Podgorica, Montenegro - 8 September 2015
Do you know how to recognize violence in family? Do you know all its forms and facets? Do you know where to seek help and which protection measures are in place to support the victim? Answers to all these questions and many others will now be provided by the SOS helpline for victims of violence in family. The line is national, toll-free, anonymous and available 24/7. This service is the first and most important contact of support, where victims of violence can talk to experienced and educated operators, who are specifically trained to deal with this issue.
The SOS helpline was introduced as a result of cooperation between the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare and the NGO SOS Nikšić, with support of UNDP and the EU. This is a step further in advancing the social welfare system, and the line was set up in accordance with the Law on Social and Child Care Protection.
At the official launch of the campaign for promotion of this new social service, Zorica Kovačević, Minister of Labor and Social Welfare emphasized the importance of strengthening the system of women and child protection. “The number of reported cases of violence is increasing, but this does not indicate that there is more domestic violence in Montenegro, but that the legal framework has created more favourable conditions for victims to report family violence. This is also a sign that citizens are gaining more and more trust and confidence in the protection system. On the other hand, this is also a huge challenge for the institutions to provide quick and efficient response”, said Ms. Kovačević.
The surveys carried out a few years ago by UNDP and national partners, with support from the EU, revealed some striking data. In more than 80% of the cases of violence in the family, extended family members of the victim knew about it, but only in 29% or just under the third, of the cases they offered support to the victim and her children. Only 12% of all cases were reported to authorities.
Fiona McCluney, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative to Montenegro explained that every second person interviewed in this Survey knew someone who is, or was, a victim of violence in family, but they opted not to report violence due to two main reasons: lack of trust in institutions or the patriarchal understanding that violence is a private matter and should be settled behind the closed door, between the husband and wife. “For the United Nations there is no doubt that violence in family is NOT a private matter but presents an issue that the overall society needs to respond to, while governments are responsible for the development of the protection system,” Ms. McCluney emphasized.
International statistics show a worrying situation, and no country is immune, including in the European Union. Mitja Drobnič, Head of the EU Delegation to Montenegro pointed out that about a third of all women in the EU have experienced either physical or sexual violence since the age of 15. “This is not only worrying – it is unacceptable. We must not allow anyone to live in fear, especially in their own families. The costs of violence against women are astronomical. The human suffering and pain, the missed opportunities for economic inclusion and productivity, the costs of services to support abused women and their children and the legal costs to bring perpetrators to justice. And discrimination is the reason for these preventable costs” Mr. Drobnič noted.
Nataša Međedović Pištalo, Director of the NGO SOS Niksic that operates the SOS helpline, highlighted that this NGO has 17 years of experience and that the operators are knowledgeable and specifically trained to treat the needs of victims and provide emotional as well as legal support in crisis situations. “SOS help line is aimed at helping victims regain control over their own lives,” said Ms. Međedović Pištalo.
Only in the first ten days of its operation, the SOS helpline received 84 phone calls, which exceeded the initial estimates. The main goal of this campaign is to raise awareness on this free, national SOS help line for victims of violence in family, motivating the citizens to use the line for help and to reinforce trust in the systematic approach of public institutions in terms of providing protection measures.