22:39, Wednesday, 02.12.2020
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Victims of domestic violence do not trust police


 Lana Giorgidze

Violence against women is still acceptable for the women and men in Georgia:  Of those surveyed, almost one quarter of women (22 per cent) and one third of men (31 per cent) believe that wife-beating is justified under certain circumstances. Moreover, almost one quarter of all women (23 per cent) and nearly half of all men (42 per cent) believe that a wife should obey her husband even if she disagrees. 

These were the results from the survey, which were carried out by the UN Women, National Statistics Office and the EU. According to the study, since 2009, it was the first occasion when reliable national-wide statistic data were obtained to assess the scope of the violence against women and attitude of the population towards this problem.

According to the official data of the MIA, 1439 facts of domestic violence were registered during the nine months in 2017. In the cases of domestic violence, the data from the nine months of 2017 were higher than the data from 12 months in 2016. In 2016, the cases of domestic violence were 83 less than in 9 months of 2017. 

3 137 restraining orders were issued with regard to domestic violence cases during 9 months in 2017. In total, restraining orders were issued against 5 843 persons in Georgia. According to the MIA, the quantitative difference between registered cases of domestic violence and issued restraining orders is caused by the fact that the restraining orders are often issued repeatedly against one person.

Head of the legal aid service at Human Rights Center Tamar Avaliani said law enforcement officers often tell the victims of domestic violence that it would be better if they “settle the conflicts inside the family.” At the same time, police officers “encourage” the victims and tell that all men are equal and they should be happy that violence facts are not frequent in their cases because usually drunken men beat women. Tamar Avaliani said similar statements from the side of law enforcement officers are unjustified. 

Lawyer of the nongovernmental organization Safari Eliso Rukhadze spoke about inadequate and insulting attitude of police officers towards victims.
“We have several cases, when women were subjected to repeated psychological trauma in police units. Sometimes women get much more traumatized in police units than during the harassment facts in their families. When victims of violence apply to police, police officers mostly suggest them to write that they were victims of psychological violence instead physical one. I do not know what the motivation of the police is. If the victim of violence is transgender woman or a disabled person, police officers degrade and inadequately treat them,” Eliso Rukhadze said.

She added that big part of police officers have zero sympathy towards the victims of violence. “Zero tolerance, unserious approach towards the issue, lack of professionalism and many other issues compel the women not to go to police units alone and ask us for help or does not apply to anybody at all; they prefer to stay with the harasser than get double trauma from other persons. All these result into the situation that victims do not give testimonies or later at the court hearings refuse to make testimonies. The victim, who is already traumatized, cannot get adequate support from law enforcers.”

The human rights defender said with the creation of the human rights department MIA admitted that police officers do not adequately treat the women, who are victims of violence. 

The human rights defenders state that it would be better if female police officers questioned the victims of violence, because they are more sensitive towards victim women. Psychologist of Sapari Ana Tchigharia appreciates this initiative and believes that it is important to train women and engage them in the proceedings as a woman can demonstrate empathy more as she knows the problems of other women better, what the woman feels in similar situation. 

“Although the domestic violence facts may last for years, the victims try to give different name to the harassment. It is difficult for the victim to take a step and sue her family member. When the victim takes this difficult step and goes to police, she becomes victim of inadequate attitude from the side police officers. Instead providing the victim with information, the victim is getting stressed in the police unit. The victim loses hope that law enforcement officers will help her. We had many cases when victims told us that police will not protect them because they do not react on the harassment and never punish harassers. Similar attitude further aggravates the situation, places victim in deadlocked situation,” psychologist Ana Tchighvaria said. 

She added that police shall become sensitive towards this problem; they must be aware of peculiarities of trauma and victim. Also, police officer must know that victim woman may give him testimony one day but change it next day as there is traumatizing links between the victim and harasser. 

“Other psychological mechanisms shall be taken into account, which keeps the victim of violence in the violent environment. Police shall be a group of people, who will realize the situation of the victim and protect her from further traumatization. The victims cannot or do not speak about sexual harassment, which are often common during domestic violence. Police officers have little knowledge, apart to that they are part of the society whose majority, according to surveys, justify the violence against women. It is important to segregate the attitudes of the police officer and citizen to similar issues,” psychologist Ana Tchighvaria told humanrights.ge.

According to Tchighvaria, in most cases, police officers do not record in the protocols that children witnessed the facts of violence, or attended the process of interrogation. This is important because if the child has witnessed the violence, he/she is also victim of violence. Police officers do not mention children in the protocols because they support the harassers and do not mention the facts which may aggravate their charge. Tchighvaria added that it is necessary that victim was questioned in a separate room and not in common space, because she cannot speak about harassment loudly. “There is no culture of confidentiality in police units. At the same time, police officers need good knowledge to avoid double traumatization of the harassed women.”

Executive director of Human Rights Center Aleko Tskitishvili said the organization prepared the report “Prevention of Violence against Women – Problems and Challenges”, which analyzed the information obtained from different working meetings with state institutions and nongovernmental organizations. The report will be presented on April 18 at the conference, where representatives of the government and nongovernmental organizations will participate. 

“The discussions of Human Rights Center in the regions and Tbilisi revealed miscarriages and problems in the work of law enforcement bodies and the MIA also admits it that we evaluate positively. The MIA recently established a human rights department, which plans intensive cooperation with NGOs in order to eradicate systemic problems with regard to violence against women and ineffective response to harassment facts. The NGOs expect the MIA to take concrete steps to improve current unpleasant situation. Meanwhile, the victims of violence still face negligent attitude of police officers when they apply to police for help; sometimes they get cynic, degrading treatment and so-called “men’s solidarity” towards harasser men. Thus, victims do not trust law enforcement bodies,” said Aleko Tskitishvili.

He added that much more shall be done and to be changed in the legislation and practice for the prevention of violence against women. It is important that different obligations taken under the EU-Georgia Association Agreement were followed by legislative and practical changes. Also, ratification of the Istanbul Convention about the Prevention and Elimination of Violence against Women and Domestic Violence is another promising act, which estimated criminal liability for all crimes committed against women. Through implementation of the Istanbul Convention, we may avoid many problems in future if the government introduces respective amendments in the national legislation and will plan relevant changes in different levels. 

The article was prepared in the frame of the project – “Trial Monitoring for Women”, which is implemented by Human Rights Center with the Bulgarian Development Aid. The views in the article does not necessarily express the views of the donor and it is responsible for the content of the article. 

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