Protector of Citizens Zoran Pašalić was a guest on the morning program of Euronews Television.
We are speaking with the Protector of Citizens Zoran Pašalić, good morning, welcome. We have seen data that show that the rate of domestic violence against women seems to have increased in the past month. During the past week, we saw two femicides and one attempted murder in Prokuplje yesterday. What do these data tell us?
- These data tell us that you noticed it, they don't say anything that domestic violence is escalating, these are data that are repeated from year to year. If you follow them, and I follow them for more than a decade and a half, you will see that domestic violence is a serious concern not only in our society but in all communities, I can say this freely because in contacts with ombudsmen of other countries I saw that it is a really serious problem. What is the root of that problem? Primarily, relations in the family, that is, the ruination of the family as a community.
Do you have data on how many women have been killed since the beginning of this year?
- We do not keep this information. Our goal is to prevent women from being killed in the future, that is, not to reach the stage of killing, God forbid, but only the stage of the beginning of violence that can escalate into murder. This is what I have always said even when I started dealing with this topic: the first violence, to say colloquially, the first slap is an indicator. It must stop there, there is no more time to wait and expect that the bully who did it will change. In 99 percent of cases, I can freely say that the perpetrator does not change, but continues with this, so to speak, behavior until it escalates, and in a number of situations it ends up with a tragic epilogue. Whether he will kill his wife, or she will kill him to get rid of the violence, these are all very realistic possible epilogues.
We mostly collect information about this from the media, and from some organizations for the protection of women's rights. That number has been 11 since the beginning of the year. The balance is similar to the previous year, however, I have to ask you, how much has the corona and the situation of confinement increased the percentage of domestic violence? Do you have that information recorded?
- It certainly has. Confinement definitely affects us, gives an additional impetus to the abuser to express his dissatisfaction, mostly dissatisfaction not with his partner but with his own construction, his own life, on those who are weakest, and that is the wife or husband much less often, children, and frequently parents as well. This is what we pointed out a few days ago, violence against the elderly. We talk about the murders of women here, but we have to record all cases of violence that happen within the family.
We mentioned this the day before yesterday on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. We continue the talk with Zoran Pašalić. How’s the implementation of the Law on Prevention of Domestic Violence going? It was adopted 4 years ago.
- It cannot be expected that the law will solve the problem that lasts and will last, but it can steer the attitude of the society towards that phenomenon. The first and foremost is that society recognizes this phenomenon as key to breaking up the family and thus the wider community. What I have always emphasized is that the perpetrator is formed within his family, and that you become a victim in your own family. We once studied the so-called transmission of violence, where someone who sees violence in their family or experiences violence – either becomes a bully or a victim.
There is no middle, these are two extremes.
- The point is that we need to stop this. It is not just a matter of punishment, the one who suffers violence must be sure that if he or she leaves that environment, that he or she will be completely protected. This does not mean that the perpetrator will be imprisoned, detained, protected by society. Primarily, sufferers need to become economically independent. Some research has shown that women who suffer violence leave and return seven times until they decide to finally leave. The most common cause for that is their lack of economic independence, their dependence on partners and spouses.
And what are the state mechanisms that can help victims to really separate themselves physically and mentally?
- First of all, we need to treat the situation of the victim in a serious way, not as a situation interesting to the media that will last a few days or that some institutions or associations will use in some research and give some intellectual account of how violence is in principle dangerous in any society. We know that it is dangerous, but the victim should be protected by giving her economic support. Economic support does not only mean a job, it means that they can move out of the environment and live on their own, and that it isn’t just for a shorter period of time, such as going to a safe house.
You recently announced that women who suffer violence are now against having a forensic doctor's examination.
- The court proceedings have shown that a woman who often suffers violence, for the reasons I just mentioned, will amend her statement, i.e. change it, and if there is no solid material evidence, the abuser or those who represent him will use this to mitigate his verdict or release him. When you have material evidence then it is much easier to prove in court that it really happened and that it happened the way it actually happened. Therefore, it is necessary for every woman and every man who suffer violence, if the consequences of violence are such that they do not require a stay in the hospital or clinical treatment, to be examined in forensic centers and institutions. This is where a causal link between the act of violence and the consequences should be established. I have seen in countless cases that forensic experts, even in the case of women who were killed and where the perpetrator and the murderer defended themselves very meaningfully, could conclude on the basis of material evidence that this person did what he did in the way that he did it.
What to do in cases when a woman reports violence several times? When all measures are legally applied in relation to the abuser, and he returns at some point and kills that woman?
- No one can predict that. The only way is the one I was talking about, to remove the woman from that environment, but when I say "remove", I don’t mean remove her in such a way that she would feel insecure or safe just for the moment, but permanently safe. All those who deal with the protection of women must think about the fact that they should be provided with permanent shelter. When I say "permanent shelter" I do not only mean a home, but also a job, so that she can be safe alone or with her children, since women most often leave because children also suffer violence, sure that there is no basis for further contact with the abuser.
The UN praised us for the legal and institutional framework in resolving this issue, but they say that the implementation of legal measures is not always adequate.
- Well, I thank them for such a statement, but why don’t they tell us where it is adequate, in which country? I have talked to ombudsmen from Sweden to Azerbaijan, and my colleagues have repeatedly emphasized to me that often some of these legal frameworks are not implemented adequately in their countries as well.
And finally, is it necessary to make some kind of central records?
- Absolutely. A central record that is filled out not only when violence occurs but daily, even in milder cases. Economic violence in the countryside was mentioned here, but you have economic violence in the city too and not only against women, you have cases where grandchildren steal pensions from the elderly, where someone literally exploits someone's work in a way that he does not do anything and takes the funds from those members of the family or community who do work. You have many such manifestations. We need to follow them from day to day and not only on those days when tragedies happen.
Thank you very much for being our guest.