Europe, Gender, Headlines, Human Rights

EUROPE: Violence Comes Home

Sabina Zaccaro

ROME, Mar 2 2010 (IPS) - Development does not protect women. The number of women physically and psychologically abused at home is at alarming levels across Europe.

 Credit: Cartoon by Claudius

Credit: Cartoon by Claudius

Despite tighter laws and policies, domestic violence is on the rise at all levels of society, according to the Council of Europe, a grouping of 47 nations that promotes human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Its last report in 2006 indicates that 12 to 15 percent of European women above 16 suffer domestic abuse in a relationship.

Across differences in the social and legal environment, women suffer verbal, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, and then live with the consequences – chronic pain, sexually transmitted diseases, eating and sleeping disorders, alcohol abuse, job loss. The list is far longer.

Every minute on average in Britain the police receive a call from a member of the public requesting assistance with domestic abuse. Two women are murdered every week in England and Wales at the hands of their partners or ex-partners, according to data released by the Sussex police, and included in the latest report of Women against Violence in Europe (WAVE), a European network of women’s shelters.

“Political and public awareness of domestic violence, and the wider problem of violence against women, has improved, and there have been significant improvements in both statutory and voluntary sector services responses,” Nicola Harwin, chief executive of Women’s Aid Federation, the oldest national network of specialist domestic violence services in Britain tells IPS.

“However there is still much more to be done to provide effective protection and support for all victims of violence against women and their children.”

Women’s Aid supports the new government strategy to check violence against women and girls. The strategy includes measures to further protect victims, and tackle perpetrators. It brings also a new focus on prevention.

“We will be calling on all parties in the forthcoming general election to ensure that resources are identified to implement this strategy,” says Harwin.

Women’s Aid domestic and sexual violence services supported more than 108,690 women and 39,130 children last year, besides responding to more than 150,000 calls to the national domestic violence helpline.

In Italy, violence against women is rising. According to the latest report by the National Statistics Institute, ISTAT, 6.7 million women are estimated to have been victims of physical or sexual violence during their lifetime, out of a population of 60.3 million.

More than two million were stalked. The report says 690,000 women were victims of repeated violence by partners, often with their children as witnesses.

The Rome-based centre Differenza Donna (Different Woman) runs five shelters, one of them dedicated to migrant women. “We provide first assistance to women who risk their lives in unsafe homes, and then we help them gradually regain full self-respect before facing the world again,” says Dr. Emanuela Moroli, president of Differenza Donna.

Leaders of women’s organisations say more anti-violence centres have come up as a consequence of the Beijing platform of action. Born as private initiatives by doctors and rights activists, they turned into institutional entities to respond to the Beijing call.

Differenza Donna helps 1, 500 women yearly in Rome, 87-90 percent of them attacked by their partners. “In most cases they have been suffering physical and psychological abuses for years, under the threat ‘if you report, you’ll lose your children’.”

The women are often alone, says Moroli, with little help from their families of origin, who think marriage must be preserved under any circumstances. The centre has recently launched training programmes for police officials and health and care assistants for dealing with women victims.

In France, one woman is killed every three days in domestic violence, according to the interior ministry. A national police study in 2008 revealed that 156 women were murdered by their partner or ex-partner, while 27 men were killed in comparable circumstances. Nine children were murdered by their fathers. The deaths represent 16 percent of the national total of homicides.

Republish | | Print |

Related Tags

se z