- one in three women in the European Union has experienced physical and/or sexual violence since the age of 15
- one in twenty women was raped
- women with disabilities of some kind (e.g. at mobility level) are in a particularly disadvantaged position to be potential victims of acts of violence and ill-treatment
Data from the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, 2014
Despite the lack of consensus on the seriousness of certain acts of violence at an international level, and the way in which it is judicially and socially treated, the Fifth National Plan for the Prevention and Fight against Domestic and Gender Violence 2014-2017 (V PNPCVDG) was implemented in Portugal, following a set of national plans carried out over the last almost twenty years. In 2011, the Council of Europe adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Combat of Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention). Since 1 August 2014, the Istanbul Convention has established a set of legal measures criminalizing various forms of violence against women.
The study on the Satisfaction of Users of the National Support Network for Victims of Domestic Violence, carried out by the Centre for Research and Studies in Sociology of the Instituto Universitário de Lisboa (CIES-IUL), promoted by the Commission for Citizenship and Gender Equality (CIG), falls within Strategic Area 5 - Investigate and Monitor, Measure 49, of the V National Plan for the Prevention and Fight against Domestic and Gender Violence 2014-2017.
Through this research, it was possible to identify and evaluate existing services that provide support to victims of domestic violence, with the objective of defining and implementing standardized support criteria (and their form) that should be provided by the national network of support to victims of domestic violence. For this purpose, support entities and units and the users themselves, mainly women, were consulted.
The project methodology involved the application of two surveys to the entities and support units that support victims, among which 88 management entities and 128 support units, of which 110 were care structures, 36 shelters and 19 emergency shelters. Interviews were also conducted with the victims and users of these services themselves.
The survey of field agents to combat this type of violence showed that, in 2015, the support units (who participated in the study) attended, on average, 88 women, 10 men and 27 children. Most were victims of violence on the part of the spouse/partner, with a significant part of the victims being non-Portuguese speaking. The request for assistance mostly comes through the security forces, followed by social security and care services. The response time is usually fast, not exceeding two days, in occasional cases, for the attendance or admission of the users. The assistance provided includes social and psychological support, support in search for housing, ensuring at least one care structure, support in the employment market and legal support.
Despite a satisfactory (self) evaluation of the services rendered, it is worth noting that there is a need for more support for the autonomy of the victims, at an economic level, and the creation of autonomization apartments. And also, the need to create a computer platform to monitor shelter vacancies and emergency shelter responses. The service to the aggressors is also underlined as a necessity which must be met not only in terms of intervention and follow-up, but also in the creation of service spaces for this population.
On the other hand, one of the aspects evidenced in interviews with users (45 in total) is their generalized satisfaction with the support provided to them by management entities and units of the national support network.
The accounts of the first episode of violence reported by 18 users indicate that they were less than 25 years old and 15 users were between 26 and 35 years old, mostly perpetrated by ex-spouse or former partner or still in a dating situation. Requests for help primarily emerged in crisis situations, out of fear of one's own life and personal safety, exacerbation of violence, fatigue in relation to the violence, but also the decision to put an end to the violent relationship and fear for the safety of children or family members.
Among the cases studied, it is also important to mention that in only 11, the follower of the aggressor was reported as being part of an intervention program, an essential component but seen as not very effective. However, it would be beneficial to look at this strand of intervention and support as paramount in changing violent behavior and in promoting the safety of victims.
The recommendations of the study reinforce the need for greater dissemination of the existing services and stimulation of awareness-raising actions for the topic under review. Equally pressing is the continuous funding of the support services for victims of domestic violence, so as to ensure greater stability of the human resources involved in this area.
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For further information about the process of insertion of victims of domestic violence, please consult the book with the same title, edited by CIES-IUL.