Violence can be reported to the police and Center for social work. What is the difference between the two and how do women opt for one or the other?
Victims contact the Center for social work when violence threat risk is medium or low. This implies situations when a woman does not wish to leave her husband/partner, expecting that with the help of professionals (social workers, psychologists) the perpetrator would “change”, “get better”, “realize his mistakes”.
Also, a woman usually contacts Center for social work when she and the perpetrator have children in common.
Upon receiving a report on violence, Center for social work is obliged to:
- Accept any verbal or written report on domestic violence
- At a woman's request, and in any instance of reported domestic violence, conduct conversation without the presence of the possible perpetrator of violence (abuser)
- Contact the victim in writing or by telephone or make an announced or unannounced visit to the family (or place of work)
- Refer the victim to give statement to the legal officer of the Center for social work.
- If needed, talk to children without the presence of parents, at their office, their apartment, pre-school or school facility. Children do not give statements on the record, except children above 15 years of age, and in case they wish to do it.
- react without delay within 24 hours, in the event the lives, health or safety of family members are threatened, or urgently (within 3 days) or within 7 days (regular procedure)
- inform the victim of her rights, services available in the local community, legal procedures for the protection from domestic violence
- inform the victim on her right to review the case file in the CSW, as well as the Plan of protection services and measures, which is produced upon her consent and signature (at CSW, a woman can obtain a copy of the Individual protection and support plan if she did not attend the meeting dedicated to planning)
- provide accommodation for the victim in a “safe house”, foster family or shelter
- in case the perpetrator does not wish to cooperate with CSW, he may be called by the police for an interview
- warn the perpetrator verbally or in writing
- prescribe to the perpetrator preventive or corrective supervision over the exercise of parental rights
- report violence to the police or public prosecutor’s office
- initiate a procedure ex officio to pronounce protection measures of against domestic violence (according to the Family Law)
- submit to the court the finding and opinion on the validity of the requested protection measures (in case the procedure has not been initiated)
- submit a finding and opinion on entrusting the child, child support and visitation rights of the perpetrator, when the victim had initiated action for divorce or entrusting the children
- initiate a lawsuit for the protection of the right of the child
- initiate a proceeding for partial or full termination of parental rights of the perpetrator
- submit to the police, prosecutor’s office or the court information, findings, opinions on domestic violence
- in an immediate intervention, goes to the scene (of domestic violence) in cooperation with the police, goes to the scene
- provides material assistance to the victim, assistance in terms of medical treatment, employment, education...
- refers the victim to other service providers in the community.
It should be noted that as the guardianship authority CSW in its operations is primarily concerned with the interests of children.
If there is information that a child's right has been violated, CSW is obliged to initiate legal proceedings in order to protect the interests of the child (e.g. a claim for child support, a lawsuit for entrusting a minor child to a parent, the exercise of parental rights, a lawsuit to regulate the maintaining of personal contacts of child and a parent in relation to the adoption of protective measures against domestic violence, deprivation of parental rights, etc.).
During an interview with a social worker it is important that a victim communicates all facts related to violence without any constraints: who committed the act of violence, when, where, how, who were the witnesses (if any), what are the consequences? It is important to say if violence had happened before or if it was frequent, as well as whether the perpetrator had prior convictions (by court decisions or misdemeanor convictions). Also, copies of any existing medical reports on injuries inflicted on the victim should be submitted.
It is important to know that when domestic violence exists, mediation, or family or partner therapy, are not appropriate procedures. Therefore, the victim should not (is not obliged) to accept the offer for mediation, which she should clearly state in her statement.
Important to know
The law obligates anyone who has knowledge of violence or doubts about the existence of domestic violence to report this knowledge / suspicion to the police and the public prosecutor without delay.
If a woman has reported violence to any state institution, that institution is obliged to transfer information to the police or public prosecutor (regardless of whether the woman has given consent for the exchange of information). If institutions make a wrong assessment or intervention, that can put the victim in danger.
Unlike state institutions, SOS emergency line operators inform the police about domestic violence only with the consent of the woman reporting violence, which means that verbal consent is sought and a record is made that such consent has been obtained.
MESSAGES BY WOMEN WHO HAD FACED VIOLENCE TO OTHER WOMEN
By keeping silent and by swallowing pain we only hurt ourselves even more. It is never too late to admit that we have been victims of violence. I have put up with it long enough and I said – no more! I have the right to live, to be respected and appreciated as a person.
A women suffering violence should not keep quiet, but should report the perpetrator. I received great support and help when I called the SOS emergency operator. Women should not be afraid. There is a way out.
I have suffered psychological violence for more than a year, but I never gave up fighting for dignity in my life and to one day have a peaceful life with my child. Do not be ashamed of psychological violence; ask for help because you have the right to do so. You have the right to life. It is all in you – courage, power, strength. Have faith in those who can help you. Conquer your fear.