A survey conducted on relationships by state agency Statistics Estonia finds that domestic violence and other abuse is most commonly found in the context of an intimate partner relationship, while both women and men can be victims.
Jana Bruns, project manager at Statistics Estonia, said the large-scale relationship survey, "Safe relationships within family, at work and outside work," collected information on both psychological and physical harassment, stalking, as well as hidden violence at home, at work, at school, and elsewhere.
Bruns said: "In order to better understand relationship patterns, people's experiences of abuse involving current and previous partners, as well as in childhood, were examined."
While the survey analyzed both relationships from both a women's and a men's perspective, Statistics Estonia says, these are not comparable in the sense that the mechanisms of experiencing violence differ between the sexes.
The survey also collected data on non-partner violence, physical or sexual domestic violence (i.e. any violence that occurs within the home, excluding violence committed by an intimate partner), and on the use and awareness of support services.
This was the first survey of its kind and scale Statistics Estonia has carried out, and its results point to several areas of concern in Estonian people's intimate relationships.
As many as 41 percent of women have experienced intimate partner violence of all kinds, during the course of their lifetime, while 39 percent of women have suffered psychological violence. Thirteen percent had experienced physical violence (including threats), and 9 percent had suffered sexual violence, the agency says.
Young women aged 18-29 were the most likely to have experienced violence, while older women (aged 65-74) were the least likely, according to the survey.
For men, bearing in mind the distinction made above, Statistics Estonia says that exactly one third reported having experienced intimate partner violence during the course of their lifetime.
Slightly fewer, 32 percent of the total, had suffered psychological abuse, 8 percent physical abuse and 1 percent sexual abuse, in the context of an intimate relationship.
Younger men (aged 18-29) were the most likely to have experienced violence (39 percent of the total), while older men (65-74) were the least likely (24 percent), suggesting a growth in the problem – though Bruns qualified this by noting that it can also be assumed that men from the younger generation perceive and define violence somewhat differently than their elders do.
"In the case of men, the limitations of daily activities, their level of education, and place of residence do not significantly affect whether or not they have experienced intimate partner violence," Bruns noted.
"What was considered normal 50 or 60 years ago is now classified as violence in people's minds," Bruns concluded.
Women at basic education (ie. the mandatory level of education in Estonia) or lower (48 percent of the total) and women with certain limitations in everyday activities for health reasons (50 percent) were more likely than average to suffer intimate partner violence.
"Whether a woman lives in an urban or rural area does not significantly affect the incidence of violence," Bruns added.
As many as a third of women respondents reported having experienced sexual harassment at work; again there was an age differential.
"There is a clear trend here – the younger the respondents, the more likely they are to have experienced sexual harassment," explained the Statistics Estonia project manager.
Among the 18-29 age group, the proportion of women who have experienced sexual harassment at work rises to 52 percent, compared with 16 percent of women aged 65–74.
As for the harassers, the study found that women are most likely to feel sexually harassed by their male colleagues and by male clients – 11 percent of the total and 10 percent, respectively.
Five percent of respondents perceive this form of harassment from their male bosses or supervisors.
"Women also experience sexual harassment from other women, though seldom – 2 percent of respondents from female colleagues; less than 1 percent from superiors and clients," Bruns said.
Men, too, have experienced sexual harassment at work during the course of their working lives so far – 17 percent of men respondents to the survey said that they had.
In 4 percent of cases, this was from another male colleague or colleagues; 6 percent of respondents said they have experienced it from a "male person they do not wish to or cannot specify."
Harassment of this kind by male bosses and clients was rarely experienced by men – 1 percent in both cases.
Three percent of men have experienced harassment from a female colleague, and 5 percent from an unspecified female person.
"1 percent of [men] respondents have perceived harassment coming from female bosses or supervisors, and 2 percent from female clients," Bruns added.
Statistics Estonia compiled the above survey on behalf of the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Social Affairs.
Statistics Estonia says the relationship survey reveals how Estonia's inhabitants rate the quality of their relationships at home, at work, and elsewhere. The knowledge generated by the survey allows an assessment of the quality and safety of human relationships, and the state can use this information to help people in the best possible way. The survey also shows how far the Estonian society is in the development of human rights and social policy and how we compare with other countries. The survey is conducted in all EU countries on the basis of a reliable and comparable methodology.
In the first instance of a threat to your life or well-being, or to that of others, the police and the emergency services can be reached on the pan-European 112 number (operators speak English).
If you need advice and support, the 24-hour Victim Support Helpline is on 116 006.
If you do not wish to make a call or are unable to, the victim support website in English is here.
Editor: Andrew Whyte