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Intimate partner violence cases haven't dropped in a year

At a women's support center.
At a women's support center. Source: Ministry of Sociel Affairs

So far this year, 8,000 cases of intimate partner violence have been recorded, and the number is expected to increase several times in one day during the holiday season, while support specialists are not equally available throughout Estonia.

Estonia is among the top five countries in the European Union for the number of reports of intimate partner violence.

This indicates both the violence itself and a high awareness of the need for help. Both this year and last year, the number of reports of intimate partner violence registered by the police at the beginning of December was around 8,000.

"Domestic violence continues to be a serious problem. We have not seen a decrease in police calls or crime reports. There is little hope of a significant decline in the coming years," Pille Tsopp-Pagan, CEO of the Women's Support and Information Center, said.

The number of victims usually doubles or even triples during the holiday season, and the same is expected for the upcoming Christmas and New Year's holidays.

"I'm not saying it will increase on Christmas Eve; women usually arrive at women's support centers a few days after that. However, the police is usually busier on those evenings," Tsopp-Pagan said.

The majority of cases involve physical violence, while cases of psychological violence often go unreported. Anna Liisa Uisk, criminal policy advisor at the Ministry of Justice, also stressed the importance of the bystander or supporter.

"There is still a very widespread perception that what goes on in the family is an internal matter and should not be interfered with from the outside, but is time for this perception to change," Uisk said.

When someone gets hurt, it is often presumed that they did something to cause it, which contributes to the tendency to blame the victim and not to intervene.

It is also often assumed that victims of intimate partner violence should have been able to predict and prevent whatever problem might have befallen them. 

Every year, a couple of thousand women with children come to support centers across Estonia. Eha Reitelmann, the head of the Estonian Women's Shelters Union, said that it is important that the country's budgetary cutbacks do not affect specialists dealing with cases of violence.

Support centers now operate in every county, but there is a shortage of support specialists.

"We have very good specialists in Tallinn and Tartu, but the situation is worse in the provinces when it comes to psychologists and lawyers," Reitelmann said.

She added that many problems could be prevented if people had better relationship skills – the ability to manage their emotions, assert themselves and resolve conflicts.

At a women's support center. Source: Ministry of Social Affairs

The women's support center offers:

  • Primary psychosocial crisis support 24/7 both by phone and on site at the support center.
  • Counseling to help coping with what happened. 
  • Psychological counseling or psychotherapy.
  • Legal advice. 
  • Safe temporary accommodation.

To contact the support center call your nearest support center 24/7. Women's support centers operate in all counties of Estonia (phone numbers listed in the link)

Call the victim assistance crisis line 116 006 (from abroad +372 614 7393) and ask for advice on finding the nearest women's support center.

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Editor: Marko Tooming, Kristina Kersa

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