The Womens’ Room—Center for Sexual Rights organized the second two-day training titled “Training for professionals who work with victims of domestic violence—Module 2: Vulnerable groups”. The training was conducted on May 29 and 30, 2015 in the premises of Tribine Grada Zagreba in Zagreb.
The training is a continuation of the systematic “Training for professionals who work with victims of domestic violence” and its “Module 1: Introduction—Domestic Violence” conducted in October 2014.
The facilitators of the training were the Womens’ Room—Center for Sexual Rights Coordinator Maja Mamula, PhD and High Misdemeanor Court of the Republic of Croatia Judge Branka Žigante Živković.
The training participants were representatives of NGOs, the Ministry of the Interior, healthcare, state and municipal attorney’s offices, the judiciary, social care centers, education system, and the Zagreb City Office for Social Protection and People with Disabilities who had participated in the “Training for professionals who work with victims of domestic violence: Module 1”.
On the first day, May 29, Maja Mamula, PhD opened the training with an introductory lecture on “Particularly vulnerable victim populations”, followed by a presentation on the “Consequences of domestic violence”. Dr. Mamula explained the psychological consequences of violence, such as acute stress disorder, PTSD, learned helplessness syndrome, battered woman/person syndrome, and relational aggression (Stockholm syndrome). She also presented the psychological, social, economic, and physical effects of domestic violence.
Nikica Hamer Vidmar, psychologist and head of the Independent Sector for Victim and Witness Support at the Ministry of Justice gave a lecture titled “Victims of domestic violence”. The training participants worked in small groups to discuss the problem of victims of domestic violence. Using a case study, they described behaviors, feelings/emotional reactions, physical reactions, and the physical reactions and recollections that they’d noticed and recognized while working with victims of domestic violence.
Psychology Professor Hana Hrpka, president of the Brave Telephone NGO, gave the last lecture of the first day of training on “Children as victims of domestic violence”. Prof. Hrpka pointed out several reasons why children usually keep quiet about abuse which may be indicators for recognizing an abused child. Behaviors such as shame, fear, wearing long-sleeved clothes, self-harm (e.g. cutting), not inviting friends to the family home, and so on are some of the identifiable signs. She then problematized the concept of “a secret”, i.e. when the abuser makes the child keep the abuse a mutual secret, and distinguished between good and bad secrets. She also spoke about the general guidelines for when a child opens up to a professional. She explained that it’s important to stay calm and show understanding and believe children because they rarely lie about abuse. All professionals to whom a child confesses about suffering abuse or harbor a suspicion have an obligation to report abuse. Participants discussed whether reporting abuse is a breach of the child’s trust in working groups. Prof. Hrpka closed the lecture with the conclusion that reporting any abuse is our legal, ethical, and moral duty.
Branka Žigante Živković, judge of the High Misdemeanor Court in Zagreb and president of the National Team for Domestic Violence and Violence Against Women Prevention, in the period open for discussion and questions answered the participants’ questions and clarified the problem of domestic violence from the legal and regulatory aspect.
Zagreb County Court Judge Lana Petö Kujundžić, president of the Association of Youth and Family Judges and Specialists, opened the final day of training with a lecture titled “Child as a witness or injured party”. Judge Petö Kujundžić presented the possibilities (where to interview a child) and ways of interviewing a child (especially carefully, age appropriate) and who does it. She emphasized that loaded questions should be avoided when interviewing a child. Working groups were formed to analyze the process of reporting and instigating court proceedings when the victim of abuse is a child. The participants thought out the process from the teacher to whom a child confesses to the final hearing in court. They stressed the importance of this kind of gathering in clarifying ambiguities in the process of reporting child abuse and empowering expert associates to report violence.
The second day of training started with a lecture by Štefica Roginić, head of the SOS line for women victims of violence of the Croatian Union of Associations of Persons with Disabilities—SOIH. In the lecture on “Victims of domestic violence: persons with disabilities”, Ms. Rogić introduced the work of the SOS line for women with disabilities. She emphasized that the mission of the SOS line is to improve the social standing of women with disabilities and realize their right to live free from violence and discrimination. She stated that the SOS line conducted 190 conversations in 2014, 31 of which in person. People who received information, assistance, and support were women in 84% of cases, and 16% men. People usually reported psychological violence. Participants were presented with a couple of case studies and discussed the possible solutions and the actions taken.
Goran Arbanas, PhD, psychiatrist, Karlovac General Hospital, FECSM, president of the Croatian Society for Sexual Therapy in the second part of the training gave a lecture on “Other vulnerable populations of victims of domestic violence”. Dr. Arbanas presented several specific and vulnerable populations. Male victims of violence rarely or not at all report violence because of the prejudice that they cannot be victims of domestic violence. About 15% of victims seek help, more often those who have suffered bodily injury. He added that homosexual men were especially at risk to become victims of violence and bisexual men even more so. He also pointed out the lack of specific guidelines for working with men, which makes it difficult to provide them general help and support. Dr. Arbanas then broached the subject of LGBT people as victims of domestic violence. Although this is a diverse population, they are often grouped together, which is problematic because of the differing needs, characteristics, and etiology. In Croatia, LGBT people are typically characterized by minority stress, which is typical of all minority groups in our country. To professionals working with victims of domestic violence, Dr. Arbanas recommended not to assume a heterosexual orientation and not to judge. He advised the participants to be mindful of the extent that a person is “out”, meaning whether the broader community, family, work collective, and so on know about their sexual orientation. Dr. Arbanas then spoke about mentally ill patients as victims of domestic violence. He stated that mentally ill persons were significantly more likely to become victims of domestic and other types of violence, especially women. Violence can also result in a mental illness/disorder and the mentally ill are more likely to commit domestic violence, especially men. When presenting the third and fourth age victims of domestic violence, he pointed out the particularities of this group and the types of violence committed against the elderly. In the final part of his lecture, Dr. Arbanas explained the specifics of working with the elderly.
The training is an integral part of the project “Training for professionals who work with victims of domestic violence”, implemented by the Women’s Room in collaboration with the Zagreb City Office for Social Protection and People with Disabilities.