Dealing with domestic violence: The culture of silence must end

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times October 23, 2015 09:05

Story Highlights

  • Domestic violence may happen mainly behind closed doors, but it is not a private, family matter. It is immoral and illegal. Each and every one of us has an obligation to do whatever we can to prevent this type of violence, to enable victims to get the help and protection they need, and to ensure these crimes are prosecuted. These crimes must not be tolerated.

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By Robert Wilton*

Domestic violence is not just physical abuse – hitting or kicking – but also includes insults, threats of physical harm, rape and a range of controlling behaviours. Women are the primary – but not the only – victims. Children and men can also be the targets of domestic violence.

Police statistics tell us that in the first nine months of 2015, 2,606 cases of domestic violence were reported. 1,910 of the victims were women and 108 were children. In these nine months, 14 victims died as a result of the abuse.

But these cases are just the tip of the iceberg. Statistics show that less than one in ten victims seeks help. According to an INSTAT survey in 2013, nearly 60% of Albanian women had been the victims of domestic violence at some point in their lives; 53% were “currently” in an abusive relationship. We cannot remain silent when faced with these figures.

Domestic violence may happen mainly behind closed doors, but it is not a private, family matter. It is immoral and illegal. Each and every one of us has an obligation to do whatever we can to prevent this type of violence, to enable victims to get the help and protection they need, and to ensure these crimes are prosecuted. These crimes must not be tolerated.

I am delighted to launch today in Gjirokastra an important initiative of the OSCE Presence and the Albanian State Police – a campaign to counter domestic violence.

I would like to express our appreciation to the Mayor of Gjirokastra and the Gjirokastra Police Directorate for hosting this event.

This campaign is the continuation of very successful campaigns held in Korça and Elbasan in 2014. It involves students and police officers, as well as parliamentarians, NGOs, social workers and health professionals, in a series of activities that seek to raise citizens’ awareness about domestic violence – what it is, who can assist, and what to do if they or someone they know is a victim.

Albania has a legal framework in place to assist victims, to protect them while helping them rebuild their lives. There are a number of structures and authorities who can aid those affected by domestic violence. Some of them, such as the Ministry of Social Welfare and Youth, Ministry of Interior and the State Police, are here with us today. Like the OSCE Presence, they are all committed to preventing and ending violence in the family.

As an expression of that commitment, the Presence has offered training to Police on how to properly respond to domestic violence. We also want to sensitize as many citizens as possible through our campaigns. Furthermore, the Presence developed more than six years ago a practical handbook for victims of domestic violence, to help those who work with victims, and to assist victims in getting help, protection and justice.

However, it is important to underline the fact that domestic violence cannot be addressed through legal means alone. This is not the job solely of the police and the courts. The very diverse group of stakeholders we have brought together for this vital work shows that real progress in Albania is only possible if we all accept our responsibility. We must change the mentality that accepts violence against women and children. We must reject utterly the idea that tradition, or culture, makes certain unacceptable behaviours somehow more natural.

The culture of silence must end, now.

*  These were the remarks the deputy head of the OSCE Presence, Robert Wilton, made last week at an event in Gjirokastra to increase awareness on issues related to domestic violence.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times October 23, 2015 09:05