The police’s domestic violence unit received 180 complaints in September and October and made 29 arrests, justice minister Emily Yioliti said Wednesday. Meanwhile, the association for the prevention and handling of violence in the family (SPAVO) said it has marked an increase of 40% in calls received at the 1440 helpline.
In statements on the occasion of the international day for the elimination of violence against women, Yioliti said gender and domestic violence are high on her agenda, as is the incorporation into legislation of all provisions of the Istanbul Convention.
Yiolit said that in September the police’s domestic violence unit, established last September on a pilot basis, received 84 complaints and made 13 arrests, while an additional 96 complaints in October led to 16 more arrests.
The justice minister added that she recently held a meeting with all stakeholders to discuss the laws penalizing violence against women and girls.
Meanwhile, the director of the association for the prevention and handling of violence in the family (SPAVO), Andri Andronikou, said Wednesday that it has seen a 40% increase in the number of calls received at its 1440 helpline.
Andronikou told the Cyprus News Agency that since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the 1440 helpline figures show a worrying increase in cases related to domestic violence, especially since the full picture remains unknown as many victims are reluctant to reach out for help.
She said that for many women and children, the home is not a safe refuge anymore.
Andronikou said that between January and November 2020, a total of 263 people were provided assistance, involving 121 women and 142 children, who were at risk due to domestic violence.
An additional 2,016 cases of domestic violence were served by the 1440 helpline, of which 1,163 were first-time calls, corresponding to 183 cases of violence per month.
At the same time, 232 cases were given help through individual counselling and treatment, 30 cases were handled through the SMS helpline at 99984042, and a number of women received services from the social service program, which covers social needs and psychosocial support.
She said that data from the EU Council show that there is an increase that ranges between 25-45% in cases of domestic violence in European countries because of the pandemic and the lockdowns.
She said that in many cases, the pandemic contributed and acted as a "magnifying glass to pre-existing problems".
SPAVO’s campaign for the international day for the elimination of violence against women will feature actions spanning the next 16 days.
This year`s Global theme for the 16-day action to end violence against women is "Orange the World: Fund, Response, Prevent, Collect". The campaign includes televised messages, social media messages, visits to remote communities, online seminars, and more.
Council of Europe’s message
Secretary General of the Council of Europe Marija Pejčinović Burić called for zero tolerance for all forms of violence against women, especially against the backdrop of the pandemic and the lockdowns.
“We need to ensure that renewed restrictions on movement do not cause more harm to women and children. But steps can be taken to ensure that the home does not become a place of fear again” the Secretary General said in a press release marking the international day.
She added that effective measures to prevent violence against women must be a key part of renewed lockdowns and that continued and safe access to support services such as shelters must be essential. She also noted that support services should offer online services, from psychological counselling to online application forms for protection orders.
“Creative solutions that have worked in some countries earlier this year, from rail-to-refuge schemes allowing victims free travel to support services, or information provided to victims of domestic violence by local pharmacies that are open during lockdowns, should be encouraged and adapted to lessons learnt from this spring” the Burić said.
She added that if not already carried out, police officers and health professionals should be given guidelines to both identify and help victims of domestic abuse, for example by pro-actively reaching out to women who have sought help in the past. Access to legal assistance and judicial solutions for women and girls at risk must be maintained, she said.
Burić added that even before the pandemic struck, women and girls with disabilities, of migrant origin, without a permanent home or from ethnic, religious or language minorities often had difficulties accessing information on available support and protection.
“The surge in gender-based violence during the spring lockdowns propelled this issue onto the political agenda in many of our member states,” she said.
Finally, she called on those states that have not yet done so to turn this heightened awareness into action by ratifying and implementing the Istanbul Convention.