Note– As I wrote this final installment, I learned that Mark Shull, before marrying Galina Anufrieva, had another “mail-order bride;” this one most likely from the Philippines. Her name is unknown and the length of the marriage was short. We can only hope that she did not suffer the same degree of abuse before they separated.
Throughout this story, we have heard little about Galina Anufrieva herself. What happened to her after she escaped?
Ms. Anufrieva is a highly-educated woman, having a Masters Degree in Accounting from Siberian State Transport University. She worked as a professional accountant in Russia. After escaping Mark Shull’s grasp, Galina remained in the United States, remarried and now works in the accounting industry. Andrey attended Lincoln High School and went on to graduate from Portland Community College, majoring in business administration and finance.
How did Galina end up in the United States? We don’t know exactly how Shull originally contacted her, but we know it was through a site like this one, offering what are commonly referred to as “Russian mail-order brides.”
The trope of the “Russian mail-order bride” is pervasive. The dominant impression, especially among men, is that the women using such agencies are “out to scam men,” filled with scheming women who just want to obtain money and a green card. We saw this in Shull’s case, where he referred to Galina as “as cunning as anybody out there” and claimed that she saw him as “a wallet.”
The reality is very different.
The mail-order bride industry freely admits that it targets impoverished countries for its services. Russia’s poor economy and dismal living standards attracted the industry, luring women- especially women who wished to have careers- with the exciting prospect of escaping their poor economic and social status. These agencies also parrot myths about the desirability, masculinity and financial status of American men. The agencies then put the women up on websites like prize livestock, charging men up to $10,000 to contact them.
What kind of man takes advantage of a woman in this way? Anthropologist Paolo Heywood found that they are men who want control over a woman and who exhibit racial and sexist stereotypes. As he wrote, they are “desirous of women who will be little more than domestic slaves, who will be ‘a silent, dutiful, sexually accommodating object devoted to serving her man’ [and become] prisoners in their own homes…despite their ability to wield such power over their wives, the men are at the are time are ‘social misfits.’ ” Tiifany Markee wrote that “Isolation is often a characteristic of a violent domestic relationship” and “The Russian bride’s inability to speak English may naturally impede her opportunities to seek new friends and if she is able to make friends her American husband may eventually tire of his bride’s new American friends and forbid her from seeing them.”
Lawyer Christine Chun wrote that the men who patronize mail-order bride companies are “usually middle-aged and divorced with little potential of attracting an American woman.” Chun also reports that the industry is driven by men who are lashing out against women’s liberation and equality and favor strict gender roles and “traditional marriage.”
The “mail-order bride” system also puts women at a disadvantage. As Chun wrote, “The modern market completely separates the foreign mail-order bride from cultural and familial support structures, encourages the bride’s dependency on her American mate, and renders the bride vulnerable to abuse with very few legal protections. As a result, the contemporary mail-order bride business places the foreign women who travel to the United States at a severe disadvantage. International marriage agencies exploit economic disparities and perpetuate inequalities by arranging the bridal transaction to cater to the consumer-husband, the party with the economic power.”
Chun found that, once they arrived in the United States, these women are crushed by reality. “Many of the consumer-husbands who look to foreign countries for a more submissive wife may experience disappointment. Even marriage brokers realize that the images of the women they sell often do not fit reality, and state that the illusions will fade once the bride travels to America and the parties spend some time together. In fact, the women who answer the ads are usually those who want to take control of their lives. These women do not fit the stereotype of the docile wife, willing to submit to the control of an American husband.” She points out that this disparity leads to abuse.
We see all of these traits in the tragic story of Galina Anufrieva’s abuse by Mark Shull. She was an educated woman who probably dreamed of a better life for herself and her son. This dream was crushed as she was kept prisoner in her isolated home. Neighbors report that Shull was “reclusive” and they rarely saw Galina. She reported that he refused to let her see friends. When he abused her and she fled, he denied that he had done anything wrong. When she obtained a restraining order against him, he violated it then fought to overturn it. He stated to the US Congress that he, not Galina, was the victim.
Galina was also failed by our legal system. The power and prestige of an older white male who speaks English trumps that of an immigrant woman who is seen as “cunning,” “untruthful” and “manipulating” by the men who dominate the legal system. Shull’s domestic violence case was dismissed by a male district attorney after reading the testimony of a male sheriff (who, as we saw, was later kicked off the force for dishonesty) who obviously favored Shull over the woman he abused. Shull’s restraining order case was adjudicated by a white male judge, who dismissed the case without explanation or cause. As Tifany Markee found, at least 25% of women in “mail-order bride” marriages suffered abuse, and that “Cultural stereotypes may infect the administrative agency charged with the adjudication, thus diminishing the battered woman’s credibility.”
It is a symbol of Galina’s strength, intelligence and determination that she survived this abuse, escaped it, and found a new (and hopefully happy) life.
It is an equally powerful, and much darker symbol that Mark Shull continues his behavior unabated and untouched by the rule of law, potentially endangering even more women. As of of this writing, he is in a relationship with a woman from the Ukraine. He constantly refers to her as “beautiful” and objectified her sexually with online posts of crude sand drawings. Meanwhile, her Facebook posts no longer mention the modeling jobs she once had but are almost exclusively in praise of Mark Shull.
A Call for Cultural Understanding in the Creation, Interpretation and Application of Law: Is the United States Meeting the Needs of Russian Immigrant “Mail Order Brides“? Tifany E. Markee, CWSL Scholarly Commons, 2001
Testimony of Mark K. Shull in The Violence Against Women Act- Building on 17 years of accomplishments. Hearing before the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, July 13, 2011, pages 209-210
The mail order bride industry- the perpetuation of transnational inequalities and stereotypes. Christine S.Y. Chun, 17 U. Pa. J. Int’l L. 1155 (1996)
Topographies of love- two discourses on the Russian “mail-order bride” industry Paolo Heywood, The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology, Vol. 29, No. 2 (2009), pp. 26-45