Violence against women on the rise during epidemic

Ljubljana – Five to seven murders of women within a family or partnership are recorded in Slovenia every year, experts said at an online debate on femicide organised by SOS Telephone, a helpline for victims of domestic violence, ahead of International Women’s Day. They also warned of a rise in femicide during the Covid-19 epidemic.

Katja Zabukovec Kerin from the Association for non-violent communication said the association was working with about 700 violent persons every year. Some seek help themselves, others are referred to the programme.

Mirjam Kline from the Supreme State Prosecutors’ Office said prosecutors often learned about cases of violence only after violence already took place. She said some steps had been made to protect victims, including an assessment of risk for an individual and the possibility of victim’s testimony via video to avoid contact with the perpetrator.

Kline said in about 50% of the cases, victims decided not to file charges.

Aleš Žužek, also from the Supreme State Prosecutors’ Office, said preliminary data showed that the Covid measures, especially the lock-down, were associated with a rise in domestic violence.

Ljubljana District Court Judge Karmen Erčulj echoed this, noting that during the epidemic the number of crimes with elements of violence had gone up by about 45%.

She stressed the importance of a court’s service that helps convince victims who are afraid to testify to still decide for this move.

Alojz Sladič from the General Police Administration said between 800 and 1,000 restraining orders were issued every year. He said police had proposed changes under which a restraining order could also be issued over harming another person’s health, including mental health.

General practitioner Nena Kopčavar Guček said only one in 20 victims reported violence to their doctor, adding that all of them would be willing to reveal their distress if the doctors asked them the right and considerate questions.

Jasna Podreka, a sociologist and a volunteer with the SOS Telephone, said women’s human rights, especially the right to abortion, were constantly subjected to judgements and attacks.

Political decision makers, experts and others still often blame women for violence. She also pointed to trivialising murders, which is frequent on social media in cases of femicides. In the comments, people often blame the victim for femicide, she said.

Referring to data by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, she noted that in 2016, 87,000 women had been murdered around the world, including 58% by their partner or other family member.