Sociologist: 15-year study confirms Estonia's need for domestic violence laws (1)

By Marju Kaasik
3/5/2016 2:11 AM
Category: News

A 15-year study conducted by the Estonian Institute for Open Society revealed that while abuse victims' trust in the authorities has increased, many victims continue to fall between the cracks and fail to get the support they need, and that it is necessary for Estonia to develop laws regarding domestic violence and abuse.

Research conducted by the Estonian Institute for Open Society reveals that women experience abuse most often in the home, a trend which has not seen any changes over the past 15 years. By contrast, however, the level of abuse overall has fallen, reported ETV news broadcast “Aktuaalne kaamera”.

In 2001, 19% of respondents reported having experienced emotional abuse; in 2015, that number fell to 12%. In the past 15 years, the number of respondents reporting having experienced physical abuse has fallen by five percent, while during the same period, the number of respondents reporting sexual abuse has remained the same; two percent of women responding to the survey report having been victims of sexual abuse. Over the same period of time, however, the total number of police reports of domestic violence has grown.

“These results were not surprising to us,” explained Chief of the Police and Border Guard Board’s Bureau of Prevention and Criminal Procedure, Kätlin Alvela. “We know that the number of reports has grown by a third, and we consider this to be a positive indication that people feel they can turn to us, that they trust the police, and perhaps that they better understand the nature of abuse.”

Police confirmed that they will follow up on domestic abuse cases regardless of whether or not the victim withdraws her police report. Unfortunately, the research performed by the Estonian Institute for Open Society shows that victims of violence can still end up falling between the cracks.

“We need better integrated solutions. It is not enough for us to just call on people to come forth and report things to us,” said Iris Pettai, a sociologist at the Estonian Institute for Open Society. “That of course is also important, but what then? What happens after the police patrols have come and gone from the home? What can be done to keep things from ending with just 13% of cases of mistreatment making it to court and seeing the perpetrators punished?”

In Pettai’s opinion, Estonia is in need of domestic violence laws. Women’s shelters, which struggle with a chronic lack of money, cannot accommodate those in need to the necessary extent. Few women in domestic abuse situations need actual shelter; they are more in need of moral support and legal advice.

“Out of 533 cases last year, just 42 women were in shelters. Clearly the majority need psychological help, which we have unfortunately barely been able to provide because we are only allotted 14 free hours of psychological counseling for the whole of Harju County,” explained Inga Mikiver, Director of the Tallinn Crisis Centre for Women.

Much of domestic violence continues to go on behind closed doors, remaining unrecorded in any registries and leaving authorities without a full picture.

Editor: Aili Sarapik

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