Domestic Violence

Violence against women is defined as any act of gender-based violence, which results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion, or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life. Violence occurring in the family or domestic unit therefore includes, inter alia, physical and mental aggression, emotional and psychological abuse, rape and sexual abuse, incest, rape between spouses, regular or occasional partners and cohabitants, crimes committed in the name of honour, female genital and sexual mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women, such as forced marriages

The Council of Europe outlines a three-fold formula to combat domestic violence:

  1. Prevention
  2. Protection of Victims
  3. Provision of services to Victims

Public awareness and education
Local, regional and national authorities should ensure that all children and young people are exposed to primary prevention work which promotes respectful relationships and non-violence conflict resolution

Regular public awareness campaigns, challenging the widespread cultural acceptance of violence against women, and emphasising that domestic and sexual violence should not be tolerated, should be developed throughout Europe, using all media including local and regional radio and television. The issue of violence against women as a violation of women’s human rights should also be included within the curricula of all schools and colleges, with the aims of promoting respectful relationships, gender equality and non-violent conflict resolution, and linked to health and social education, and anti-bullying campaigns. For example, the Multi-agency strategy for domestic abuse, Sheffield (United Kingdom) 2004-2007 strategy set public awareness and culture change as a lead target.

Safety is always the first consideration. Victims of domestic violence will be living in fear for much of the time – and with good reason. Many of them will be seriously injured or killed by their partners, former partners and in some cases other family members, if they are unable to access appropriate reliable and effective protection at the right time.

Access to legal protection:
There should be a clear national or regional legislative framework that provides protective measures through legislation and which prioritises safety and effective risk management in

Local, regional and national authorities should ensure the availability of sufficient emergency and temporary accommodation (ideally within a refuge/shelter) for survivors of domestic and sexual violence, with appropriate accompanying specialist support services.
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Health and mental health provision
All staff working in health services should have awareness of domestic and sexual violence issues, access to information and other resources, and appropriate skills to identify and respond to those experiencing abuse

AEQUITAS supports the following methodologies:
I) Multi-agency approach.
Case study – Austria : In Austria, there is a network of specialist women’s organisations, including shelters, counselling centres, intervention projects and helplines. Government-funded domestic violence intervention centres were introduced in each of the nine Austrian provinces as an integral part of the Austrian Protection against Violence Bill. This legislation, which closely links legal and social measures, has taken an innovative approach which has become the model for other countries.

Case Study – Sweden: The Centre Against Violence is the result of an organised co-operation between the municipality of Umeå, Västerbotten County Council, Umeå University, the Swedish Police, the Swedish Board of Prosecution Authority and the National Board of Forensic Medicine. It brings together health care experts from the regional level, and social workers and volunteers from women’s shelters from the local level. The different professions all work together in the Centre.

II) Multi-disciplinary approach:
Case-study- Belgium: In Antwerp and other regions, a multidisciplinary approach has been developed to cover all kinds of family violence. This approach involves a variety of agencies, including police, social care, women’s NGOs, children’s services, local authorities, health care, and perpetrators’ services. They focus on responding to crisis, ending the violence, victim care, help for children, perpetrator programmes, and keeping the issue of domestic violence on the political and public agenda. In the near future, they will be developing joint protocols for responding to abuse, developing training. Funding is received from national, regional and local governments but is not sufficient to develop the approach further.