also highlights the need for a support network to deal with trauma. Elena is afraid to tell her best friends and sister about what she went through, as she believes they won’t understand. However, it is these people who will give the protagonist strength to move forward.
The work is divided in order to explain the beginning of the relationship and the progression of violent situations. The chapters alternate between past and present, narrated in third person and from Elena’s personal perspective, respectively. To create a faithful representation of an abusive relationship and the deep aspects of the trauma, the author relied on the sensitive reading of a psychologist.
According to Mariana D’Andretta, the book aims to help victims deal with post-traumatic stress, fear and anxiety. “My life in its chaos” is aimed mainly at women, so that they can identify the signs of abuse and have the courage to report it if they find themselves in situations similar to those of the protagonist.
Mariana D’Andretta has a degree in Social Communication, specializing in Radio, TV and Video, and was born in São Paulo. Since 2018, she has dedicated herself fully to literature, participating in anthologies of short stories and poems. In her five-year career, she has already collaborated on six projects carried out by Lura Editorial and Selo Off Flip. “My Life in Your Chaos” is her novel debut and the first book in a duology, with the sequel slated for release in 2025.
What was the inspiration behind writing “My life in its chaos”?
When I was about 11 or 12 years old, I took a trip with my family to the coastal city of São Vicente, here in the state of São Paulo. I love the sea, so at night I used to look out the window at the sea. On one of those nights, I remember standing next to the window and hearing screams coming from the upper floors. It was an argument between a couple, and after a while it ceased. We went to sleep and, the next day, ready to go to the beach, we took the elevator. When we entered it, there was a couple inside. I looked at the two of them, curious, and noticed that the woman had a bruise around her eye, which she was hiding with a pair of sunglasses. The man didn’t seem to care.
This story made me think about the aftermath, about what had happened to this woman. Whether she had separated or continued with her husband, whether she was alive or dead. Of course, this memory came much later, with me as an adult, and it joined with the news on TV and the internet, with the conversations I had and overheard. Everything fell into place so that I could create the story as it is.
Why did you decide to address the subject of abusive relationships and their consequences in the book?
It’s the after that stuck in my head after the story of São Vicente. I really wanted to know how that story continued, as so many other stories continue, so I created my version. We need to continue showing the act of abuse in audiovisual and literature, but we need to open more spaces to talk about its consequences, how harmful it is and how it doesn’t end just because the relationship ended. The traumas continue even more if the aggressor returns. There will be no healing without proper help.
What is the importance of discussing the issue of the silence of victims of abuse and the fear of social judgment?
Unfortunately, we are still faced with a taboo where the victim/woman is always labeled as crazy if she says something that bothers her. So it is better to remain silent. We were created to endure everything. It’s always the woman’s fault, she provoked and deserved it. With Elena, this was no different: she felt the weight, which made her make the wrong decisions.
How did you approach the building of the abusive relationship and the trauma aspects of the story?
Dividing history between present and past. In the present, we see Elena dealing with the traumas caused by the abusive relationship with the return of Matias. In the past, we see from when they first met to the moment she leaves the house.
What is the main message you want to convey to readers about identifying the signs of abuse and seeking help?
We have five types of violence against women that fall under the Maria da Penha Law: physical, sexual, psychological, moral and patrimonial. When you read “My life in its chaos”, you can identify the five types, some stronger than others, but they are all there. A fiction book can also be a great source of information. Therefore, always look for information, either on the internet or with someone. Information shows you that you have rights and, even with all the pain, it’s worth looking for them.
How does protagonist Elena deal with post-traumatic stress, fear and anxiety in the story?
Well, Elena has developed certain “disorders” from the abuse. It is easier for her to deal with physical pain than emotional pain. Therefore, when the pain becomes unbearable, she injures herself. In addition to not feeling safer in most places. So she chose to withdraw from society – her home and work are the only places where she feels good, and she has something inside her that makes her want to prove to herself that she’s still alive. Therefore, Elena ends up pushing herself to the limit in certain situations and putting herself in danger.
How was the collaboration with the psychologist to ensure fidelity in approaching the psychological aspects of the trauma?
Through Sensitive Reading, I wrote the manuscript for the story and asked Dr. Daniel would read it and tell me which points could be exaggerated and which points could be better worked on to bring it closer to reality. In the end, I managed to show how a victim of abuse and PTSD can behave.
In addition to encouraging victims, you also mentioned the importance of a support network. How do you approach this theme in the book?
Elena’s network consists of psychological support. She has been in psychotherapy since she broke up and has the support of her best friends and younger sister, who have always been by her side. The important thing is to have someone you trust to talk to and open up to, that’s the first step.
How did your training in Social Communication influence your literary writing?
My maternal grandfather was my reference figure in the arts. He worked with institutional videos. So, in his house, there was a movie camera that he used to record the family’s home videos, movie and photo projectors and famous Hollywood movies. I grew up in this environment, that was fantastic for me. And that made me go to Radio and TV, because I always knew I would be a writer, since I was a child. When I was at my grandfather’s house, I imagined my stories made, first, in books and then going to the cinema screens. And, therefore, I decided to bring a little of what is behind the scenes of a movie to the story of “My life in its chaos”, a tribute to the graduation that I am so proud of and to my grandfather.
Can we expect more works addressing relevant and sensitive topics like this in the future?
For sure! Each writer has a mission, be it to make the reader laugh, be scared, cry, sigh… I believe that my mission is to make the reader reflect and question. Addressing relevant and sensitive topics is what most motivates me to write.
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