Joining Forces Against Family Violence

 
 
 

TV Debate on Family Violence, TV Pozega, December 2013

 
   An important part of grant activities carried out by the Association of Public Prosecutors is a public outreach campaign on a local level throughout Serbia. Seven TV debates on the topic of family violence were organized involving Vesna Stanojevic, coordinator of the Counselling Against Family Violence, professors of criminal pathology, and public prosecutors. Issues concerning social implications of family abuse, difficulties associated with reporting cases, implementing adequate protection mechanisms, and enabling conditions for victims to separate from abusers were central to the debates.
 

Statistics are grim for the victims of domestic and family violence in Serbia. In 2013, 76 persons died in cases of domestic violence - 45 women and five children. Over 3,000 women experiencing this form of abuse contacted the help line of Counseling Against Family Violence, a civil society organization providing support for victims including the operation of nine safe houses in Serbia. 


The Judicial Reform and Government Accountability project (JRGA), a five-year USAID initiative in Serbia, is, among other activities, working on improving coordination of family and domestic violence cases and increasing safety of victims in court procedures. JRGA partners with civil society organizations in order to achieve this result.

The Association of Public Prosecutors received grant funds from JRGA to disseminate a successful inter-agency cooperation model for handling cases of domestic and family violence that was initially implemented in the municipality of Zrenjanin. The model, also disseminated among misdemeanor courts through JRGA’s Partner Court program, provides for close cooperation involving the judiciary, the police, and social and health care centers. 

Through grant activities, the Association involved local actors in 17 municipalities across Serbia to discuss the potential for the implementation of the “Zrenjanin model.” This resulted in six memoranda on cooperation (Lajkovac, Rekovac, Bosilegrad, Trgoviste, Leskovac and Sremska Mitrovica) signed in 2013. In another four jurisdictions (Smederevo, Negotin, Sombor and Vranje), the number of family violence cases filed has increased by 10 percent. The Prosecutor in Smederevo began filing requests for protective measures for victims prior to the final verdict, increasing victims’ safety during the prosecution of charges.

In parallel, JRGA worked with Counseling Against Family Violence on developing an easy-to-read handbook that guides the victims through their rights and role in the judicial process, and gives information on institutions and organizations providing victim services and protection in all regions of the country. 

JRGA will provide grant funds for another initiative to be implemented by Counseling Against Family Violence this year. A network of trained lawyers providing pro bono and low cost legal services to family violence victims will be established. Vocational training will be provided for a number of victims residing in safe houses in order to increase their potential for employment and financial independence.

JRGA’s parallel efforts to ensure better institutional response and more widely available victim support services are resulting in a comprehensive protection network that promotes victim safety and improves case coordination and processing efficiency.