Daphne Toolkit

Counselling services for women affected by domestic violence and support activities

Project Reference Number: 
1998-121-W

Counselling services for women affected by domestic violence and support activities

Creation of counselling services for women and girls living in rural areas affected by violence. Data gathering, networking and awareness raising.

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Comments

CARLOTTA aimed to establish counselling services for women affected by domestic violence in and around Göttingen.  This involved setting up the service, documenting needs, creating guidelines for action and awareness-raising activities to sensitize the public.
The CARLOTTA office opened on 3 March 1999, with open-door sessions taking place twice a week and appointments at other times.  A questionnaire was developed for clients which could be completed either in counselling sessions or in the client’s own time.  A second questionnaire was developed for organisations and professionals already working in this field.
At the same time, efforts were made to establish and strengthen contacts with other agencies working in this field locally and internationally, such as government bodies, doctors, psychologists and priests.  These contacts were useful for sensitising local partners to the difficulties women faced in coming forward with their problems.  The lead organisation also joined the local social work committee.  International conferences in Germany and the UK were also attended, to allow transnational networking.  In addition, a booklet on sexual violence against women and young girls in the rural areas of Europe was published.

Lessons and ideas

1.      The taboo regarding sexual violence against women and girls is very strong in rural Europe.  Traditional support services, such as the church and social welfare bodies, do not feel comfortable addressing the issue, and agreed that a specialized counselling service was required.
2.      Working effectively with women in rural areas requires extensive personal contacts, which takes time and requires a degree of personnel consistency.  At the same time, there is a conflict in rural areas between the common desire for anonymity and the fact that most counsellors are known to their clients on a social level.
3.      Conducting guided interviews with affected women proved to be more difficult in Germany and Finland then in Spain and Austria.  Partly, this was because of different levels of recognition of the problem at the beginning of the project, and the fact that there were more first contacts in Germany,
4.      The short duration of the project (one year) was not long enough to raise awareness among political actors.  Although local networks were established and a start was made to defining and assessing the scale of the problem, one year was not long enough to ensure that networks would continue, and for public awareness to be translated into increased support.
5.      Establishing a support service and making sure that women know it exists is not enough to guarantee that they will use it.  They may think it is unlikely to last and be reliable.  There need to be other actions to underpin trust (for example, institutional and personal continuity, personal acquaintance)l
6.      The establishment of a specialized counseling center meets a large demand but can give rise to unexpected consequences: A specialized institution may end up being used by other experts and political decision makers as a ‘dumping groundEfor all problems related to domestic violence in order to avoid the topic.  This needs to be monitored carefully.