Protecting victims of domestic violence and preventing crimes against women and children – Swedish experience

In April 2013 I participated in an informational trip to Sweden as part of exchange devoted to protection of women and children from family violence. This trip was organized by INGO Crisis centre for women (Saint Petersburg) and National Association of Crisis Centres for Women (Stockholm) in order to study the Swedish system of inter-organizational cooperation involving members of parliament, police, coroners, social services and crisis centres for women for immediate protection against family violence and prevention of violence. Russian journalists, workers of NGOs and social services were members of the delegation to Sweden.

The program of the trip was both rich and interesting. We visited National centre for fighting violence against women in Uppsala, Centre for working with family violence, section of a hospital where women-victims of domestic violence are kept, editorial office of “Aftonbladet” newspaper, National association of crisis centres for women (SKR), Riksdag (Swedish parliament). We also saw the work of a special police patrol, which deals with the problem of violence against women. Colleagues from Sweden shared their experience, knowledge and methods of defending the rights of women who had become victims of violence from the men they had relations with. They told us about the approach to such cases, which requires extreme delicacy, as well as expertise of psychologists, lawyers and medical personnel.

It was interesting for us to hear about the work of journalists in prevention of domestic violence. The staff of the biggest Stockholm newspaper “Aftonbladet” told us about international project “She was killed for being a woman” as part of which stories of murdered women were studied and publicized, interviews with relatives published, statistical data analyzed. A series of reports and articles had wide repercussions in the society. As a result of that changes were introduced into the Swedish legislation, special regulations were adopted for police officers and workers of social services. Swedish government has established a comission to create a special program for fighting violence against women.

Comparing this to the situation in Russia one can say that Sweden adopts effective measures to fight violence against women. In Russia even proper reporting of the problem of domestic violence in the media is lacking, not to mention that in many cases police remains passive when domestic violence is reported by women who fell victims of their husbands or partners.

One of the main problems is the silence of victims in cases of domestic violence. The reason for this is often their reluctance to bring the problems outside of the household because the public opinion often considers violence against women as something quite natural, acceptable, as an internal family affair. In Russia this problem is still not being publicly discussed. Often the guilt for family violence is transferred back onto the women victims (“she provoked her husband to act in such a way”). Ancient stereotypes and living patriarchal traditions are the negative factors which provide for spread of domestic violence against women. But Swedish experience shows that these attitudes should and could be effectively fought against.

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