Overview – Breaking the Silence on Sexual Violence

CONTEXT

Almost 28.5% of women (3 million women) in Romania are victims of physical and/or sexual violence throughout their lives, and 6% of women (600,000 women) fall victim to sexual violence. Thus, sexual violence constitutes a matter of national public health which requires urgent action. Moreover, sexual violence is one of the least reported and sanctioned crimes. In Romania, social services for victims of domestic violence and sexual violence are profoundly underdeveloped and fall significantly behind the European average, in that, for instance, there is no national helpline for victims of sexual violence and 71% of necessary shelter places for women are missing, according to the European standards which recommend one shelter place for 10,000 inhabitants. Furthermore, Romania lacks emergency sexual assault referral centres or specialized units within the emergency hospitals. Additionally, according to Law No. 217/2003 on preventing and combating domestic violence, the access to shelters is guaranteed only to women who are victims of domestic violence. Consequently, the victims of sexual violence cannot be accommodated in these centres unless the abuse was perpetrated by a family member.

WHO ARE WE?

The informal Network Breaking the Silence on Sexual Violence is composed of the Equality and Human Rights Action Centre – ACTEDO, Association for Liberty and Gender Equality, FILIA Centre, Front Association, Association for the Promotion of the Rights of Romani Women E-Romnja, East European Institute for Reproductive Health, Association of Women against Violence AFIV -Artemis, CPE –Equality Partenership Centre, Society of Feminist Analyses AnA, QUANTIC Group, Association Alternative Step, Association Psihosphera, Centre for Mediation and Community Safety, Association VIVAD, Atena Delphi Association, Transcena Association, Anais Association, Euroregional Centre for Public Initiatives, the informal group “NO Means NO”. The network was created in 2013 by A.L.E.G. and is currently coordinated by the Equality and Human Rights Action Centre – ACTEDO.

WHY THIS PROJECT?

Breaking the Silence on Sexual Violence appeared from the need to create a structured environemnt for disparate collaborations between Romanian NGOs which work in the field of gender equality and against gender-based violence. Currently, the network aims to contribute with expertise and good practices to the creation by the state of the first Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs), in a separate room of the emergency department of county hospitals and in Bucharest, respectively, which would:

  • offer medical aid and forensic examination
  • inform the victim on her legal options and potential risks
  • contact the police if the victims wishes to file a complaint and offer her support in this process
  • offer immediate psychological counseling and refer the victim to other long-term support services
  • offer practical help, such as clean clothing and food

These centres correspond to the Romanian state’s obligations, as stated in The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention), as well as EU Directive 29/2012 on the protection of victims of crime.

ACCOMPLISHMENTS & ACTIVITIES OF THE NETWORK:

  • numerous network meetings in which the member NGOs developed and adapted the advocacy campaign for the ratification of the Istanbul Convention, as well as strengthened the bond of feminist/ women’s NGOs in Romania
  • 2 training sessions for member NGOs on advocacy skills and strategies (December 2015) and on psychological counselling for victims of sexual violence (October 2016)
  • creating a cross-sectorial work group, with representatives of the Min. of Justice, Min. of Health, Superior Council of Magistracy, National Agency for Gender Equality, Police Inspectorate, Police Academy, Prosecutor’s Office, etc. – in which the network delivered several opinions and made proposals for legislative amendments and public policies (August 2015 – present)
  • 2 national conferences in Bucharest on public policies for protection victims of gender-based violence (April 2015) and on the challenges of ratifying the Istanbul Convention, with key speakers from the Council of Europe GREVIO Committee and representatives of the Parliament, Min. of Justice and Health (February 2016)
  • 1 fund raising concert in Cluj-Napoca, attended by 200 people, which contributed to raising awareness about sexual violence and helped support the NGOs providing services to victims (March 2016)
  • more than 10 comprehensive position papers, factsheets and inforgraphics on issues related to sexual violence
  • several petitions and public letters submitted to the Government calling for the implementation of protective measures for victims and better services
  • creating and developing the only online resource centre in Romania on gender-based violence: www.violentadegen.ro
  • creating an online community in Facebook, which serves as a discussion space on sexual violence: www.facebook.com/rupemtacereadespreviolenta
  • intervention in actual cases of sexual violence, offering victims legal aid, psychological counseling, social assistance, etc.
  • national public events (Bucharest, Cluj-Napoca, Târgu Mureș, Sibiu, etc.) aimed at raising awareness about sexual violence (public seminars, flash-mobs, protests, etc.)

Download as pdf here: Breaking the Silence on Sexual Violence_Overview