The people at Pro Prietenia have their share of really serious issues which they deal with on a regular basis. From human trafficking to offenders and also victims of domestic violence, those are some of the topics that are very dear to our foundation. With that in mind, in January, we together with volunteers from Ofensiva Tinerilor, had a course about domestic violence from Pro Prietenia’s main lawyer, Adina Moisa.
Even though all of us were more or less aware of this scourge, the information presented by Adina still gave us a lot of food for thoughts, breaking several misconceptions that some of us had. For instance, the first thing people need to know about domestic violence is how (sadly) universal it is. It goes beyond culture, religion, social status, race, age and even sex.
“Battering or beating is a form of physical domestic violence just as common in the developed as the developing world. In fact, the number one form of injury sustained by women in the United States is battering by an intimate partner.“ (Font: http://worldsavvy.org/)
But after all what is domestic violence? In a nutshell according to the Legal Dictionary (http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com) is:
“Any abusive, violent, coercive, forceful, or threatening act or word inflicted by one member of a family or household on another can constitute domestic violence.”
This is indeed a very specific sort of crime that only happens among family members, and can be express in several ways:
– Physical: The oppressor uses force in order to have control over the victim, inducting all sorts of physical injuries. This can also be applied to the depravation of the basic means to sustain one’s health such as medicine, food or even sleep.
– Sexual: Not only the attempt of having any sort of sexual contact with the victim without consent, but also the act of exposing her/his sexuality to others by force (ex: prostitution). Domestic sexual violence can also be expressed in psychological ways such as: mistreating the person’s sexual abilities or even withholding sex.
– Psychological: It all comes down to the action of inducting fear in the person, which can be done for example by threats, blackmail, harassments, mind games, stalking or the attempt of isolating the victim from family friends or social life.
– Emotional: Degrading the victim’s self esteem and sense of worth by constant criticism on the victim’s abilities and competencies, insults, feeling manipulation, or induction of guilt.
– Economic: Making the victim economical dependent on the oppressor by taking control of the victim’s financial resources. (Font: http://www.woodbridgedvrt.org)
Needless to say that every country has its own way to deal with such matter when it comes to the law and the consequent punishments applied to the offenders. Even if during communism this was in a way neglected, nowadays Romania does have a strong hand when it comes to penalties to aggressors, having their first legislature back in 2003 with Law no. 217/2003 on the prevention of family violence (font: Wikipedia), which was finally amended in 2012.
“Romania’s criminal code imposes stronger sanctions, including longer jail sentences, for violent offenses committed against family members than for similar offenses which are committed against non-family members;” (font:http://www.stopvaw.org)
Having said that it is not at all surprising that Romania also has to deal with such problem, and in the case of this Eastern European country, it is the women that take the biggest slice of the cake that comprise the victims of domestic violence.
“In Romania, The National Agency for Family Protection reports approx. 9500 cases of domestic violence per year for the two past years, 73% being against women.” (Font: http://www.transitionsgate.org/)
However, the same font also warns us that those numbers can be somehow distorted considering what the reality really is, and many cases fail to reach the authorities.
“Nonetheless, these statistics underestimate the reality of domestic violence, which in most situations, is carried from generation to generation as “normal” behavior. Experts estimate that the more accurate number of domestic violence is approximately six times higher than reported.” (Font: http://www.transitionsgate.org/)
Romanian women in wedding dresses protesting against domestic violence, in Bucharest. (font: http://turkey.setimes.com/)
Just like in many crimes such as human trafficking, sometimes the biggest obstacles for those who fight it are actually the victims themselves, who fail to report the abuses they’ve been subjected to, due to many reasons. Some of them are the obvious fear of consequences, whether physical or psychological, the shame of being faced as a victim of domestic violence especially (if we consider people of an higher social status), and sometimes even the total lack of knowledge that they are actually being victims of a crime, by facing the aggressor’s actions as normal behaviors. Some victims also do tend to adopt a somehow passive attitude towards the abuses for fear of losing the “loved one”, by constantly forgiving the aggressor’s actions, in the hopes of an eventual change of attitude.
Cardboard silhouettes representing women mortally victims of domestic violence in Bucharest, Romania. (font: http://www.thehindu.com/)
These reasons, while being absolutely comprehensible, do warn us about the complexity of the problem, that sometimes things are not black and white and stronger reasons counter the apparently logic decisions.
On the other hand raising awareness against domestic violence is nowadays sort of a hot topic, with information being disseminated throughout the whole web, and NGOs who fight against domestic violence being created in almost every country in the world, opening a small door for a brighter future for all the victims of this scourge.