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Project Harmony Domestic Violence
March 14-20, 2002
Conference Overview - Polina Makievsky
Project Harmony - Georgia
Introduction: Online Conference Brings Together Domestic Violence Professionals from
Caucasus, Russia and Ukraine (Full report at Project Harmony Domestic Violence
Online Conference March 14-20, 2002, Conference Overview
The problem of Domestic Violence (DV), long explored as a societal problem in many western countries, is now being shown the attention it deserves in the countries of the Former Soviet Union (FSU). Diverse initiatives in the FSU have brought about change in legislation, social services, medical services and public awareness of the problem of DV. Today, numerous organizations work towards researching the scope and nature of DV in their countries, opening women's shelters and DV crisis centers, professionals are being trained to screen and treat DV victims and activist groups have organized effective lobbying campaigns to create legislation that gives women unprecedented rights to protect themselves from abuse. These initiatives are indicative of important steps being taken in the FSU to adequately address, however, the level of development has thus far been unequal in the various countries throughout the FSU. One primary challenge that has been noted by professionals working in this field is the overall lack of coordination of activities happening within countries. Experience of western counterparts has shown that the community coordinated response model, a multi-sector strategy for combating DV, has been the most effective – however – this approach clearly necessitates coordinated action and the work of coalition based initiatives.
To begin the process of action coordination and the development of loose professional coalitions that advocate for social change in relation to the problem of DV, Project Harmony, a US-based non-profit organization (www.projectharmony.ge) organized an Online Conference that gathered over 50 professionals from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Russia, Tajikistan and Ukraine to participate in a 5-day conference on DV.
This conference was a part of Project Harmony's Domestic Violence Community Partnership Program (DVCPP), which has worked to promote a community-coordinated response to DV in seven cities throughout Russia, Ukraine and Georgia through training with international DV specialists, organization of professional coalitions, and development of public awareness campaigns to elevate the general public's knowledge about DV.
The Domestic Violence Online Conference and the Domestic Violence Community Partnership Program are sponsored by the US Department of State's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.
The primary objective of the Online Conference was to bring together diverse professionals from several FSU countries to communicate about the progress of their DV prevention work and explore avenues for future collaboration. This conference was intended to be a pilot event that would demonstrate to international and local organizations the need for continued DV activities as well as the priority areas for training, outreach and advocacy development.
The three main goals of the conference, as presented to the conference participants on the invitation and conference space were:
- To gather together professionals working in the sphere of DV from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Russia and Ukraine to discuss strategies and approaches to preventing DV
- Allow Project Harmony DVCPP staff to share their approaches of utilizing a community Coordinated Response strategy to combating DV with their colleagues in Armenia and Azerbaijan
- Explore the possibility of collaboration and the exchange of information between specialists in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Russia, Ukraine and the United States
While Project Harmony staff initially had modest expectations for conference participation and set the participants' list at a limit of 20 participants from only the Caucasus (Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia), news of the conference was quickly disseminated through listservs and word-of-mouth and interest in participation immediately grew. By the conclusion of the conference, 56 participants from the countries of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Georgia, Russia, Tajikistan and Ukraine were registered on the conference space.
The conference participants represented a wide-cross section of professionals that are currently working on the issue of DV full-time or as part of larger initiatives. The participants included NGO professionals, legal experts, social service providers, public health workers, psychologists, educators, members of international NGOs and agencies and former Project Harmony DVCPP staff and coalition members.
In addition to the conference participants, Project Harmony invited Andrea Bernard and Diane Coffey, two DV specialists from the United States, who shared their expertise with the conference participants for a one-day question and answer panel. Ms. Bernard is Director of Operations and Communications for the Safe Havens Interfaith Partnership Against Domestic Violence. As a clinician, Ms Bernard worked with the Child Witness to Violence
Project at Boston Medical Center, providing therapeutic intervention, parent education and support to families with children ages 0-8 who have been affected by witnessing violence. Ms. Coffey is the Chief of the Victim Witness Assistance Program of the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office. She is responsible for the coordination of victim services in the DV Unit, the supervision of Victim Witness Advocates, the development of protocols, training and outreach initiatives.
For a full contact list of conference participants, please refer to Appendix II.
The online conference was hosted on a web-based software platform called Webcrossing, which was designed in such a way as to allow participants the opportunity to communicate ideas, hold discussions, exchange professional documents, meet one another and participate in a question and answer panel with US experts all in one space. The conference space is structured like a virtual message board that allowed participants to post messages, ask questions and post documents in different folders or "rooms" of the conference hall.
In no way is this on-line interactive forum intended to be seen as a replacement for human communication, however, as professionals working in an international setting, we cannot always have the luxury of meeting face-to-face. There are several distinct advantages to this kind of approach in organizing meetings and conferences:
- Participants from different countries, separated by different time zones have the opportunity to meet and have professional discussions with one another and post documents and materials
- Since all communication on online conferences consists of series of messages, the conference leaves behind written documentation of the discussions that took place – no ideas are lost
- Since online conferencing software are asynchronous tools (meaning they can be used by people communicating in different places at different times), this allowed participants to enter and leave conference discussions at a time convenient to them unlike live conferences which necessitate that people must meet with one another at fixed hours
- Online conferences are cost efficient – apart from the cost of staff time needed to organize this conference, the cost of this 50+-person conference was under $150 (costs accrued due to giving participants with no internet access small stipends to go to Internet cafes.)
Unlike email, which can be impersonal, this software would automatically post participants' pictures along with their messages, allowing participants to recognize one another and create a direct bond with other participants
A screen shot from the Online Conference Introductions and Greetings Space. Participants Narbat Mursagulova (Azerbaijan) and Yuliana Melkumyan (Armenia) introduce themselves.
An important thing to stress is that this is a very NEW technology and the field of on-line interaction is developing everyday. To ensure that participants felt comfortable using the software and communicating online, Project Harmony staff in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia conducted orientations for registered participants prior to the conference where they had the opportunity to demonstrate the online tools and allow participants to ask questions.
The conference space was divided up into several rooms or "discussion areas" which included the following:
- Introductions and Greetings: This space is where participants and Project Harmony conference facilitators introduced themselves and their work
- Caucasus Café: This was an informal space that allowed conference participants to socialize with each other in a relaxed informal atmosphere.
: This was the main "workspace" where daily thematic discussions were introduced. In total, there were 5 unique discussion topics as well as one space dedicated to the Questions and Answers session with the US DV specialists.
- Backstage Planning: This served as a planning space for Project Harmony staff only. It enabled staff to plan, provide feedback and discuss the progress of the conference. This space was not visible to conference participants.
A screen shot of the Online Conference Main Page, which provided an introduction to the conference, an agenda and daily announcements about current discussions. On the left scrollbar, participants could see who was logged into the conference space at the same time and send them "Instant Messages."
The Domestic Violence Conference aimed to create a venue for professionals to discuss issues relevant to DV in their respective countries and learn from one another's experience. This was done through daily thematic discussions, summarized below, as well as a one day Question and Answer Session with DV professionals from the United States.
Day 1: Strategies of raising the public awareness on the issues of domestic violence
The topic of raising public awareness was a very popular topic of the on-line conference. In total, 58 postings were posted on this discussion. The participants were asked some guiding questions to initiate the discussion:
- What is the situation regarding the problem of domestic violence in your country?
- How is the issue of DV perceived by society in your country?
- What kind of work is being conducted in your countries to raise public awareness about DV?
- In your opinion, what sort of educational events and public work is effective to raise public awareness about DV?
- What strategies would you suggest for raising public awareness about DV and methods of conducting community education?
Highlights of discussion that emerged / divided by country
- "Trust" Social Work and Sociological Research Center in Yerevan, with the support of OSI, has implemented the program on prevention of DV. Particularly, they conducted a large-scale survey as a part of this program and plan to provide the trainings for professionals (attorneys, educators, health care workers) dealing with suspected victims of DV.
- Peace Corps volunteers conducted the training seminars on the topic of Gender and Development throughout Armenia where DV issue was addressed; Peace Corps volunteers organize the GLOW (Girls Leading Over the World) Camps where girls aged up to 25 gain knowledge about gender issues including DV.
- Association of Young Lawyers of Azerbaijan conducted the training sessions and workshops aimed at raising DV public awareness; they helped and took part in the cycle of TV programs devoted to DV issue
- Pathfinder International in Azerbaijan addresses the education of women, men and adolescents in the field of reproductive health including DV
- OXFAM-GB has supported program "Measures on Prevention of Violence Against Women" in Azerbaijan. The project aims to examine current legislation compared to international standards of CEDAW, to provide trainings for cross-section specialists including law enforcement officials, educators of secondary schools and universities, and journalists. As a result, journalists started to implement awareness campaign through writing articles, TV talk shows, radio programs, educators began to work on inclusion of gender issues in the course of study in the educational institutions; law enforcement officials came up with the recommendations to be considered for further lobbying.
- There is a TV program "Families and Destinies" where psychologists, lawyers, philosophers, clergy together discuss the family problems. OSI funded establishment of women's crisis center. For raising public awareness, TV is the most powerful tool. The advertisements are necessary for recognizing TV as a problem and attracting public attention.
A cycle of radio programs about family relationships in Georgia was aired. The program was conducted in a dialogue format. The leaders of the program were asked to provide more positive examples and show specific people exposing healthy family relationships. This will enable youth to see advantages of healthy relationship in families and have their own heroes as mentors.
- A large-scale Public awareness campaign with the aim to raise awareness on the issue of DV has been conducted in Tbilisi. The working groups of Tbilisi Coalition Against Domestic Violence hosted four roundtable discussions for the different target groups (lawyers and law enforcement officials, educators and parents of secondary school students, service providers, and media). Brochures, leaflets and posters were printed, the pens with the numbers of DV Resource Center were ordered, TV commercial has been aired at the first channel of Georgian TV publicizing DV coalition and resource center's activities and victim referral network services. A special Talk show on TV was dedicated to DV issue entirely
- There are two directions undertaken in Petrozavodsk, Karelia for raising DV public awareness:
- Highlight the problem through producing several films and showing them on TV; there is a special course on DV for students at the Pedagogical University; there is a special program "DOM" in some secondary schools of Karelia aimed at detecting and preventing DV cases.
- Disseminate information about DV victim services. The hotline and shelter numbers are advertised in newspapers and directories. The leaflets and posters are attached at the stands of the schools, are available in other education institutions and transport. Police gives DV information leaflets to victims; many students of secondary schools received safety plans and numbers for assistance in case of need.
- There is a similar awareness work on prevention of DV in secondary schools of Volgograd and Irkutsk
- The situation in Petrozavodsk was improved because of increased number of specialists preventing DV and working with DV victims as well as because of a higher awareness of population on DV issues; there are social pedagogues in all pediatric clinics and secondary schools of Karelia. They aim to notify the service providers and specialists about the suspected cases of DV. In case of confirmed cases they might act as tutors protecting interests of vulnerable children.
- The successful use of information resources during political elections may be a sample for conducting successful DV public awareness campaigns
- Together with Odessa TV Channel and private TV channels, Odessa DV Coalition and Resource Center conducted the cycle of programs on DV; they conducted interactive survey on the issues of domestic. The data of the survey coincided with the data of the research project conducted earlier by Project Harmony. The institute of psychotherapy and psychosocial rehabilitation started to study batterers' behavior turned to the institute because of their aggression. They all had the problems with addiction.
- While Working on the problems of DV, which is caused with the distorted perception of the cultural traditions, values and standards, it is necessary to refer to the sources of those traditions and search for their real significance. We can't deny the cultural nuances of our society and try to find the positive sides of our nuances through the programs and activities.
- Society doesn't recognize victim as a victim and abuser as an abuser, this is the main cause of the problem. To eliminate problem, it should be perceived accordingly by respected agencies. Thus, victims would be able to speak frankly about their trouble and would be certain that law enforcement agencies will ensure their safety.
- During the training, law enforcement officials confirmed the existence of DV but complained about victims' reluctance to report to the police due to their hesitance to disclose their family conflicts. Those who managed to turn to the police take away their statements and can't risk proceeding in the court because of the little time of punishment passed by the court to convicted abusers. On the other hand, the law enforcement structures often aren't interested in registering the statements and do not keep records of raising number of DV cases at their districts.
- Not enough attention is given to the problem of DV. People hesitate to acknowledge that verbal, moral and psychological abuses are also forms of DV.
- How to over come the resistance hindering recognition of the problem. Non-recognition ("it is no problem"), perplexity (you exaggerate, this is western problem, it relates only a few people"), mockery (you do the nonsense) and aggression. Resistance has several reasons: psychological, cultural, religious. If we don't consider them, the identification process will take more time, that the society can afford themselves as well as we can't be effective choosing the tools for preventive work
Day 2: Domestic Violence Victim Services for Women and Children
The discussion about victim services was the most popular topic of the on-line conference. In total, 46 participants made 65 postings on the on-line conference space. The participants were asked the following guiding questions to initiate discussion:
- What kinds of victim services exist in your communities?
- Which services are accessible and effective for providing victim assistance?
- What kind of services could be applied in your communities to carry out due measures, immediate intervention and support to DV victims
Highlights of discussion that emerged / divided by country
- There are several hotlines in Armenia providing psychological assistance to victims but those numbers aren't publicized. As a result, victims more often apply for help to relatives, friends, and neighbors who provide them with non-professional assistance.
- It would be interesting to involve the batterers in the training of management of their own aggression. I know that such training is available in the English jails.
- The top priority of assistance to the DV victims is to provide them with a confidential and sincere relationship. The next step is to understand their problems and evaluate them. Hotlines can serve as such safety valves.
- Association of Young Lawyers conducted trainings on gender issues. The main goal of the training-seminars is to prevent DV through raising legal awareness.
- For resolution of the problem, it is necessary to have hotline in the office for maintaining permanent contact with victims. After this, one should send the group of women to this family for reconciliation. If negotiations aren't effective, I suggest to place women and children to the crisis center where she would get the housing, support from psychologist, and food. After then, we need to go to family intensively and try to make up a couple.
- There are the following specialists working in the Baku crisis center: gynecologist, psychologist and lawyer. They provide free consultations to women exposed not only to DV but also to violence from society. There is a hotline functioning in the crisis center. We had a lot of victims battered not only by their husbands but their former ones. Many of them didn't know that law protects them and none had a right to raise hand over them
- There are several victim services, consulting centers in Georgia but DV victims are unaware of existence of such services and they stay without help.
- The goal of the Coalition Against Domestic Violence is to create victim referral network services through the DV resource center. Through the use of the hotline, victims can call or come to the resource center. Then, Resource Center's staff will refer them to the different victim services considering what kind of assistance they need.
- Project Harmony staff conducted three focus group meeting with residents of Tbilisi. Majority of the participants admitted that they would hardly interfere in family conflict, nobody remembered about calling to police, but majority of them would seek assistance of relatives, friends, and close acquaintances.
- There is a hotline, mailbox and consulting center at Women's Shelter "Saphari." The psychotherapeutic initial assistance is provided to patients. Women's shelter was opened in June 2001. It isn't the typical model of shelter but it gave them the possibility to shelter the most traumatized victims.
- While studying the existing problem in Karelia, the book "Syndrome of Severe Treatment" was printed and a SST card was developed. Medical staff, teachers suspected DV case related to a child, fill out SST card and get the social teacher working in this institution familiar with it. In turn, social teacher works closely with a child and either confirms or denies the existence of a DV case. In case of detecting SST, social teacher together with other specialists provide integrated assistance not only to victims but also to abusers.
- There are many opportunities of providing assistance to DV victims in Petrozavodsk. The main organizations rendering victim services are as follows: DV Resource Center, Crisis Center for Women, Women and Children Shelter, the Karelia Center of Children's Assistance. They collaborate very closely and have shared responsibilities.
- Recently, there was passed a law to prevent DV as a result of successful lobbying efforts on the part of public structures and some not indifferent Rada (Ukrainian Parliament) members. According to this law, there will be created and funded crisis centers for victims of violence.
- At the Odessa Crisis Center, staff reported that victims would not immediately confide in them – this would happen only after several calls and phone conversations.
- Armenian legislation doesn't provide for the punishment of people committing crimes within the family. There are some legislative articles that address the punishment for crimes such as rape and abuse but not one refers to similar cases of crime within family.
- Since 1997, the Center of Development of Civic Society has been conducting leadership training on "Rural Women in Civil Society" in 9 regions of Armenia. We included the question: "have you ever experienced violence?" Out of 400 women interviewed, only 5 answered positively (they all were divorced). The rest of the women didn't acknowledge the existence of violence at all. Later, in informal conversations they admitted to the existence of violence in their lives. We were very surprised as all of them tried to find excuse for their husbands' behavior: "because of unemployment, he is too nervous"…
- For very acute DV cases, we should try to involve elder authorities and clergy. We should avoid bringing the case to justice because once the case is publicized reconciliation is hardly possible.
- As for involvement of batterers in the probation trainings, Caucasian men including Azeris aren't ready for these measures.
- Creation of the crisis centers is very important but teaching process and raising awareness about possible sources of assistance aren't of less priority.
- What to do if a victim needs immediate medical assistance. We don't have free medical services anymore in Georgia and many victims can't pay for their treatment.
- According to the data of Georgian center for psychosocial & medical rehabilitation of torture victims, victims go for medical assistance more eagerly rather than for psychological support – as the culture of getting psychological services is very low in our country. Afterwards, when a trusting relationship is established with the victims, only then can psychological intervention begin.
- Opening a shelter is the first step in securing safety for DV victims. Women need choices. We should be able to give them resources that would help them to realize their choices. I appeal to everybody to think about alternate jobs, vocational training, about creation of social network for DV victims employment
- The DV research conducted in Tbilisi, confirmed that Georgian society recognizes DV as a social problem, but when it concerns their own private life, they prefer to hush up.
- There are no protocols existing in the medical centers in Odessa. Doctors are reluctant to adopt innovations. They are obliged to call police in case of any kind of assault. Although victim often hides the fact of abuse. Even forensic examination confirms DV case but they rarely bring suit against abuser. Together with adoption of DV laws, strong assistance of media for changing public attitude will be necessary.
- Existence of DV laws is not a guarantee that they will be properly executed.
- It is commonly held that the government should fund DV programs. As you know, the budget confirmation takes a considerable amount of time and money allocation is a long process.
- We shouldn't forget about engaging the local administration of cities and offer different DV-related projects for their consideration. But when I appealed to them, the issue of space rental and funding was raised. But we must push government, tell them about people's problems and print more related articles.
Day 3: Legal advocacy and working with law enforcement structures
The facilitator opened the third day of the on-line conference with the following guiding questions for consideration to the participants:
- What is the legal situation regarding domestic violence in your country?
- Is there any legislation addressing domestic violence in the local legislation as a protecting mechanism for victims of violence? If not, what is the hindering factor for adopting new legislation?
- How can we work with law enforcement structures to ensure their active involvement in victim protection?
There were 35 postings made by the participants.
Highlights of discussion that emerged / divided by country
- There are some numbers from the survey conducted by Trust Social Work and Sociological Research Center. They asked the respondents the following question: In what circumstances is it necessary to appeal to law enforcement structures? The following responses were received: 1. If there is a threat on my life 2. Never, as they [law enforcement officials] don't fulfill their duties 3. When abusive relations become unbearable and there is a need for divorce 4. Never, as this will be shameful for family 5. At the first fact of abuse 6. If abuse happens together with addictions 6. Any cases
- For four years Ajakits Women’s Center has provided training for women aiming at raising women's legal awareness. The training with law enforcement officers is very important, enabling them to use the laws for protection of DV victims, although those laws aren't perfect and can't help properly. Now they work on the program: "Protection of women's rights and interests" and are preparing a draft law for presenting to Armenian Parliament. The hotline for support of DV victims has been functioning since 1998. It provides psychological and legal consultations to women and men. We cooperate with law enforcement officials in this field as well.
- Victims of violence need legal assistance and this help should be confidential. Because of cultural traditions, many women do not appeal to law enforcement structures to protect themselves.
- Last year we conducted survey among women of a reproductive age. They were asked: "Who would you appeal to for assistance in case of abuse from husband (partner)?" – Only 2,2% of women mentioned police and 1% court. But on the question, how law enforcement officials responded to cases, women refused to answer. It isn't difficult to understand that law enforcement structures couldn't protect those women. They usually answer, "We don't interfere in family and intimate affairs."
- Young Lawyers Association carried out the following programs:
- Participation in the debates of parliament about youth policy
- Seminars for young women and men with involvement of several experts in the field of women's rights and prevention of DV against women.
- Articles in the newspapers about violation of women's rights
- Talk show on DV and women rights with collaboration with private TV channel "Space"
- There are 150-170 applications to "The Defense of Women’s Rights by Dilara Aliyeva". Out of them, 130-135 cases have been by this group. They took a warrant of proxy from victim and thus, they can plead for a victim in a court.
- The work of men in the law enforcement structures isn't the only reason of women's insecurity. There are many different factors affecting them: stereotypes, traditions that make the law enforcement officials think about DV in the same way as ordinary men think.
- Based on the Georgian reality, passing law on DV won't be effective. Due to a low level of legal awareness, women turn to law enforcement structures only in critical situations. In addition to this, there is a lack of qualified officers working there that determines distrust to them. The Coalition Against Domestic Violence plans to provide awareness and professional training for police officers.
- I would like to note that police revealed a keen interest to the work that coalition does in Tbilisi and are ready to help us.
- There is no law preventing DV in Russia. Meanwhile, the specialists in Karelia try to use the existing articles of the civil and criminal codes for victim support. They developed the guideline materials with specific articles from legislation to be used for the typical cases of DV. Some articles as well as other useful materials for victims' advocacy, you can find at our site: Http://dv.projectharmony.ru
- There are very good laws but people do not implement them. Last year we distributed the specific booklets to seven police departments of Odessa but none of the women that came to the victim's center were referred by the police. When I went over there to check in, I discovered that none of the booklets had been distributed. When I inquired about this, they answered that they didn't have time to do this.
- Armenian legislation regulates relationships outside family, for instance if man abuses stranger woman, he is threatened with arrest and if he abuses his own partner, no measures are undertaken. The victim can appeal for forensic examination during further three days. More often woman considers violence as a rule. The idea of non-intervention took root in their minds. But violence generates another violence and many women abuse their own children who are physically weaker.
- I can't imagine what a young woman feels when she addresses district police department and wants to make a complaint on a case of rape. In the best-case scenario, she is met with a grin on the careless faces of police officers who proceed to gossip about her. In the worst-case scenario, the victim is subjected to open humiliation and violation of her rights, abuse and blame.
- Victims do not trust law enforcement officials in most cases. Distrust of police and court makes women tolerate abuse from their husbands, mother in laws and other relatives. One of my patients was severely assaulted by her husband. The staff at the crisis center advised her to bring an action against him and go through forensic examination. Later, she came in with tears because of the forensic doctor that asked for sexual favors in return for the forensic documents that she required.
- Reasons why women do not turn to police: Distrust of law enforcement structures and execution of laws; Own unwillingness to protect their rights; low level of legal awareness
- One of my acquaintances said "woman is lower than man and God sent them for his entertainment"
- We don't have a law on family violence; the level of turning to police is very low in Georgia. There are concrete barriers to passing law from lawyers, law enforcement authorities that consider the articles in the civic and criminal code of Georgia are enough for regulation family conflicts and there is no necessity of adopting a concrete law.
- Unfortunately, we do not keep recording of DV cases. There is a special section at the police departments maintaining statistics regarding crime level in the city. As far as there is no law on DV, domestic violence isn't acknowledged as a crime by them. Therefore, we must use the terms: common violence, crime against woman, and severe treatment of children. Although those terms do not give a clear picture of abuse in a family. Police isn't flexible and democratic system here. The own initiatives of policeman aren't encouraged if they go out of their framework. There are also many other problems within police. Lack of their training and awareness on the DV, lack professional trainings on the techniques of dealing with DV cases. There are a lot of curricula in the RC and in our training center brought by the US professionals in Petrozavodsk. We hoped on introduction of special DV course to the students of police schools but it didn't happen due to the reasons mentioned above. But the introduction of the DV course would put DV in line with other recognized crimes.
- Let's start from women's awareness. If she … will protect her rights, she will be able to be more independent and man will be obliged to admit her equality with him
Day 4: Questions and Answers with US experts - Diane Coffey and Andrea Bernard
Diane Coffey and Andrea Bernard, two professionals working with DV victims, appeared on the online conference for a one-day Question and Answer Session. Participants addressed questions to the two specialists concerning the US experience of dealing with DV.
Q: We work with children, who have witnessed DV. Sometimes it is very hard for us. I want to ask you - Do you have a book or maybe you could give some practical recommendations for our further work?
There are many books and articles written for professionals working with children exposed to violence. Here are some web site that you can try:
National Center for Children Exposed to Violence. www.nccev.org
Unite for Kids was developed by the Child Witness to Violence Project at Boston Medical Center. www.uniteforkids.org
The American Academy of Pediatrics or Zero to Three. www.aap.org/www.zerotothree.org
- We give legal consultations to women victims of DV, but it is very difficult sometimes, because we do not have a law controlling DV. What can you advise us and please, send us an article on DV in your country?
- A: It wasn't until the 1980s that we began implementing specific laws to address DV. However, many of the batterers' behaviors can be general crimes. For example, if a stranger punches someone is that a crime? If so, then if a batterer punches the victim that could be a crime. The importance of DV laws is to dispel the notion that violence within a relationship is not a crime. It should be treated the same as if it occurred between strangers.
- Q: I wonder, are there cases when caregivers are victims. I mean those professionals, who work in this field. I ask this question, because we, caregivers, often have problems, especially after opening of a crisis center. How can we protect ourselves?
- A: Many people who work with women who are victims of DV are also survivors of DV or may have witnessed DV as children. Because of these experiences we understand what others are going through and the kinds of support that they most need. But, this is difficult because we can re-experience trauma or become re-traumatized by hearing the stories of the women and children at work. It is very important to take care of yourself by setting limits. So, make sure that you are working a reasonable number of hours. Make sure that you have time for yourself, even a short time, to take a walk or do something that is just for you. Make sure that there are other people at work that you can call for support about the families you work with when there us an emergency or if you are unsure of the best action to take. No one should ever do this work alone and a team is essential. Try to set up times for supervision where the whole team is talking about the cases. Brainstorming together may help you to see things from a new perspective. This will help you to know that you are making responsible decisions, helping the family in the best way that you can, and not letting your own experiences cloud your judgment.
- Q: Based on the researches, medical people do not always properly handle evidence of violence against women. That is why we consider, that training for medical people on victim services are important. Could you advise how to solve this problem and where ask for help?
- A: This is very important. It is often a difficult goal to reach because medical people are very busy and they may feel that handling DV is too much for them. In other words, they may want to help heal a woman's body but it is more difficult for them to get involved in a "social" or "mental health" problem if they feel that this is not their job or that there is nothing that they can do about it. Doctors may not receive training about these kinds of issues when they are in medical school. So, my advice would be to start out slow and take little steps. You may want to start out working with doctors who see women in the emergency room or who are women's doctors like gynecologists. Give them basic definitions for DV. Give them resources that they can use if they see a woman who has experienced DV. Try to get them to ask basic, open-ended questions like:
- Do you feel safe in your neighborhood?
- Do you feel safe at home?
- Has anyone at home ever threatened to hurt you or done something to hurt you?
- If they know what to look for, know how to ask, and know where she can get help then very slowly you may get more medical personnel to be responsive to this issue.
- Working with the medical community is critical in addressing DV. Battered women are usually allowed access to medical care by their batterer. Doctors often see battered women alone, so they have an opportunity to ask victims about the causes of their injuries. Medical workers are hesitant to get involved when they see injuries that have been caused by DV. Distribute brochures, pamphlets, posters and information about DV at medical centers; ask to attend staff meetings to talk about DV, invite medical workers to trainings, explain how important documentation of injuries is to law enforcement and for community agencies become a source of information and support for the medical community.
- Q: What model of law enforcement bodies and protection mechanisms could you advise at the beginning phase? Unfortunately, we do not have a law on DV, but the members of this structure are interested in resolving this problem. We would like to conduct training to them. Please can you supply us with related materials? Thanks in advance.
- A: I have to admit that this is not an area in which I feel that I am an expert. However, there are some simple things to think about. You may be able to begin by using laws that you already have. For example, it is illegal for a stranger to walk up to you and hit you or kick you. If this happened to you then you could file a police report because this is an assault. The same should hold true in your own home. Being hit or kicked by your husband or boyfriend is an assault and could be handled by the same law.
The most important protection tool we have here is called a restraining order or abuse prevention order. The implementation of this protection order took many years. It required the support of the battered women's movement, law enforcement and officials who write our laws.
- Q: What kinds of courses on DV exist for medical students?
- More and more medical students are learning about DV as part of their studies. However, they do not usually have a whole course on the subject. Maybe, they will have several lectures on the topic while they are in school. Most of their experience in this area comes from working with patients after they graduate when they are "residents" or doctors in training. As residents, they spend all of their time trying to make sure that they are taking good care of their patients and doing everything that they are taught. Usually this is focused on physical health. We find that by providing training each year about DV throughout their residency is a good way to start. As they get more comfortable with their role as a doctor and more able to treat their patients they also have more room to focus on mental health or social issues like DV, which also affects the physical health of their patients. By their last year as a resident they have some basic information about signs of DV, what questions to ask, and how to refer women for services. This is a slow process but it does work.
- Q: What kind of therapy is provided for child witnesses?
- A: We usually do play therapy for children. We use art, puppets, storytelling, dollhouses, sand tray play, and books for children about experiences like theirs. One good book about play therapy is called "The Healing Power of Play" by Eliana Gil. It is important for the child to take the lead and go at their own pace. Children are always brought to the therapist by a parent, usually their mother, or another relative such as an aunt or grandparent who has permission to bring them to therapy. We get referrals from many different places. Mothers call to ask for help for their children. We also get referrals from the police, pediatricians, nurses, social workers, and schools.
Day 4: Research Projects on Domestic Violence
Research conducted about DV and exploring its nature are very important elements for raising public awareness. Participants were asked to present information about research projects and/or findings in their country.
Highlights of discussion that emerged / divided by country
- "Trust" Social Fund and Sociological Research Center in Armenia conducted a survey among 400 women who experienced DV. They used different techniques and asked women the following questions: "Do you know women who experience DV?" "Can you give us their contact information or ask them to contact us?" The main focus was directed to hospitals - in-patients, because people tend to speak up about their problems in hospitals. The results of this survey were shocking. Every ninth women in Armenia is a victim of DV. After the survey the organization decided to convey training on "DV Prevention" for specialists dealing with violence: teachers, doctors and attorneys.
- Center for Development of Civil Society held a round table "Violence in the Family." All 52 participants (49 women and 3men) were given a questionnaire consisting of 10 questions. All participants stated that they have only heard about the facts of DV. According to the questionnaires they thought that physical violence was not as widespread as psychological and moral violence.
- The process of the interviewing carries a therapeutic meaning itself, because it shows you the ways of resolving the problem and interviewed person feels that she/he is not alone and somebody is interested in her/him.
- Pathfinder International conducted a research among 500 respondents - people from regions - refugees and IDPs .The survey was anonymous and consisted of five units. One unit was dedicated to gender issues others dealt with reproductive health. Here are some figures from gender unit:
- Does your husband beat you?
- Yes 23%
- No 51,1%
- Will not answer 25,8%
- According to the results "beating" was not the only form of violence. The women named following forms of violence experiencing from their husbands or partners.
- Name calling 6,7%
- Threats life 5,6%
- Throws objects 6,2%
- Pulls hair, twists hands 4,5%
- Hits with fist 7,3%
- Stifles 2,2%
- Violates 2,2%
- Sociological Association of Azerbaijan with the support of Open Society Institute - Fund Cooperation conducted social survey on the problem of DV during 2001. In the course of the survey they analyzed legislation on gender issues, conducted discussions in the focus groups with representatives of law enforcement bodies, police, doctors, psychologists, women NGO leaders and number of other NGO representatives. The main part of the research project was dedicated to large-scale survey of population, doctors and workers of law enforcement bodies on their knowledge and practical experience working with different social groups of women, men, and teenagers.
The methods applied in the research helped to reveal the structure of DV against women define specific qualities of physical, sexual and psychological abuse, which women experience at home, at work or in society in general. The research embraced all regions of Azerbaijan, thus enabling to reflect specific peculiarities of different regions with different social-economic and cultural development.
Here are some interesting figures: According to the results:
- 51,8% of interviewed women stated that they never report about abuse from their husbands' part
- 24,7% tell family members about it.
- 9,6% go to neighbors
- 3,8% to doctors.
As for law enforcement bodies women do not go for help there and keep their problems "inside." As the results show only 1,9% of women in case of violence go to court and 2,2% to police.
- Young Psychotherapist association with the support of Project Harmony conducted a research in 2002 with the aim to reveal the attitude of Tbilisi population on DV. With the questionnaire they also intended to obtain information about whether the interviewee was a victim of DV and what form of DV has he/she experienced. 800 Tbilisi citizens were questioned.
Here are some figures from the research:
- "Does DV happen in families in Georgia?"
- No 13%
- Sometimes 54%
- Often 22%
- Hard to answer 10%
- What forms of violence have you experienced?
- Name Calling 17%
- Physical abuse 12%
- Psychological abuse 81%
- What forms of violence do their acquaintances experience?
- Name Calling 47%
- Physical abuse 28%
- Psychological abuse 33%
As you can see from the above-mentioned figures the respondents avoid sincere dialogue about DV facts in their own families.
Families in Georgia are multi-generation. It turned out that the conflicts more often happen between:
- Daughter-in-law and mother-in law 39%
- Husband and wife 35%
- Son-in-law and mother-in-law 8%
The reason of conflicts between husband and wife is
- Economical need 29%
- Unemployment 21%
- Different values 12%
- Early age marriages 10%
- Union "SAPHARI" conducted survey in August 2001 "Domestic Violence Psychosocial Portrait of Victims". These are refined figures of their clients. The survey consists of several units - socio-demographic data, forms of violence, complaints and psychological symptoms, as well as condition dynamics based on several indicators (aggression level, depression).
- In 2000 in Odessa Project Harmony conducted a survey on DV - The Nature and Extent of Intimate Partner Violence among 287 Ukrainian Women. Few studies that explore violence against women in Ukraine exist. The current study analyzes data collected from 287 female victims of violence from the city of Odessa in August of 2000. While violence in all contexts is examined, there is an emphasis on intimate partner violence. One-fourth of the respondents admit to having ever been the victim of partner violence over the life course. Partner violence in Ukraine cannot be explained by neither traditional United States risk markers nor risk markers that represent Ukrainian culture effects. A strict patriarchal culture and deep economic crisis may instead influence violence against women in Ukraine.
- Such surveys are needed first of all for creating new complex programs. They help because they clearly show the risk factors. Apart from this the results are useful for professionals to raise awareness. The most effective way of application of the results of the survey is lobbing new legislation. Before passing a law we must prove that the law is necessary
This conference was a very innovative project for two main reasons – it was conducted by means of online communication tools and for the first time ever, it brought together a critical mass of DV professionals from the FSU to discuss their work on this topic. The results that have become evident as a result of this 5-day event are a good foundation for gathering knowledge and strategies for future professional events related to DV.
Lessons learned from the conference can be divided up into two categories – Lessons Learned about Conducting Online Events and Lessons Learned about DV Activities in the FSU.
While the Online Conference was not intended to be a comprehensive survey of the work being done to combat DV throughout the FSU, the information collected over the course of the 5-day event has yielded some important lessons that can impact future programs and activities dedicated to the issue of DV prevention, intervention and awareness raising work.
Lessons Learned about DV Activities in the FSU
- DV professionals need more professional networking and collaboration opportunities: While the quantity of services and education awareness work being performed in many countries is quite large and diverse, there is evidence of work being duplicated and resources not being adequately shared due to a lack of collaboration of different institutions, governmental and public, working on the issue of DV.
- Mass media needs to be used more effectively in raising public awareness about DV: The medium of choice for raising awareness about DV appears to be trainings and seminars, most of which are targeting the professional sector, however, this approach is not sufficient for changing the general public's attitude about DV. The direct DV awareness campaigns should be conducted with communities and population groups. The participants acknowledged the effectiveness of TV, in particular, in raising awareness. Future public awareness campaigns should allocate sufficient resources towards the creation and airing of public services announcements, advertisements, talk shows, print publication advice columns and active advertising of free victim services.
- More resources need to be allocated towards publication of victim services: Participants from most of the countries acknowledged that while there were many victim services available in their countries, including hotlines, consultation centers, trainings on legal rights of victims, crisis centers/shelters and school counseling programs, these services are poorly publicized and the information doesn't always reach people most in need.
- Training programs for professionals should target medical professionals: Due to a lack of receiving of getting psychological assistance, DV victims are more likely to go for help to a clinical physician before appealing to a psychologist. However, medical professionals are poorly trained in identifying and intervening in cases where signs of DV are present in their patients. Training programs that meet the needs of medical professionals should be a high priority for future activities.
- Women need to become more aware of their legal rights in order to better protect themselves: Participants from all of the represented countries believed that women's generally low level of awareness of their legal rights is a primary challenge in empowering them to better protect their rights. Many trainings to educate women on their rights have been undertaken by various local and international NGOs. The use of mass media to communicate this information to a larger audience as well as providing legal assistance at crisis centers is an important step in helping women to help themselves.
- Training for law enforcement officials is critically needed to ensure that they will begin to act on and document cases of DV: An overwhelming problem noted by most of the participants was the lack of trust that victims and women, in particular, showed towards law enforcement officials. Police and law enforcement officials need to be more actively engaged in DV training programs so that they begin to think about DV as a punishable crime. Additionally, police require training in DV intervention strategies as well as the need and protocol for documenting and reporting DV incidences in the community. DV victim service providers should seek out ways to actively include law enforcement officials in training, educational and service programs to help them better understand their critical role in protecting victims.
- DV specific legislation and its proper execution must be established to provide complete protection of victims under the law: One of the major obstacles that DV professionals in the FSU struggle with is the absence of DV legislation to protect victims as well as the lack of effective execution of the law. In most countries, there exists no DV-specific legislation that recognizes DV as a separate offense. In legal cases pertaining to DV, victim advocates must work with civil and criminal codes relating to family law that don't adequately provide protection of DV victims. The need to lobby for appropriate legislation is a critical step to ensuring that women will be interested in bringing cases before the law.
- DV cases should be registered and tracked by DV service providers at any level of the case's detection. The discussions with the on-line conference participants endorsed the importance of keeping statistics and using protocols at the health care facilities (emergency services, clinics, and hospitals), law enforcement departments, psychological and legal consulting centers to ensure the availability of hard statistics on DV and to find out the true caliber of DV in the FSU countries. This will help to organize DV support services and will promote to creating DV referral networks.
- Need for more comprehensive research to establish scope and nature of the problem of DV as well as the public attitude towards DV: Fortunately, numerous small-scale research projects have been conducted throughout the FSU to determine the scope and nature of the problem of DV. Additionally, research has been conducted to assess level of awareness towards the issue by professionals as well as well as the general public. Initial findings in the Caucasus indicate that psychological and emotional abuse occurs more frequently than physical abuse. However, the work that has been done is merely the tip of the iceberg. More significant research projects that take into account diverse populations in the capitals and the regions must be conducted to ascertain accurate levels of the problem. Upon gathering data, the figures should be used to lobby for legislation, victim services and in developing public awareness campaigns to convince the general public that this is indeed a problem in their country.
Lessons Learned about Conducting Online Events
- Allocate enough staff time to provide active facilitation for the conference: Three Project Harmony staff members were involved in actively facilitating the conference discussions and 4 additional staff in other offices provided support and backup. Online facilitators should be prepared to open up discussions, greet new visitors to the space, ask provocative and thoughtful questions, reenergize stale conversations, find complimentary ideas, engage less active participants and do trouble shooting.
- Involve a core group of participants in the planning process: clarify the topics of discussion with participants to ensure that the conference theme is relevant and appropriate
- Use a language that is comfortable for all participants: While English would have been a comfortable language for some participants, using Russian instead enabled more serious professionals to participate in the conference than would have if the conference were in English
- Clarify Purpose: It was important to make sure that the goals and objectives of the conference were clearly defined and understood by all participants to ensure that the discussions were focused.
- Seed the conference with some active and vocal participants: Several participants with significant experience in this field were invited to participate. Because of the wealth of information that they had to offer as well as their thought provoking questions and postings, other participants were engaged and drawn to the conference. The participation of such active professionals greatly enhanced the level and nature of discussion.
- Clarify expectations: To ensure that participants were active in the online conference, Project Harmony staff clarified expectations for the level of participation in the conference prior to the beginning of the event. Participants were told that posting at least one message every day was key to effective conference discussion.
- Provide participants with training on online conferencing software prior to event: To help participants overcome their concerns about using new communication tools, Project Harmony staff organized brief tours of the online space. Access to the conference space was opened up two days prior to the conference to enable participants to practice posting messages and maneuvering through the space.
- Use visuals: Project Harmony staff took digital photos of all participants during the online pre-conference tour of the software and posted them on the space. This allowed people to identify and recognize the conference participants.
- Write up daily conference summaries: Project Harmony staff wrote up summaries of discussions from each day of the conference and distributed them by email to all conference participants. This enabled participants to have an overview of the day's discussions and also encouraged less active participants to check in on the space. Additionally, this allowed participants who were absent for part of the conference to catch up quickly and read up on the information they missed in a condensed format.
- Help participants with Internet access: Project Harmony helped participants with gaining Internet access by either providing them with contact information for free Internet centers or providing them with small stipends to go to Internet cafes.
- Use informal spaces to let participants relax and take a break from too much information: The Caucasus Café informal space allowed participants to joke, play games and celebrate just like one would at a live conference. This daily ritual became an important aspect in creating a sense of reality and a team spirit amongst participants. The use of visuals and pictures in this space enhanced the overall impact of this discussion space.
- Design the space to be simple and easy to maneuver: Since this kind of software was new to most conference participants, Project Harmony was careful to design a space that was clear (discussion spaces were clearly labeled) and easy to maneuver through. This enabled participants to spend more of their time focused on content instead of troubleshooting.
- Use emails and phone calls to check in with participants: Checking in with participants that were less active allowed Project Harmony to help participants with any challenges that they were facing.
The Online Conference generated many ideas and a sense of common purpose for the professionals that have been working on the issue of DV. This is a unique opportunity for partnerships and creative collaborative work to unify resources and yield more effective results. In the fifth day of the conference, participants were asked to generate their own ideas about useful ways to follow-up to the conference. The following is a list of possible follow-up events and steps to the online conference:
- Organizing regular informal meetings between organizations and relevant professionals: Coordination and information sharing meetings would be a useful method to help DV professionals in each country to share their challenges and best practices with one another and build a solid working relationship. Project Harmony staff in Azerbaijan, Jim Thorn and Emel Sultanli, organized such an informal meeting of the Azerbaijani online conference participants on April 12, 2002. On the results of the meeting, Jim Thorn reported: "Many people who had begun DV work (OSI, for example) had talked about the difficulties they had run into in trying to form a coalition - but Friday nearly all the key players were sitting down together, chatting, laughing, rehashing some of the online discussions, etc."
- Develop more online resources and convene regular online events: Participants expressed a lot of enthusiasm for continuing online communication in the form of additional thematic online conferences, facilitated chats and listserv discussions. There is clearly a lack of professional interaction related to this issue and the conference highlighted the clear need for the use of Internet resources to bridge the information and communication gap between professionals. In addition to events that promote communication, the development of local language web resources would be an effective way to centralize information and work being done in the field of DV prevention.
- Organize and convene live conference: Many participants expressed their strong interest to participate in a live conference that would focus on information sharing and skills building. Live conferences can be preceded by online conferences or planning sessions, which would maximize the use of resources to develop a conference agenda that was comprehensive and met the needs of participants.
- Identify and engage other programs and contacts working in the field of DV: A comprehensive contact list of organizations working in the field is an important resource to the professional communities addressing the issue of DV. Information that is well organized and accessible is an important first step to building a strong working relationship.
- Conduct joint public awareness events to maximize use of resources: Organizations and professionals should be actively encouraged to pool their resources to put together large-scale public awareness, training and resource events.
- Build cross-sector, community coordinated initiatives to enhance the victim services being provided: Instead of having service providers compete with one another, organizations should conduct programs that engage professionals from the medical, social, legal, educational and mass media sectors.
The Domestic Violence Online Conference organized by Project Harmony proved to be a very effective medium for bringing together professionals dedicated to the issue of DV who are separated by time zones and countries for a period of five days to discuss professional developments in this very important social sphere. The advantage of this online conference is that it enabled the organizers to do what is often very challenging in live conferences: bringing together a large, international audience for a period of 5+ days to discuss an issue of critical importance for a cost of under $1000. While the initial goals of the conference were modest, the apparent outcomes exceeded initial expectations of the conference organizers. From participant feedback, it is clear that the conference served some additional goals in helping to establish a rapport between professionals that was non-existent prior to the conference (even amongst professionals working in the same country) and enabled DV professionals in the conference to quickly assess the progress of activities directed at preventing DV. This final conference report also serves as an important "roadmap" to the accomplishments and challenges of work in the field of DV in the NIS and points out priority areas for future funding and program activities. It is the hope of the program organizers that this conference report will serve as a resource for organizations interested in developing DV initiatives that will compliment existing initiatives.
For more information about the DV Online Conference as well as the Project Harmony DV Community Partnership Program, please contact:
Appendix I. Evaluation Results
Project Harmony staff conducted a final evaluation of the conference using questionnaires that participants were requested to submit electronically. Unfortunately, less than 1/3 of the participants submitted questionnaires. The following is a summary of the evaluation results based on the responses received from the four main sections of the evaluation form.
Questions here aimed to assess how well the participants became acquainted with the online tools and made use of them during the conference and what technical problems they encountered.
For the majority of the participants, this was the first opportunity to participate in an online conference. In spite of this, it was quite easy for them to orientate in the space and use all the tools offered by Internet. Some of them admitted the advantage of "live messages" to establish closer relationships, though most preferred the "Caucasus Café" as the optimal space for informal meetings. The lack of participants' experience in using such tools did not impede in the level of participation. Several participants noted that limited access to Internet was, however, an impediment to active participation. According to participants, the overall format of the online conference and the environment was easy-to-navigate.
Questions here aimed to assess how well the discussion topics and time for the conference were chosen as well as the level of facilitation of the conference.
All respondents noted that all of the discussion topics were interesting and crucial and that the duration of the conference was appropriate. Several participants underlined the importance of the topic of Public Awareness Strategies and Victims' Rehabilitation. The fact that participants could make their postings any time of the day and enter the space even on the weekend was very convenient. Some of them even suggested that they could discuss a new topic on the weekend, because they had more free time. Participants noted that they never felt alone during the conference because there was always somebody in the space, which facilitated the discussion and they assess the level of facilitation as "high" due to facilitators' professionalism and high sense of responsibility. Daily summaries of the conference were considered to be extremely useful. As far as they could make postings on previous topics, it was sometimes hard to catch up with the all of the information in different discussion rooms. The summaries gave a clear picture what was talked about in each room.
Participants were asked whether they would like to participate/assist in organizing such conferences in the future and do they consider it as an effective medium of communication.
The majority of the participants expressed their desire to participate in future online conferences dedicated to DV, because they had perfect opportunity to exchange information and simultaneously learn about the working strategies in other countries, talk about cultural approaches to the issue of DV, and "meet" old friends.
Spheres of improvement and difficulties
Participants were asked to suggest what could be improved/changed for the next conference and what difficulties they came across during the conference.
The first area of improvement according to submitted evaluations is character use. Some of the participants used Latin characters to type Russian words, which made it difficult to read by other participants. One participant suggested choosing one or two topics and engaging in more in-depth discussions. Alternatively, a workshop or training designed around one topic would be useful as follow-up.
Participant List Omitted
Resources – links related to DV