New and improved response to victims of violence: national report released

You do not have to be in a war zone to experience violence and crime. Intimate abuse committed against women and children in Switzerland still continues in every day life.

This content was published on March 27, 2000 - 10:41

You do not have to be in a war zone to experience violence and crime. Sexual abuse committed against women and children in Switzerland still continues in every day life. But the national research programme "Violence in daily life and organised crime" has published its findings into how the problem can be best tackled.

Around 40 projects were commissioned across Switzerland with the theme of "Stop Violence". The results, released at a conference in Basel, showed that co-operation between agencies dealing with victims of such violence was paramount if action was going to have any meaningful impact.

Director of the programme and criminologist, Eva Wyss, said that women will approach as many as eight institutions to get help if they have been abused. The report suggested that for comprehensive action, response must be co-ordinated between the agencies.

Liz Kelly, director of the Child and Women Abuse Studies unit at the University of North London, who attended the conference, stated that "Co-ordination is now the guiding principle in the UK strategy on gender violence published last year...what we know is that many women (in the UK) approach between eight and 15 institutions and agencies before they get any useful help. In the intervening time, which can be months or years, she and the children will experience many more assaults. So the importance of coordinated responses is that it prevents the subsequent victimisation."

So just who are the vital agencies which are being urged to co-operate more closely? Kelly said "We're talking about the police, health services, medical and psychological services. They may approach a church or a community organisation. So we're talking about co-ordinating all of these."

Corinna Seith, from the University of Berne's sociology department, believes that there are fundamental flaws in the current system for dealing with victims of every day violence. "On the institutional level we can see that the institutions do not have consistent definitions of domestic violence. So it depends really on the individual how the response will be. We have a lack of good protection for the women because we do not have the legal tools to send the men out of the apartment and to have protection orders."

Approximately one in every five women have experienced abuse, explained Eva Wyss. One of the first places to start addressing the problem is to standardise what constitutes violence and crime in every day life, believes Corinna Seith. Liz Kelly believes that in the first instance, the problem has to be recognised for what it is. Women and children, she says, then need to know they are not to blame. Close co-operation between help agencies can then tackle the problem in a comprehensive way.

by Samantha Tonkin

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