From November 25 to December 10, public and state organizations from more than 100 countries of the world will step up their efforts for the sake of a unifying goal: to increase understanding and awareness of all forms of violence, to create a social space, free from violence, in a particular region or individual country. The annual action “16 days against violence” was initiated by the First World Institute for Women’s Leadership in 1991. A few years ago, Ukraine also joined. The dates of the action are symbolic: November 25th is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, December 10th is the International Human Rights Day.

“One of the main indicators of a healthy society is zero tolerance to violence, to any of its manifestations,” Pavlo Zamostiyan, deputy chairman of UNFPA in Ukraine (The United Nations Population Fund)said. “But it is important not only to be intolerant but also to actively show one’s position: talk about what is troubling, set limits on acceptable behaviour and seek help when it is needed. Only these steps together will help break the cycle of violence and build healthy relationships and families. The system of response to violence in Ukraine requires the creation, development and improvement”.

Violence is the scourge of society in any country in the world. Especially terrible when it concerns the family, breaks the lives of children, women, and men. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine in 2017 alone, 110,923 allegations of domestic violence were registered in the Ukrainian police. Experts believe that this is only 10-15% of the actual amount, and, in fact, we are talking about a million cases a year. Before a person seeks help, it experiences 7–10 cases of violence.

In varying degrees, about 80% of women face domestic violence at different times. “Not to wash dirty linen in public” is a well-known Ukrainian saying. Women do not seek help because they are afraid of retribution, publicity, or simply do not know where to turn. Moreover, keeping the domestic violence quiet is also promoted by the widespread opinion that this is acceptable.

According to the UNICEF Global Report on Violence in 2017, almost 300 million children between the ages of two and four years regularly become the victims of violent upbringing (physical punishment and aggression) by parents or guardians worldwide. In Ukraine, according to various sources, from 1 to 3 million children become witnesses or victims of domestic violence. Not only physical, but also psychological. And psychological violence is the first step to the physical, that is why it is important to stop it on time, the psychologists say.

“Domestic violence, unfortunately, is a huge problem in all countries,” the assistant to the chairman of the National Police, Andrii Tkachov says. “Whatever law has been adopted, the great role is that many people have a high tolerance to domestic violence. Most appeals to the police about domestic violence come from residents of big cities, regional centres. A much higher tolerance to this phenomenon is in rural areas and small cities. There, it is often considered “absolutely normal” to get drunk and beat. Unfortunately, the outcome is often fatal.”

According to a nationally representative online survey of men and women aged 18-56 years old, conducted in May-June 2018 throughout Ukraine, with the exception of the Crimea and uncontrolled territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, 45% encountered domestic violence in childhood and 31% in adulthood. The respondents believe that the consequences of violence experienced in childhood will be low self-esteem (66%), difficulties with controlling emotions (62%), difficulties with building relationships in adulthood (59%), reproducing violent behavior in adulthood (57%), delay or retard physical and mental development (47%), difficulties in communicating with peers (41%) later in life.

Nevertheless, although 65% of respondents consider themselves to be aware of the topic, by violence they mostly understand physical actions. 97% uniquely attribute beatings to violence. At the same time, 46% of men and 32% of women believe that in some cases the victim of domestic violence is guilty/provoke the aggressor itself. And 38% of men and 22% of women agree with the statement that other people should not interfere with the relationships, not knowing the whole story, even if they observe violence.

To change this attitude in society, the Law on the Prevention and Counteraction of Domestic Violence was adopted last year. It must operate in full strength from January 1, 2019. Now the Ministry of Social Policy is preparing about 40 regulations, decrees and orders so that all mechanisms start to work properly. In parallel, new tools are being introduced.

Thus, in Ukraine, seven shelters for victims of domestic violence are already open and there are 46 mobile brigades that should be part of the state system to react at domestic violence.

The topic of gender-based violence, including domestic violence, is broad and consists of a number of problematic issues. From the side of a person, who has suffered from violence, this is a continuous life problem. In a state of despair, such a person often does not know where to look for support, how to tackle the situation, what to do next. Sometimes, this person has neither the understanding nor the power to change anything in life. In such cases, specialized professional help is needed: skilled social workers, psychologists. Mobile teams are special groups, consisting of a psychologist and a social worker, who provide social and psychological assistance to victims of domestic violence, including children, or come to the call at the site, or provide assistance in their own premises, or redirect the victim to the right specialists or competent people, organs.

You can find tips on what to do if you are a victim or witness of violence, as well as lists of hotlines and mobile teams of social and psychological assistance that operate today in various cities of Ukraine, on www.bezpekavdoma.com and rozirvykolo.org/contacts.html.

Unfortunately, not so many people know about the work of mobile teams of social and psychological assistance. 43% of Ukrainian believe that law enforcement agencies and police can help in case of domestic violence. However, domestic violence will be qualified as a crime only from January 2019. While the police do not really understand what to do in such cases, and they are not very willing to do so.

A year ago, Opinion already reported that the Ministry of Internal Affairs initiated the pilot project “Police Network for Countering Domestic Violence” – “POLINA”, which provides the operation of a network of mobile police teams in localities, which include prevention units (local and juvenile officers) and patrolmen. Mobile groups should respond to messages about family conflicts, respectively, record the detected facts of violence and process them in a procedural way.

In early June 2017, the pilot project started to work in Darnytsya, district of Kyiv, in Malynovsky district of Odesa and in Severodonetsk. On October 15, 2018, the United Nations Population Fund, in cooperation with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the National Police, began a series of training for employees of mobile groups “POLINA” in Vinnytsya, Zaporizhzhya, Lviv, Mykolayiv and Kherson regions. Their participants receive the necessary knowledge about the concept of domestic violence, its psychological aspects, forms, causes and conditions of manifestation, the legal framework for preventing and counteracting this phenomenon, as well as the issues of police interaction with other state and non-governmental organizations in the system of providing comprehensive assistance to victims. In an interactive classroom, the police also practically improve their skills in response to domestic violence, using the examples of the developed scenarios.

In addition, the police work with psychologists. They are taught how to get involved in a conflict, not to take any side, how to identify the aggressor and the victim. Sometimes, against the background of a outwardly calm aggressor, the victim, while under stress, may look unprofitable. Therefore, a police officer may make a mistake in determining who is who. And differences in the views of police about domestic violence vary even by region.

“The mentality is different and whether a person accepts violence or not,” Andrii Tkachov says. “Sometimes, some may justify violence without knowing it. It is important to understand that there is no situation that could justify domestic violence. Our task is to form zero tolerance to violence in all its manifestations.”

Soon, the police will have a new function – the ability to issue an urgent prohibiting order, when leaving for a call on domestic violence. The main change is that, arriving at the call, the police officer will have to conduct a risk assessment according to a special procedure. If the risk of continuing of violence is high, the police officer will be able to write out an urgent prohibiting order for a period of 10 days, by selecting one, two or all three presumptive obligations simultaneously: leave the place of stay of the victim; a ban on entry and stay in the place of residence or stay off the victim and a ban on any contact with a victim. It is not always necessary to evict the owner of an apartment: the place of stay can be changed by a victim by going to a shelter, to her friends or to relatives. The main thing is to interrupt the act of violence and gain time so that she could be able to figure out what to do next. The police will tell you where to go for help. Now, according to the law, a victim has the right to a free consultation and to a free state lawyer.

The whole system should work well, efficiently, and smoothly. It is necessary to work actively on reintegration and rehabilitation, so that then conflict situations do not arise again.

The new law also provides for a claim for restrictive regulations. It will be longer-term from 1 to 6 months with the possibility of extension for another six months. Restrictions can be selected in contact, in cohabitation, in approximation to a certain distance to the victim. At this time, the court sends the aggressor to the correction. This is a specially designed program for offenders, which they must pass.

It is important that at this time a victim also undergoes rehabilitation for those, who face the violence. Often, violence begins with the fact that the aggressor prohibits talking to family, friends, prohibits working. The victim becomes dependent on him psychologically, and often – financially. Programs for victims help to return back to society, to find work gradually.

“Intolerance must be against any kind of violence, and it is the police that must protect the rights of all citizens without exception. If the police can react correctly to such cases, then people will eventually understand that violence cannot be justified in any way,” Andrii Tkachov said.

“Do you remember how they neutralize the effect of some evil wizard in fairy tales?” child psychologist Svitlana Royz said.It should be called by name. As soon as we call that name, it ceases to own us. There are many people, who are afraid to hear the diagnosis. But this disease will not disappear. Now our society has this diagnosis: we are infected with a virus of aggression. And this concerns not only schools but also our homes, society. And there is no one guilty. It seems to me that we now have to replace the word ‘fault’ with ‘responsibility’. We are all responsible for this.”

What if you witness child abuse?

The algorithm of action from Zoya Melnyk, the police patrol of the Odesa region:

“1. Depending on the circumstances: if you can stop the violence – stop it. If you can take pictures – do it, at this time call (necessarily) 102 (video evidence will not be superfluous, but the explanations of the witnesses are also evidence).

Remember about personal safety!

Remember that you will not help a child by fighting with the abuser, but you will even more traumatize it and convince that who is stronger is right.

2. On arrival of the police write a statement/explanation, take pictures, just in case, or go to the regional department and register the statement there, pick up a piece of paper with a number.

3. If suddenly the police did not arrive – do not hesitate to call again and again, to demand the company commander and write a complaint on the fact of inadequate response.

It is necessary to register a complaint.

Do not be indifferent! One may criticize the Ukrainian legislation, the national police and other bodies that should protect. But criticism will not save children from violence. But our help and caring will.”

 Text by Hanna Drozd

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