ACTEDO is Breaking the Silence on Sexual Violence
30.04.2014 / 17:29 / Gender Equality
Sexual Violence in Romania
In Romania, approximately 4 out of 20 women are victims of a sexual aggression throughout their lives, as a recent study by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights shows. The same study points to the fact that merely 5% of violent attacks on women are reported to the Police and a staggering number of 1% are solved through a definite sentence for the aggressor. What these statistics do not grasp is the harsh reality of the victims’ helplessness. The victims’ stories are often left untold, wrapped in shame and silence, although it is the aggressors who should be punished. These data do not encompass the physical and psychological wounds that the victims carries with her for life, nor does it reflect the agonizing fear during and after the attack or the frustration when face with unsympathetic authorities who doubt their statements and carry them through a never-ending institutional circuit.
Currently, Romania does not have a national helpline for victims of sexual violence and falls short of 71% of necessary shelters for women. Moreover, there are no rape crisis centers in Romania or specialized units within the emergency rooms of hospitals. Nor does Romanian legislation stipulate the creation of such centers. According to law 217/2003 regarding domestic violence, women’s shelters apply to women who are victims of domestic violence. Therefore, victims of sexual violence cannot take shelter in such centers unless the abuse took place within the family. Furthermore, a victim must go through convoluted and oftentimes inaccessible procedures: obtaining a forensic certificate from the Institute of Forensic Medicine (before washing and eliminating the marks of the aggression), filing a complaint at the police station, requesting medical attention, etc. These services are not integrated and sometimes not free, further burdening the victim.
In June 2014, Romania signed the Istanbul Convention – Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, but it has not ratified it yet, therefore its provisions are not binding. Article 25 of the Convention is extremely important, as it mentions the need for the creation of rape crises centers or rape referral centers, which should be accessible and in a sufficient number, as to provide medical examination, post-traumatic assistance and psychological counseling for victims.
What can we do to help the victims?
A crucial first step is to provide better services to the victims of sexual violence. With this objective in mind, starting with the 1st of June 2015, ACTEDO will carry out the national project “Breaking the Silence on Sexual Violence. Strengthening the Capacity for NGOs to Provide Better Services to the Survivors of Sexual Violence”, an informal network of 9 NGOs which are active in the field of human rights and gender equality, financed through the EEA Grants, managed by the NGO Fund in Romania. “Breaking the Silence on Sexual Violence” will continue the ongoing project with the same name and aims at putting pressure on authorities to ratify the Istanbul Convention and to adopt a public policy, with an adequate budget, in order to create rape crisis centers with integrated services for victims, at international standards.
In addition, the network intends to develop the only Online Resource Center in Romania on the topic of sexual violence – www.violentaimpotrivafemeilor.ro – and to transform it into a nodal information point for specialists and non-specialists alike.
Last but not least, “Breaking the Silence on Sexual Violence” wishes to provide better psychological services to the survivors of sexual violence by organizing training sessions on methods and instruments of psychological counseling for the members of the network.
The project will take place between the 1st of June 2015 and the 31st of March 2016 and includes A.L.E.G. – the Association for Liberty and Gender Equality, Filia Center, Front Association, the Association for the Promotion of the Rights of Roma Women – E-Romnja, the Eastern European Institute for Reproductive Health – IEESR, the Association of Women Against Violence – Artemis, the Center Partnership for Equality- CPE and the Society for Feminist Analyses AnA.