Domestic violence during war: how can victims get help?

Domestic violence during war: how can victims get help?

During the war, the problem of domestic violence in Ukraine is less covered in the information space. However, it not only did not disappear, but on the contrary - intensified. However, the importance of this problem is belittled by society, state authorities and even the affected persons themselves. Appeal to the National Hotline for Prevention of Domestic Violence, Human Trafficking and Gender Discrimination repeatedly began with the words: "I apologize for bothering you - after all, we are at war, not before that..." 

Why is it important to continue working with the problem of domestic violence despite the war and how exactly can victims get help? Tells Maryna Legenka, vice president of the public organization "La Strada - Ukraine". 

Many cases of downplaying of the problem of domestic violence were observed at the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Russia. Currently, the situation is improving, in particular, response entities, including the National Police of Ukraine, are adapting mechanisms for responding to cases of domestic violence to current conditions. From this point of view, cases in territories where active hostilities are taking place are particularly difficult and, accordingly, there are difficulties in responding to cases of domestic violence.  

Unfortunately, the problem will not disappear by itself even after the victory of Ukraine. Social and economic tension increased. Many families are forced to move to safer regions and find themselves in a limited space in search of housing, some families have lost their homes and jobs. And this is one of the catalysts for the increase in cases of domestic violence. 

What actions are considered domestic violence?

Law of Ukraine "On Prevention and Combating Domestic Violence" records that domestic violence is an act (action or inaction) of physical, sexual, psychological or economic violence committed in the family or within the limits of the place of residence or between relatives, or between former or current spouses, or between other persons who live (have lived) together in the same family, but are not (were not) in family relations or married to each other, regardless of whether the person who committed domestic violence lives (lived) in the same place as the victim, as well as threats committing such acts.

So, domestic violence is not only about beatings or other physical actions. There are other forms, but they are usually more difficult to identify. For example, shouting and humiliation are manifestations of psychological violence. Deprivation of economic benefits (housing, food, prohibition to work or, on the contrary, forced labor) are types of economic violence. Illegal encroachment on the sexual integrity of a family member, in particular when it comes to spouses, is sexual violence.

At the same time, if physical violence caused injuries - even if it happened in the family circle, it is no longer just about domestic violence, but also about causing bodily harm. Actions of a physical nature that did not lead to injuries - for example, slaps and pushes, can entail administrative responsibility, and in the case of their systematic commission criminal liability.

Where can victims of domestic violence turn for help?

If the violence is happening "here and now" - you should call 102, that is, the police. In the application, state the address, and if the violence occurs against or in the presence of the child, indicate this as well. After all, according to the law, even if a child witnesses domestic violence, he is considered a victim and needs help and protection. The police must respond to the appeal, stop illegal acts, assess the risks and, based on this, consider the possibility of issuing an urgent restraining order against the offender.

If the injured person is injured you need to contact a medical institution. Be sure to inform the doctors about the situation that happened.

If the domestic violence happened earlier or does not pose a direct threat to the person at this moment (for example, the victim or the offender left the house where the violence took place), the victim may contact the police with a statement. The police should record the complaint and respond to it.

In addition to the police, there are other government agencies that respond to cases of domestic violence. In particular, it is:

  • service for children;
  • education management bodies, educational institutions, institutions and organizations of the education system;
  • health care bodies, health care institutions and facilities;
  • centers for providing free secondary legal assistance;
  • courts;
  • prosecutor's office

There are also support services for victims, which include shelters for victims, centers for medical and social rehabilitation of victims, mobile teams of social and psychological assistance to victims and persons who have suffered from gender-based violence, as well as institutions and institutions exclusively designated for the affected persons.

NGO "La Strada - Ukraine" provides work National hotline for the prevention of domestic violence, human trafficking and gender discrimination - which works free, 24/7, anonymous and confidential by numbers:
0 800 500 335 (from stationary) or 116 123 (from mobile).

It is important that witnesses - for example, acquaintances or neighbors - can also report cases of domestic violence. We have a hotline where people report cases of domestic violence that they know of, primarily against children, and ask that the relevant authorities be informed about it, but they themselves wish to remain anonymous.

How can an abuser be restrained from committing further domestic violence? 

The state takes a number of special measures to protect victims and prevent domestic violence. For example, this is:

  • issuance of an urgent injunction
  • issuance of a restraining order
  • placing the offender on a special register
  • referral to a program for offenders in order to develop a non-violent model of behavior
  • bringing a person to justice for the committed violence

How do I get a restraining order?

It is an effective tool that helps keep victims of domestic violence safe.

Urgent injunction issued by an authorized police unit that arrives at the scene of domestic violence. Such a prescription prohibits the offender from taking certain actions towards the injured person, for example, contacting and even just being around, in particular, entering a shared apartment. This order is issued at the initiative of police representatives or at the request of an injured person. Its validity period is up to 10 days.

The injured person can apply for extradition restrictive prescription to the court (its term of validity is up to six months).

Violation of an urgent restraining order threatens the offender with administrative responsibility, and for violation of a restrictive order criminal liability.

Why is it important to report domestic violence? 

Keeping silent about cases of domestic violence leads to repeated violence, quite often in a more severe form. Because of the sense of impunity, the cycles become shorter and shorter – that is, the acts of violence happen more often, become more aggressive and cause more harm to the victims.

Victims have the right to apply for help and receive it in full, the war cannot in any way be an excuse for the state not responding to the violence being committed.

It is extremely important to maintain attention to the problem both on the part of the state and society.

Text: Kateryna Majevska