An initiative to raise awareness of gender-based and domestic violence, and to help improve the quality of correction programmes aimed at offenders

Due to the conflict that started seven years ago, the people of the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts in eastern Ukraine have been through many traumatising experiences. The mental health and psychosocial problems of the population have been made worse by a life under constant stress.

In the towns and villages of the two Oblasts, people suffer from stress, post-traumatic stress disorder, gender-based and domestic violence. The situation is aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting quarantine measures. This has led to a rapidly growing number of cases of gender-based and domestic violence in the whole Ukraine, and also in Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts.

According to the national hotline for prevention of family violence, human trafficking and gender discrimination operated by NGO La Strada, the number of domestic violence cases in Ukraine has doubled since last year. Taking into account the administrative changes caused by the decentralization reform, the social service providers are unable to respond adequately to the growing number of cases.

Whereas, the main problem resides in the domestic violence being “not an issue” for the communities and authorities. In some communities the responsible parties will reply that there’s not such a problem at all, while in reality the cases are numerous and simply not reported (due to shame, fear of stigma, distrust to the punitive system, other).

In addition, the problem of domestic violence is being increasingly discussed in the society. Much work has been done to help the victims, while almost no attention is paid to the perpetrators.

The abuser may also have psychological and social issues which need to be attended to.

Besides, the one-sided approach to tackle the problem proves to be inefficient. The complex problem of domestic violence requires a complex approach.

The standard Programme for perpetrators’ behavioural correction has been approved by the Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine, but it is rarely implemented by the communities for persons who committed violence. The reasons are numerous. They include a lack of funding, insufficient experience and a shortness of qualified psychologists. In addition to this, as mentioned above, there is a low awareness of the problem as such, and gender stereotypes continue to prevail. To improve the situation, we decided to start this initiative and to help build the capacities of psychologists who have to work with abusers in the communities of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts.

The project will be implemented by the local CF “Child’s Smile” and will run from October 2020 until February 2021.

During this period the plan of the project is to:

1) Modernise the existing materials dedicated to the Programme on behavioural correction for perpetrators;

2) Train psychologists who work with abusers, and provide additional qualification measures to NGOs that are willing to contribute to this initiative;

3) Advocate for the use and implementation of the correction programme by law enforcement bodies and all other stakeholders, which are in charge of GBV prevention according to the current legislation on domestic violence.

This initiative will widen the range of possibilities to deal with offenders.

The approach to change the mindset of abusers and develop their skills for non-violent communication, instead of applying a more prohibitive method, will hopefully prove its efficiency and contribute to a reduction of gender-based and domestic violence in the region.