25 November is the international day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, which -as you know-is close to my heart.
Domestic violence is still a huge issue across the globe, and we know that since march 2020-the outbreak of COVID- data reports have shown that all types of violence against women and girls, particularly domestic violence, has intensified. Essential services like the helplines and shelters helping victims of domestic violence have reached their capacity. It is clear that more needs to be done to prioritize addressing violence against women in these times.
We need not only more funding to ensure essential services for survivors of violence, we also need to focus on prevention, and collection of data that can improve life-saving services.
Why we must eliminate violence against women
If that was not already evident, violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations in our world today remains largely unreported due to the impunity, silence, stigma and shame surrounding it.
The adverse psychological, sexual and reproductive health consequences affect women at all stages of their life. For example, early-set educational disadvantages not only represent the primary obstacle to universal schooling and the right to education for girls; down the line they are also to blame for restricting access to higher education and even translate into limited opportunities for women in the labour market.
The Center of Prevention of domestic violence in Belgium published a very hands-on list on what to do if we are victim of violence or a person close to the victim. I share this advice with you:
What can you do as a person close to the victim?
Point out to the person that it took a lot of courage to dare to talk about their experience of violence.
Avoid any criticism towards the victim because the latter already feels guilty of the mistreatment exercised against him.
Listen to the victim’s words and avoid advice.
Suggest avenues of contact to be made with specialized services.
Offer concrete help to the victim, such as providing temporary accommodation, assisting them with the procedures with the competent services (Police, hospital, CPAS, our Center, etc.)
In addition, do not hesitate to get support from a service specializing in listening so that you are not alone when faced with this kind of difficult situation.
What to do as a victim?
Talking about your experience with family, friends, with specialized services can help break the loneliness of the victim.
The victim can also contact specialized services, including the Center for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence, which will give him the opportunity to speak discreetly about the difficulties encountered within the marriage. Indeed, she has a great need to be listened to and believed in what she expresses (fear of the partner, attachment to him, hesitation to leave him, …). Listening and support work is necessary for a relationship of trust to be established. The person will be informed that they have the right to leave, to protect themselves and their children. Individual support can be offered. This help can relate to social, legal, administrative and / or psychological aspects.
Police services can intervene in urgent cases without necessarily having to file a complaint or prosecute.
The victim can contact certain legal services and / or a lawyer (paying or « free » within the framework of the legal assistance office) and / or family mediator in order either to obtain precise information or to provide advice. » initiate criminal or civil proceedings.
In some cases, the victim may have to leave her home and ask for accommodation to feel protected, escape the violence and regain power over his life, make choices and feel supported in these.
In practice, if you are a victim:
If the violence starts to set in, try to set your limits as quickly as possible. If you cannot do it on your own, get help from professionals in the helping relationship (family planners, psychologists, centers specializing in domestic violence, etc.).
You can work on the relationship as a couple if the situation allows it; If, however, you are the only one who wants to change the relationship, individual interviews will be possible.
If you feel in danger, call the Police, dial 101.
After an episode of violence, you are advised to file a complaint with the Police. Within it, a Victims Assistance Service can help you with this process.
You can leave the home if you wish, taking your children with you. The notion of abandonment of domicile cannot be held against you. If you wish, to avoid any administrative problem, report your departure to your neighbourhood agent.
Hope you find this list useful, please share it with your friends.
Let’s continue to fight together!