Measures to fight violence against women
The exchange of good practices held in Madrid, Spain on the 16th-17th April 2013 discussed the ways in which violence against women can be tackled both through prevention policy and practice and on-going support to those at risk.
Since 1998 Spain has addressed violence against women through a legal framework backed up with victims' support. In particular, Spain has developed several measures, free of charge for the user, based on modern information and communication technology (ICT), offering wide coverage, rapid response and discretion where needed:
- a dedicated website where resources for information and advice can be accessed, with a particular feature being the ability to identify local resources such as women’s associations, family units, legal advice and police locations;
- a 24-hour helpline with professional counsellors available for advice and guidance;
- a mobile telephone system providing rapid emergency support for victims who are involved in a recovery programme;
- an electronic tagging system to help control those perpetrators of violence with a restraining order issued by the courts.
Ireland presented their programmes for working with men who perpetrate domestic violence against women aiming at stopping abuse occurring in the first place, reducing the incidence of further victimisation and reducing future recidivism. The approach has already had some success but is not widespread in Europe. Research shows that most men on the programme do reduce their violent behaviour and women feel less threatened. However, it was stressed that as a therapeutic measure such programmes are not a substitute for interventions aimed at keeping women and children safe.
During the ensuing discussions, the use of ICT, as exemplified by Spain, was seen as an opportunity to develop cost effective measures that could both help more victims and offer efficient and timely response. The attention given to perpetrators of violence in Ireland was also considered as a useful practice that might be implemented in other countries, though here resource constraints are likely to affect the extent to which this can be done. In addition there was agreement that certain elements need to be in place to move forward, for example an effective strategy on gender based violence, with plans broken down for regions and municipalities where much of the support is needed and takes place.
The discussions stressed the importance of coordinating multiagency victim support services. Ideally, a single supervisory body should ensure this coordination, following guidelines that ensure minimum standards for all services to victims. It should be supported by training for all professionals involved (judiciary, police, social and health services), sustainable funding and adapted judicial systems (as for example specialised courts in Spain, or a good coordination between civil and penal courts).
There is a growing attention for providing treatment programmes for perpetrators. However, some obstacles continue to be frequently met: it is still difficult to demonstrate the effectiveness of such programmes to prevent further violence. Moreover, there is a need to prioritise the allocation of resources in this period of financial crisis.
Improving the knowledge of all the existing instruments was also considered as a key success factor, as well as the regular evaluation of the measures and policies put in place to help both victims and perpetrators.