The number of incidents of domestic violence increases significantly during the holiday period. The Ministry of Social Affairs, the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA), the Social Insurance Board and the Prosecutor's Office are encouraging everyone to take notice of and report domestic violence.
Police in Estonia receive an average of 30 domestic violence-related calls per day, but the number of calls increases severalfold during the holidays. Last Christmas Day, for example, police received 50 domestic violence calls, and on New Year's Day, they received a total of 117 calls, according to a ministry press release.
"The police take every lead on domestic violence very seriously, and do everything they can to remove the violent person from their family in order to ensure their victims' safety," Pärnu Police Station chief Üllar Kütt said.
Removing the violent individual helps create the necessary sense of safety for the victims, State Prosecutor Karin Talviste said. "It also definitely increases their readiness to accept help," she added.
In nearly one third of incidents of domestic violence, children are either witnesses or themselves victims.
"In families where one parent is the one committing violence and the other is the victim, children are very vulnerable," said Kaja Rattas, district manager at the Child Protection Department of the Social Insurance Board. "Witnessing violence has serious negative effects on a child. In that light, bystanders taking notice and responding [to violence] is of decisive importance."
Mari Tikerpuu, head of the trilingual Ohvriabi victim support crisis hotline, is encouraging any victims and loved ones to call the crisis hotline in order to talk about and beter understand potential dangers in abusive relationships.
"Professional support is guaranteed to victims 24 hours per day," Tikerpuu said. "Domestic violence is a typically recurring and escalating crime which is possible to escape."
One can also contact their local victim support worker directly. Victim support workers are located at police stations throughout Estonia, and provide victims with emotional support as well as share information regarding resources available to them. It is not necessary to file a police report in order to contact a victim support worker; they may be contacted anonymously.
Several women's shelters likewise operate throughout the country, the goal of which is to provide victims of violence against women with comprehensive support in removing themselves from a violent situation.
Domestic violence in numbers
In 2019, police have been notified of domestic violence nearly 16,000 times. A criminal investigation was launched into approximately a third of these cases.
This year, police have received more domestic violence calls than average in May, June and July.
In 2019, a total of 65 percent of people committing abuse were visibly under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Over the past five years, a total of 45 people in Estonia have died as a result of domestic violence crimes, including 25 women and 20 men.
The majority of severe instances of domestic violence crimes were committed in the home.
What to do
If you yourself are subject to violence or you hear yelling, cries for help or see violence being used, call emergency services at 112.
Avoid attempting to resolve a conflict yourself — the abuser may also attack bystanders.
Encourage the victim to seek help and turn to the police, to victim support, a women's shelter or a doctor to document evidence of physical violence.
The trilingual Estonian-Russian-English victim support crisis hotline Ohvriabi can be reached at 116 006. Contacts for Ohvriabi and women's shelters can also be found online at www.palunabi.ee.
If you see a child in distress, call the Child Helpline at 116 111 or write to www.lasteabi.ee.
It's important that children know that if they ever have any concerns that they can't talk to their parents about for any reason, they can share them with their doctor, their teacher, a police officer or other trusted adult.
Editor: Aili Vahtla