Domestic violence in Estonia a legal viewpoint

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1 Project: Building a uniform system for the prevention of intimate partner violence in Estonia Norwegian Financial Mechanism programme Domestic and Gender-Based Violencee Domestic violence in Estonia a legal viewpoint Brief summary of results of expert polls Iris Pettai, Ivi Proos Estonian Institute for Open Society Research Tallinn,

2 Introduction This expert study has been carried out within the project Building uniform system for the prevention of intimate partner violence in Estonia, supported by the Norway Grants and the Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs. The project is realised by the Estonian Institute for Open Society Research with the partners University of Tartu Faculty of Law (Institute of Public Law); University of Tartu Faculty of Medicine (Chair of Polyclinic and Family Medicine); Estonian Academy of Security Sciences; Police and Border Guard Board; Tallinn University, Institute of Social Work; Resource Centre on Violence, Traumatic Stress and Suicide Prevention, Western Norway. The duration of the project: Nov. 28, 2013 Dec. 31, The primary goal of the project is to build up a joint system from the harmonisation of terms to the training of specialists according to common principles. The work and activity descriptions and regulations of specialists of various fields will be harmonised as well, so that all specialists dealing with domestic violence victims would know their role in violence prevention, leaving no grey areas, where the medics would refer the victim to the social worker, the social worker to the police and the police back to the social worker. A joint system with every specialist performing his or her clearly defined role would allow more efficient violence prevention, timely interfering and the prevention of severe incidents. Another goal of the project is the mapping of the initial situation regarding domestic violence. Expert surveys are carried out among four target groups: lawyers, social workers, the police and medical workers, totalling approximately 800 specialists all over Estonia. The expert studies will determine the preparedness of the various institutions to receive the steadily increasing number of victims, the perception of the specific aid required by the victims and the opportunities for helping them. Surveys among three target groups, besides lawyers involving social and medical workers, have been carried out by now. The present material compares the attitudes of lawyers (the respondent prosecutors, judges, barristers etc.) and police investigators. Comparisons between the opinions of prosecutors, judges and police investigators have been provided in case of some questions. Barristers could not be presented as a separate group due to their small share of the sample. 2

3 1. Goals of the study The project, which involved the nationwide expert survey of lawyers, treats as one of the main problems the lawyers preparedness and capability to prevent domestic violence and to cooperate with other institutions. The level of domestic violence is dangerously high in Estonia, while the measures taken so far have not been sufficient for the prevention of violence. The study aims at finding out what should be done in the current situation, how much depends on lawyers and the present legislation? The goal of the survey was to find out the following: How acute is the problem of domestic violence in the lawyers opinion? How frequently do the lawyers encounter domestic violence cases in their daily work and how much time do they spend on these cases? Why only a small percentage of domestic violence incidents reach court and result in conviction? Why do the victims often recant their initial statement and retract charges? What is the opinion about the frequently used conciliation method of parties involved in violence cases, where the rights and obligations of the abuser and the victim are defined for six months and which is obligatory for the abuser? Is the present legal framework adequate for addressing domestic violence sufficiently? Would a specific law on domestic violence be effective? Cooperation with other institutions (police, social work, health care, victim support etc.) How important is cooperation? What kind of preparation and extra training would the lawyers need for handling domestic violence cases? Is there readiness for integrating a subject on domestic violence in the law syllabus in the university? Whether and which amendments should be made in legislation for more efficient prevention of domestic violence? An assessment of the social and legal capability of the Estonian state to prevent domestic violence. Ideas, proposals, recommendations for achieving breakthrough in domestic violence prevention. The present material does not reflect all the results of the survey; the brief summary covers the most interesting results, which triggered a serious and pointed discussion in the Estonian media. 3

4 2. On the organisation of the survey 2.1. The principles of forming the sample The survey was random and nationwide. A total of 1,107 questionnaires was sent out, 704 to lawyers and 403 to police investigators. Two hundred and three filled forms were returned. Out of lawyers 122 responded to the questionnaire and out of the police investigators 81. A questionnaire filled by the respondent was used. The survey method used was web-based survey. The program used was a Lime Survey development by the polling firm Turuuuringute AS. The survey was carried out in November/December Description of the methodology The methodology of the survey was developed by the Estonian Institute for Open Society Research (Ivi Proos and Iris Pettai) in cooperation with the University of Tartu Institute of Public Law (Silvia Kaugia, Raul Narits, Jüri Saar). Kati Arumäe of the Police and Border Guard Board cooperated as consultant. The online survey questionnaire compiled for the study was meant for prosecutors, judges, barristers and other legal specialists as well as police investigators, who encounter victims of domestic violence in lesser or greater degree. Participation in the survey was voluntary and anonymous; the respondents did not need to supply their name and the program did not record personal data. The invitation to participate in the survey was relayed in an electronic message, which contained a brief explanation of the goals of the survey, guidelines for responding and the link of the questionnaire. Various channels were used for forming the sample. The Police and Border Guard Board permitted the use of the police investigators addresses. The prosecutors, judges, barristers and other legal specialists were sent a direct invitation to participate in the study. The questionnaire mainly consisted of questions with multiple-choice answers; in come cases independently worded answers were permitted if the choices proved unsuitable. At the end of the questionnaire we asked the respondent to provide some personal information (gender, position, length of service, education, location). The questionnaire could be filled in Estonian only. 4

5 3. General characterisation of respondents The final sample of the survey contains responses by 203 legal specialists and police investigators. Table 1. Speciality of the respondent Speciality %-s Prosecutors 21 Judges 12 Barristers 7 Other legal specialists 21 Police investigators 39 Total 100 Table 2. The respondents location and length of service at present position Region Lawyers Police investigators Northern Southern Western Eastern Total: Length of service Lawyers Police investigators 1-5 years years years years or longer Total: Average 11 years 10 years A total of 203 lawyers and police investigators were polled. The share of lawyers among respondents was 61%, that of police investigators 39%. The average length of service of the respondents was years. The polled lawyers were older than the police personnel. 2/3 of the lawyers were older than 40, while only every third of the police officers was above 40 years. The respondents represented all four regions. The largest amount of respondents worked in the Northern and Southern regions. 5

6 4. Encounters with domestic violence cases Table 3. Respondents handling domestic violence cases in everyday work (%) Lawyers expert opinion (%) Prosecutors Judges Police investigators Handling domestic violence cases Share of total working time, average Table 4. Share of handling domestic violence cases of total working time, average (%) Prosecutors Judges Police investigators 0% More Total Practically all police officers responding to the questionnaire (92%), as well as a large share of prosecutors (86%) and judges (77%) handle domestic violence cases in their daily work. Yet the share of working time spent on handling domestic violence cases is significantly lower, an average 42% for police officers, 33% for prosecutors and only 12% for judges. Every fourth judge does not handle domestic violence cases at all, 41% handle such cases to a minimal degree (up to 5% of working time). 6

7 5. Attitudes and views concerning domestic violence and its causes Table 5. How serious a problem is violence against women in Estonia in your opinion? Lawyers expert opinion (%-s) Opinions Mental violence Physical violence Sexual violence Lawyers Police investigators Lawyers Police investigators Lawyers Police investigators Very serious Quite serious Not very serious Unable to judge Total Lawyers and police officers do not underestimate violence against women but consider it a serious problem in all types of violence. Mental and physical violence are considered more serious problems than sexual. The greatest problem, according to the respondents, is mental abuse, which is judged as very serious by 44-49%. Second as to severity is physical violence, which is considered as very serious by 39-42%. Sexual violence is judged as significantly less serious; only every second respondent considers it a serious problem and every fifth a very serious one. It is significant to point out that 47% of lawyers and 40 % of police investigators have no personal position regarding sexual violence, which reveals that the incidents are encountered much less frequently, but also that this is a much more covert and hidden form of violence, about which the specialists are not fully informed. 7

8 5.1. Causes of violence are perceived in the behaviour of both women and men, as well as the influence of the society Table 6. Why women become victims of physical or sexual violence? Lawyers expert opinion (Answers to primarily + in %) Lawyers Police investigators I THE FAULT LIES WITH WOMEN, WHO act irresponsibly hitchhike, become drunk, go along with strangers provoke men to violence by ceaseless nagging provoke men by demonstrative behaviour and clothing II THE FAULT LIES WITH MEN, WHO cannot control aggressiveness, are easily infuriated and quickly become violent try to control everything in order to establish their superiority and put women to their place III VIOLENCE IS CAUSED BY... alcohol, narcotics unemployment poverty We studied in the survey, what the respondents considered the causes of violence; whether and to what extent the perpetrators or the women are seen as being responsible. We also studied the extent of explaining violent behaviour by the influence of the social environment. In order to determine to what extent the women may be responsible, we presented three typical attitudes blaming the female victims of violence. All three were supported by the respondents. Most of the respondents tend to blame also the victim for the perpetrated violence and find cases in the victim s behaviour. The most supported view was the idea of irresponsibly acting women, who hitchhike to random vehicles, become drunk and go along with strangers, thus seemingly provoking violence by their carelessness and stupidity. This attitude was supported by a predominant share of respondents, 67-71%. The other quite widely spread attitude blaming women states that women nag on men until the latter lose self-control and become violent. This attitude was supported by 58% of lawyers and 75 % of police investigators. The third attitude, the women s provocative behaviour and dressing style, found significantly less support, only 28% of lawyers and 42 % of police investigators agreed with this. 8

9 We also asked the respondents to judge the two typical attitudes blaming violent men. The most important cases of violence are considered the men s inability to control their aggressiveness (lack of anger management skills) and excessive need for control; these statements are supported by 92-99% of respondents. According to the survey we can argue that Estonia needs programmes targeting violent persons, psychological (compulsive) consultation, anger management training etc. When comparing the judgements concerning the attitudes, which blame either the female victims or the abusive men for the violence, we see that the lawyers and police officers tend to blame men to somewhat greater degree that women. Most of the respondents (90-96%) also consider the use of alcohol and narcotics to the cause of violence. The impact of unemployment and poverty is also considered a significant cause by 58-79% of respondents. Table 7. How should the women be helped and protected against violence? Lawyers expert opinion (Answers to primarily in %) Abusers should be subjected to compulsory programmes (anger management training), which would help them to control violence Abusers should be subjected to restraining order preventing them from approaching wife and children Sufficient number of shelters, where women (with children) could seek temporary security Women with abusive husbands should be located in municipal housing, where they could live with children separate from husbands Men and women of abusive households should be sent to consultants/advisors for reconciliation Lawyers Police investigators We asked the respondents, what should be undertaken first of all to help the victims and protect them against violence. The most supported measure was compulsory anger management training for abusers (57-58%) and imposing restraining order on abusers (45-52 %). 9

10 The construction of shelters and municipal housing found significantly less support. The option of shelters was supported by a larger share of respondents (29-30%) hat the construction of municipal housing (19-24%). Reconciliation by a family consultant as a primary measure found the least support with the police being the most sceptical with only 7% and the lawyers with 15%. To sum it up, the greatest confidence belongs to anger management training, which should change the abusive men. This is a relatively new method, so far rarely used in the world as well as in Estonia, which is initially viewed by respondents as a universal and effective solution. In the opinion of violence experts, the abusers correction programmes (including compulsory) should certainly be introduced to a greater extent, yet they should not be overestimated and viewed as a measure of victim protection, which would prevent repeated violence. Violence prevention, anger management, development of communicative skills, public awareness etc., do not replace effective legislation, but merely supplement it. 1 A more effective measure for the protection of victims is the restraining order, which is supported by 52% of police investigators and 45% of lawyers, according to the survey. Table 8. How would you rate the capability of the Estonian state to handle domestic violence cases? Lawyers expert opinion (%) I High capability Ensure the victims safe and respectful treatment in law enforcement agencies Prosecutors Judges Police investigators Inade Inade Inadequate quate quate Good+ Satisfac tory Good+ Satisfac tory Good+ Satisfac tory II Average capability Ensure safety of the victims children III Low capability Prevent domestic violence and serious cases Control situation in abusive households III Very low capability Have overview and control over violent persons Provide victims with benefits etc. other material support for independent living Handbook for Legislation on violence against women. UN Women. New York

11 The capability of the state in dealing with domestic violence cases is judged differently. The highest marks go to the treatment of victims by law enforcement agencies and ensuring the safety of the victims children is also viewed as satisfactory. Yet several key problems go unsolved according to the respondents. A predominant share of respondents (58-72%) find that the state cannot prevent domestic violence and serious incidents; they also point out that the state has no control over violent individuals (68-71%) and the situation in abusive households (60-68%). The experts find that the complete ineffectiveness of the state is revealed in providing the victims with allowances and other material support for independent living; 88% of judges, 81% of police investigators and 74% of prosecutors consider it unsatisfactory. The survey shows that the judges are somewhat more critical about the state s capability. Table 9. Not all domestic violence cases make it to court and conviction. What causes this? Lawyers expert opinion (%) Prosecutors Judges Police investigators No No No cause cause cause Important cause Important cause Important cause I Main obstruction Victims recant their initial testimony II Important obstructions Domestic violence cases are difficult to prove Sexual violence cases are difficult to prove II Less significant obstructions Evidence of domestic violence has been often collected superficially and allows no prosecution of the perpetrator Domestic violence cases are often of secondary importance, more serious crimes get the preference Domestic violence cases often do not constitute a crime The primary reason, why not all domestic violence cases make it to court and reach conviction, is, according to 2/3 of prosecutors and police investigators and 40% of judges the victims recanting their initial testimony. An important obstruction, according to 41-57% of prosecutors and police investigators is the difficulties in proving the cases of domestic violence. Out of judges, 28-32% agree with this statement. 11

12 Other possible causes like superficially collected evidence or secondary nature or domestic violence cases are not considered as important, only 5-14% prosecutors and 6-8% of police investigators consider them important. Yet the judges have different opinion about this; every fourth of them believes that domestic violence cases are frequently of secondary significance and more serious crimes are preferred. The lowest number of respondents (4-6%) agrees with the statement that domestic violence cases often do not constitute a crime. The results allow the conclusion that the main responsibility for the failure to bring domestic violence cases to court and reach conviction, in the respondents opinion lies with the victims, while the law enforcement agencies do not consider their work as deficient or problematic. 12

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