The Protector of Citizens, Zoran Pašalić, said today that in order to reduce the risk of femicide, it is necessary to improve the communication of competent authorities when working to protect victims of domestic violence by including the health care institutions, i.e. doctors of the psychiatric profession, in the work of Coordination and Cooperation Groups formed within the prosecutor's offices.
"Psychiatrists can have the most accurate data on the mental state of abusers who are often addicted to alcohol or narcotics and who were hospitalized before the femicide was committed, which is very important for risk assessment and determination of protection measures for the victim of domestic violence and prevention of the victim's murder, i.e. repetition of violence", said Pašalić at the conference "Institutional response to femicide in the Republic of Serbia" held in the House of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia.
"In the investigations for controlling the work of the competent authorities, which we conducted on our own initiative in cases of femicide, we determined that it was difficult to encourage the victim to report the abuser to the competent authorities, especially in cases of long-term violence, when the estimated risk of violence repeating was high," said Pašalić at the conference organized by the Women's Parliamentary Network and the Committee for Human and Minority Rights and Gender Equality of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia.
The Protector of Citizens said that in those investigations, it was established that many victims who dared to report the abuser often gave up on the criminal prosecution of the abuser and withdrew their statements, which made it impossible to conduct criminal proceedings.
Pašalić added that the control investigations established that victims within domestic violence proceedings that preceded femicide were rarely invited and encouraged to participate in the work of Coordination and Cooperation Groups, and one of our recommendations is that victims participate if they wish and if this is possible, because they know the abusers the best and can be of great help to the competent authorities when assessing the risk of violence and providing protection and support for the victim.
"The most serious consequence of long-term violence in the family is that it opens up a vicious cycle of violence by making children either future abusers or future victims. In one of the investigations we conducted, we found that the son began to take on the behaviour patterns of the violent father – murderer, and to judge the mother because of her attempt to leave the abuser, while the daughter took on the role of the victim and withdrew into herself", Pašalić said.
The Deputy Protector of Citizens for Gender Equality, Jelena Stojanović, reminded in the discussion that the Ministry of Family Welfare and Demography formed a working group for amending the Family Law, in whose work the Protector of Citizens took part, in order to change the definitions of domestic violence, as well as to introduce new measures for the protection of victims of domestic violence.
Stojanović stated that the institution of the Protector of Citizens is advocating for the prescription of new measures that would entail the issuance of orders for the treatment of alcoholism and drug addiction, as well as orders for inclusion of perpetrators of violence in psychosocial treatments or specialized treatments, which could be imposed by civil courts.
Stojanović stated that the Law on the Prevention of Domestic Violence significantly improved the work of competent authorities in responding to violence, but that special reports and cases conducted by the Protector of Citizens in cases of femicide show that additional improvement is needed, in the form of better cooperation between different state authorities.
It is necessary to involve the authorities in the fields of health care and education, as well as the Administration for the Enforcement of Penal Sanctions, in the work to protect victims of violence, especially in cases where the abuser ends up serving a prison sentence for crimes related to domestic violence, which the competent centre for social work should have knowledge about, said Stojanović.