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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

“16 days without violence”

The sixth nationwide action for the prevention of violence starts on Nov. 25
21 November, 2006 - 00:00

Social workers are raising the alarm: in 2005 alone there were 30,327 cases of domestic violence. According to unofficial statistics, the number is much higher. First Deputy Minister of Family Affairs, Youth, and Sports Illia Shevliak believes that attention must be concentrated first and foremost on the early detection of domestic violence and organizing broad information campaigns. With this goal in mind, the VI Nationwide Action “Sixteen Days without Violence” is set to start on Nov.25.

Ukraine also needs special centers, where victims of violence can seek help. “The situation is more or less satisfactory with crisis centers, where psychologists mainly work. They exist practically in every region of the country,” says Pavlo Vlasov, a member of the Women’s Information-Coordination Center, a Dnipropetrovsk-based civic organization.

“However there are practically no medical-social rehabilitation centers,” he says. These types of centers should be created within medical institutions. There psychologists, psychiatrists, and other medical experts work with victims. “Often victims of violence suffer from a number of diseases; at the same time psychological rehabilitation is extremely complicated.”

For example, in the last few years psychologists have discovered a syndrome known as acquired helplessness. “The violator puts an end to the victim’s attempts to resist the violence, and little by little she becomes convinced that she can do nothing,” Vlasov explains. “This is a very complicated psychological phenomenon.”

But experts say that not only victims need help, but violators as well. “Such people cannot be regarded as completely healthy,” Vlasov says, “They often have heightened aggressiveness and a number of other problems that one way or another are connected to a profound inferiority complex.” Specialists believe that the violator’s dependence on the victim resembles drug addiction. By humiliating somebody, the violator affirms himself, and it would be a real tragedy for him to lose his victim.

“It is crucial to rehabilitate such people. It is equally important for them to realize the difficulties that will be experienced in the process of rehabilitation,” Vlasov explains. “Everyone thinks that it is enough just to solve conflict situations. But in fact everything is much more complicated. If a person has a desire to commit violence, this is also a kind of pathology. Jus as a victim is formed gradually, so is a violator.”

However, nobody is dealing with the question of “reeducating” such people. The lack of practical skills and training is the main reason. “I have met many representatives of various states where such centers exist. I tried to get a tentative assessment of the work with violators,” Vlasov recalls, “but the figure, even a rough or approximate one, was never named. Everyone thinks it is best to avoid answering this question.”

Another problem is how to protect victims. Many people, including staffers of the Ministry of Family Affairs, Youth, and Sports, agree that legal protections from violence are imperfect. A victim who suffers bodily injuries may appeal to the court, and it will launch a criminal action. But the victim will have to look for evidence and witnesses on his own.

The court may likewise forbid the violator to visit places where the victim studies or works. “The methods for making such decisions have not been developed yet, and it is very difficult to control whether the person is abiding by the court’s decision. That is why in the majority of cases it is merely a formality,” Vlasov says. Social workers urge victims to turn to special services and centers, which are staffed by psychologist and lawyers, who can advise on the proper course of action.