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Shelters for the victims of domestic violence and children beyond the system


Lana Giorgidze

Overcrowded shelters, insufficient time, no children’s psychologist in the shelters, lost hope of future, exclusion from social programs, escaping the violent environment but only temporarily – this is the list of the problems, which the victimized women encounter during their stay in the shelters. 

D.K is victim of violence, who, instead going to the state shelter, went to the monastery in Kvemo Kartli region because there is no shelter in the region. 

“In the summer of 2017 I worked on a case, where criminal investigation had started into the fact of violence. We could not take the victim of violence to another region because she was to be interrogated with regard to the case. At the same time, she needed assistance of the doctor and had to stay in Kvemo Kartli region. We resolved the problem by placing her in the monastery in Kvemo Kartli region for three days. Afterwards she was taken to Tbilisi based shelter as soon as it became possible. Her stay in the monastery was dangerous because everybody could enter the premises of the monastery and besides physical threats the harasser or his relatives could visit her in the monastery and convince her to make the testimony in favor of the harasser. However, we had no other option because there is no shelter in Kvemo Kartli region regardless the fact that big part of domestic violence facts occur in this region. Nowadays, five state shelters function in Georgia. Reportedly, two more shelters will be opened soon but Kvemo Kartli region is still left out of the agenda that is big problem,” Kvemo Kartli office coordinator of Human Rights Center Tamar Lukava told humanrights.ge.

She added that sometimes, victims from Kvemo Kartli region refuse to be placed in the shelter because they have to travel to another region and prefer to go to their relatives. The state cannot offer any service to them because there is no shelter in the region. 

The information provided by other NGO representatives also confirms the problems related with incorrect geographical segregation of the shelters that disable the victims to go to the shelters. 

“We had cases when we could not place the victim in the Tbilisi based shelter because there was no place in it. The victim was sent to the shelters in the regions. It is problem because the victim needs additional adaptation in the other region, look for the job that is not easy. At the same time, there is not big chance of getting employed in the regions. However, none of the victims ever refused to go to the shelter because of this problem. As for the children of the victims, they have to move to different education institutions to continue schooling process,” Ana Tchigvaria, psychologist of the nongovernmental organization Sapari told humanrights.ge.

Representative of the organization Partnership for Human Rights Ana Arganashvili said the state shelters for the victims of domestic violence are empty and nobody wonders why…

“I have information that the shelters are empty and nobody goes there; nobody inquires why… if the victim does not go to a shelter, it means she needs something different. Lack of services causes miscarriages in the justice system. Since they did not empower the women at least with the consultations with psychologist, the woman refuses to report police and give testimony. Punishment of the violator is priority and good prevention but here is the question, how the woman will live particularly if she has children but does not have job and income to keep the family. The state shall pay attention to similar issues. Prosecutors and investigators cannot work with the woman effectively when no psychologists, social workers and employment agent are involved in the process,” Ana Arganashvili said. 

According to the official information of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, fight against domestic violence is one of the priorities of the Government of Georgia and MIA.

“The Ministry actively cooperates with NGOs, international organizations and other institutions in order to combat domestic violence. In 2006 the parliament of Georgia adopted the law on Elimination of Domestic Violence, Protection of and Support to Its Victims. MIA is represented at the Interagency Council for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, which develops and monitors the implementation of national Action Plan,” the statement of the MIA reads.

According to the MIA, the state provides the victims of domestic violence with the shelter, where a victim may stay for three months. There are three independent ways to get the victim status: permanent council for the identification of the victim status, restraining and protective orders.

Citizens may call the hotline 116 006 to get consultations

“Incidents of domestic violence and violence against women are growing, which provide evidence of the need for government efforts to offer victims effective services and protection from repetitive violence.  During the reporting period, the examined data confirm that services to protect victims from violence need to be improved, as the social-economic progress of victims situations, as well as assistance to achieve independent living and find new employment are not being provided through the current services offered at shelters. Once again, it was also shown that effective inclusion of social workers in cases of domestic violence remains problematic,” the 2016 Special Report of Public Defender “Women’s Rights and Gender Equality” reads.

In 2014, the PDO’s Gender Equality Department has carried out monitoring of the shelters and national hotline for domestic violence victims. 
“It is noteworthy that the state shelters were monitored first time and it revealed many interesting aspects. The target group of the monitoring was beneficiaries of the shelters and the service quality was evaluated based on their interviews. The three state shelters were monitored in Tbilisi, Gori and Kutaisi. In order to collect complete data, additional information has been requested from the State Fund for the Protection and Assistance to the Victims of Human Trafficking (State Fund) which operates the domestic violence shelters,” the Special Report of the PDO –Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence in Georgia (2015) reads. 

All victims of domestic violence are accepted in the shelters, who needs it. In accordance to the internal regulations of the shelter, the victim of violence is a family member, who endured physical, psychologic, sexual, economic violence or harassment and the respective service of the MIA or the court (restraining or protective orders), or the group authorized to determine the victim status granted the victim status to her. 

In accordance to the PDO monitoring, in 2013-2014, 15 victims were placed in the shelter based on restraining orders, 1 was placed based on the protective order, 22 victims by the status-determining authoritative group, 9 – based on the protocols of the patrol police. Nobody was placed in the shelter based on the notification on victim status. 

“The Public Defender examined a number of cases, where in domestic violence incidents the patrol police has continued to use receipts as opposed to measures foreseen by the law. Moreover, during the monitoring, almost all respondents have noted that before being placed in the shelter, they had applied to the police, both the patrol police and the district inspect numerous times and did not receive any support from them. A restrictive order has been issued upon the first call of the police in one case only. Other respondents pointed out the mostly, they have experienced a cynical attitude from the part of police officers. According to one of the respondents, she was told by the police that if she left, the husband would take away her child,” the special report reads.
Victim of violence, often is left without the defense from the police and the head of the legal aid service at Human Rights Center Tamar Avaliani also speaks about it.
“There are cases when a police officer is either a friend of the harasser, or relative or he is the harasser himself for what the police officer leaves the victim without protection and does not issue restraining order. Police only warns the harasser. The organization worked on the facmicide cases, when the police just warned the harasser and several hours later the woman was killed. We believe the police shall necessarily issue the restraining orders when they are called to the site of incident,” Tamar Avaliani said. 

According to the PDO monitoring, mostly the women aged from 24 to 34 get the service in the shelters. However, in 2013-2014 underage girls were also placed in the shelters. 

As for the basis to leave the shelter, it varies: expired term, personal notification, integration in the family (parent’s family), integration in the family (husband’s family), move to another accommodation, internal referral (moved to another shelter) and unidentified reasons. 

As a result of PDO’s inquiry with the administration it has been established that upon expiry of the term of placement in the shelter, the case file of each beneficiary is being reviewed and the term is extended as necessary. There were cases when the term is extended up to one year. 

“Interviews with beneficiaries revealed the following: in most cases, three-months period for the placement in the shelter estimated by the law, is not enough for comprehensive psycho-social rehabilitation of the victim because majority of them had lived in the violent environment for a long time and required enormous effort to make the step towards escaping it. During inquiry, almost all of the beneficiaries have noted that they feel very comfortable in the shelter, but at the same time, they are counting the remaining days, as they do not know where to go once the term expires. Often, the sole alternative for them is to return to the violent husband. Clearly, the shelter cannot be a permanent place of residence for the persons in need, but it has been established that the initial 3 months are a rather short term for even partial solution of the problems the users of these services are facing,” the special report Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence in Georgia reads. 

According to the PDO, it is essential that having left the service centers, the people could continue living independently to avoid repeated violence in future.

“Otherwise we receive a closed circle, where a victim temporarily escapes the violent environment, starts rehabilitation and due to limited period of placement in the shelter, she goes back to the harasser because she does not have alternative. Another problem is exclusion from state social programs, which she received before the shelter. Victim needs several months to restore the social allowance because her conditions shall be re-evaluated and respective decision shall be made on granting the allowance. In fact, socially indigent women, upon leaving the shelter, are left without any income to live on. Creation social guarantees would serve as preventive measure because it could enable the victims to leave the place of violence easier,” the Special Report of the Public Defender reads.
Besides monitoring the victims’ conditions, the PDO inquired the living conditions of the victims’ children in the shelters that is related with some problems. 

“The health condition of children requires special attention. During the monitoring, one of the respondents informed us that her child was prescribed by a doctor certain medication against a viral infection that was not included in the list of medication to be kept at the shelter. The child should have taken the medication (antibiotics) immediately, however due to the long state procurement procedure, the medication was only provided to the child after three days.

As per the Convention on the Rights of the Child as well as the Georgian legislation, the state has the duty to provide children with necessary medical services. Such impediments are inadmissible. A mechanism must be created to ensure timely provision of medication to the beneficiaries. There is no child psychologist in the shelters and no one works for their psychological rehabilitation. The shelter administration noted that, if necessary, the adult psychologist takes over this function. It is unclear however who should determine that there is such need, unless the child’s condition is being evaluated. It is absolutely necessary that upon admission to the shelter, psychological state of both, the mother and the child, must be evaluated and a relevant plan developed, so that children too have access to rehabilitation services. At this stage, we have the impression that children remain outside the system,” the Report states.

Representative of the Gori based shelter for the victims of domestic violence Khatia Chikhladze said, although there is only one adult’s psychologist in the shelter, they never faced problems in this direction.

“It would be good if we had child’s psychologist too but at this stage only one psychologist serves the shelter. I would like to note that children do not have problems in getting education. We also assist their mothers to integrate into the society and to take professional trainings. As for the employment, it is problem because majority of victims do not have high education. Thus, we permanently work in this direction,” Khatia Chikhladze said.

In accordance to the PDO monitoring report, all shelters are clean and warm and have decent living conditions. The rooms are well set up and include children’s beds. Sanitary norms are observed. As per the shelter policy, the shelter locations are confidential and their addresses may not be disclosed to ensure that safety of the victims/ survivors is protected. Furthermore, entrance doors in some shelters are made of iron and the shelters are further protected by 24/7 security guards. However, it should be noted that the addresses of shelters located in the regions are known to all interested parties locally and it is rather difficult for the shelter staff to maintain confidentiality due to the specifics of the rural settings.

This article was prepared in the frame of the project “Support to the Prevention of Violence against Women in Georgia, which is implemented by Human Rights Center with financial support of the U.S. Embassy Tbilisi under Democracy Commission Small Grants Program. The contents of this article are those of the Human Rights Center and do not necessarily represent the views of the Department of State.

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