...IZ KRUGA – VOJVODINA
Organization for giving support to women with disabilities …IZ KRUGA – VOJVOVODINA provided 43 SOS phone services from 1st April to 30th May 2021. They were: psychological empowerment and devising a security plan for breaking from the violent situation, providing information about legal and other support systems, giving information (about child support, mandatory alcoholism treatment), giving legal aid (writing submissions for restraining orders, motion for consensual divorce) and individual psychological support. The beneficiaries commonly addressed the service via phone (22) or by coming in person to the premises (8) and by e-mail, viber and SMS.
In total, 40 calls from beneficiaries in violent situations were recorded (12 SOS calls, 18 service for individual psychological support, and 10 legal advice). During the period, 23 women addressed the Organization (10 for the first time), nine of them had some disability (physical, sensory, intellectual, mental or chronic illness). Women that report violence are mainly exposed to psychological (17) and physical violence (9), followed by other types (isolation, sexual and economic violence). Common perpetrators are ex-husbands, husbands, partners, neighbors, parents and other family members (father or brother).
The women who applied for support are of different ages, the youngest is 24 and the oldest is 52 years old.
Younger women with disabilities often face various restraints and prohibitions. They are deprived of free choice, decision making, free getting around, of the right to live on their own, grow and develop. They do not control social contacts making or maintaining them and do not fully participate in communal activities. This behavior comes from the overprotection of family members towards women with disabilities in whose name they make decisions.
Older women with disabilities face health and existential challenges. They are at a higher risk of being placed in the institutions by family members because they cannot provide adequate care or personal assistance.
Among the beneficiaries of the SOS service, the majority were unemployed women (15), compared to employed (7) and students (1). Being financially independent is an essential point for breaking the circle of violence and, at the same time biggest obstacle that is hard to overcome without powerful support from the family and society. Women with disabilities are in a particularly difficult position to get free from violence, especially if the violent person is the only support for daily life. It is important to emphasize that women with disabilities do not suffer violence only from their partners but from other family members too (parents, children, siblings). For this reason, their aptitude and readiness to break the circle of violence are greatly weakened. Economic situation and worries about their existence additionally burden their standing. One of the key moments in reaching economic safety and independence is empowering women with disabilities and strengthening the existing capacities that will enable them to find work and the means to provide for themselves.
The majority of recorded calls are from urban areas (18) compared to ones from rural areas (5). This confirms that information is less accessible to women in rural areas and that the support mechanisms are less developed. The highest number of calls was from Novi Sad, Temerin, Backa Topola, Uzice, Pancevo, Sombor, Mali Zvornik. There were some calls from less developed areas – Zarkovac, Backi Petrovac and Ritopek.
Apart from the women that suffer violence, we have numerous calls from family members. They come from mothers that have children with disabilities (minors and of age with disabilities) who need to be empowered and instructed how to be of support to their children that suffered from physical, psychological, or sexual violence violence by fathers.
Women and children with disabilities that suffer insults, underestimation, threats, and physical violence, in time develop defense mechanisms such as withdrawal and isolation. It is followed by a lack of confidence, mistrust and disbelief in one’s own strength and capabilities. Due to this pattern of behavior, it is difficult for them to step out, make personal contacts, let anyone become close, regain trust to be able to talk about the violence experienced without the risk of being traumatized again.
We also received calls from adults whose mothers suffer violence from their spouses. The cases are from families where the mother’s life and growing up were marked by various types of violence from the father (physical, psychological, economic). For the reasons of economic dependence and fear of the consequences, they did not report the violence. Upon leaving the violent surrounding, getting independence and stability children call wanting to give support to the mothers and to get information about the procedures, police activities, and possible sanctions. Calls that are from other persons can be seen as an improvement, concerning raising awareness about the existence of violence, recognizing it, and mechanisms of protection. By promoting the work of the SOS service, individual psychological help and legal consultations in media and social networks, we raise awareness of the society about the presence of violence and the mechanisms for protection. The promotion encourages and stimulates women to ask for support and report violence.
It is of the utmost importance to women that call SOS phone service to be able to share their story with the consultants who will listen, understand and support them on each step of the road. Due to the feeling of shame, fear and the belief that violence is a private family matter, not the society as a whole, women often remain silent about it. They withdraw, and because of the psychological pressure, economic dependence, humiliation and threats to leave the house, they stay in the circle of violence. The first task of the consultant of the SOS service is to get to know and encourage the women. They need to bring home the fact that violence is a severe social problem, not an individual one and that there is always a way out.
The work of the SOS service of the organization …IZ KRUGA – VOJVODINA in the second trimester is supported by the Dutch foundation Mama Cash, Rekonstrukcija zenski fond, joined by UNDP from 15th June, as part of the project – Integrated Answer to Violence Towards Women and Girls in Serbia III.