Victim support staff at the Social Insurance Board provided counseling to people on 11,300 occasions in 2019. A total of 4,871 people came to counseling for the first time last year, while the number of people to turn to victim support for help was up by one third compared to 2018.
Reasons for seeking victim support were mostly related to domestic violence. However, aid was also provided regarding other offenses, accidents and other traumatic events.
Victim support services have been offered to those in need for 15 years, and more than 32,000 people have received help from victim support staff in Estonia over the years. According to Jako Salla, director of the board's Victim Support and Prevention Services Department, access to aid has expanded considerably over the years.
"For victim support workers, located mainly in the same building as the police, victim support now includes women's shelter services, sexual violence crisis centers as well as services for victims of trafficking and prostitution," Salla said. "At the beginning of last year, we launched the Victim Support Helpline at 116 006, and in every county there are also MARAC expert groups set up to assist victims whose lives and health are directly threatened by domestic violence. Social programs for perpetrators of violence have been launched as well."
Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik (Center) said that unfortunately, domestic violence continues to be a major concern, with women being the main victims thereof. Victim support professionals' daily work involves assisting them in many ways, but it is equally important to understand that everyone shapes society's values and norms, which condemn violence, with their messages.
Salla added that the number of those who have received help has increased significantly over the last few years. Last year, too, the number of instances in which people contacted victim support was up by one third on year.
"Above all, this demonstrates people's courage to notice and report any incidents of violence," he said. "In order to reduce violence, we need to grow as a society, dare to step out, notice and communicate."
Salla also noted that the increase in the number of people to receive help is definitely due to increased awareness of victims' needs. "Without a doubt, having the dedicated work of police and the Prosecutor's Office in identifying those in need and informing victims of the opportunities of victim support has also had a significant impact on it," he added.
To mark the 15th year of operation of victim support, open houses will be held across Estonia from January to April to introduce victim support services and opportunities to the public. This Friday, a formal anniversary event will also be held in Tallinn to recognize and thank partners and helpers of victim support.
Editor: Aili Vahtla