1 Summary in English
Men’s violence against women in intimate relationships is a world-wide phenomenon of considerable magnitude and constitutes a serious societal problem . The fact that men’s abuse of women continues without adequately efficient sanctions against the offender, is a substantial hindrance towards gender equality and an extensive problem for the criminal justice system.
Domestic violence has a clear gender direction, in that women as a main rule are the victims whereas the perpetrators are mainly men. Male dominance and power are expressed through violence and harassment. The aspect of power is central to understanding the mechanisms which are embedded in violent intimate relationships. It is also necessary to see the effects of the violence on the victims, as well as its consequences for society in general.
It has been an important concern for the Commission to underline that men’s violence against women and children in intimate relationships is a public concern and should not be allowed to be defined as a private issue. The will to acknowledge that this violence exists in all societies and cultures, and that any form of such violence is unacceptable, is crucial in any effort to eliminate the violence.
The Commission emphasizes that it is necessary to direct attention towards holding the perpetrators accountable for their violence. Focus must be placed on carrying out systematic work towards changing offendors’ behaviour so that they end their use of violence. Furthermore, measures for the protection of women and children subjected to men’s violence must be strengthened, in addition to improving and increasing the services that are provided to them. These efforts, directed towards victims and offenders, must run parallel. Care must be taken in order to ensure that these efforts are not carried out at the expense of one another.
There is a need for a better coordination and integration of society’s total efforts to combat domestic violence against women and children. Much of the good work that has been done over the past years, locally, nationally and through private or non-governmental agencies, must now be raised from the level of pilot projects or temporary programmes into the structures and routines of the various agencies, resulting in their sustainability at institutional levels.
The Commission is of the opinion that it is necessary to raise the quality of general social and health services , as well as to increase the number of specialised services within certain fields. Processes are required at both these levels in order to ensure an optimal provision of services to victims as well as perpetrators of domestic violence.
Furthermore, it is important to create a more coherent and unified chain of services for women and children subjected to men’s violence in intimate relationships. Today’s services are fragmented, with unclear lines of responsibility and accountability. As a consequence, victims are shuttled into bureaucratic and poorly coordinated systems. A well integrated, multi-agency approach requires management priorities including policy development and the consolidation of quality at all decision-making and administrative levels.
The Commission also wishes to emphasise that it is not sufficient to merely repair or reduce the damage done to women and children due to male violence. A crucial challenge is to prevent such abuse. This requires a greater desire and ability to integrate preventive measures actively and systematically throughout all public sectors and agencies.
It will be necessary to intensify resources and priorities substantially in the years ahead in order to raise the level of the efforts against men’s violence against women and children in intimate relationships. Allowing this to become a major area of priority will be of little expense compared to the human and social costs connected with this violence.
1.2 The Commission’s work and mandate
In chapter 2, the Commission’s mandate, composition and work methods are presented. Important international obligations regarding domestic violence are also reviewed. A study of the work carried out in this area shows a comprehensive array of efforts internationally. These include changes in legislature, implementation of action plans and the systematisation of knowledge. The development in Norway also shows evidence of increased attention in the area of combatting violence against women.
1.3 Explanations, understanding and definitions
The presentation in chapter 3 shows that men’s violence against women may be explained and understood in various manners. There are explanations at structural, group and individual levels. The Commission points out that domestic violence is such a complex phenomenon that it is necessary to use a variety of approaches in combination with each other. Violence is also defined differently within the various professional fields. Since violence against women constitutes a serious problem for the criminal justice system, the legal definition of the term is also thoroughly presented. The Commission defines violence against women from current or previous partners to include physical, psychological and sexual violence, including rape. Focus is aimed at occurrences in which violence enters into a pattern which characterises the relationship. The chapter also presents the concepts of primary, secondary and tertiary prevention.
1.4 Prevalence and socio-economic costs
Chapter 4 reviews national and international studies regarding the prevalence of men’s violence against women and children. Both national and international data indicate that such violence is a serious societal problem. International surveys regarding the socio-economic costs of this phenomenon are also presented. Consideration of the Norwegian context reveals a severe shortage of prevalence data regarding domestic violence. The Commission therefore recommends that a national, representative survey is conducted in order to estimate the extent of men’s violence against women in intimate relationships. The Commission also proposes the implementation of a cost analysis of such violence.
1.5 The situation for women, children and the offenders
The implications for women and children exposed to men’s violence in intimate relationships is described in chapter 5. On the basis of national experiences from clinical work with male offenders, the chapter also presents various aspects regarding perpetrators.
Domestic violence encompasses the exercise of power and control on the part of the abusers. It can continue over a long period of time, and be shrouded with secrecy. Victims frequently experience shame and may in addition feel a sense of guilt for the violence perpetrated against them. This violence has grave implications for the victims’ physical and mental health. For many women and children, the violence may even result in death. The victims’ life conditions and background have an influence on their capacity to face the violence and especially their possibilities to exit from an abusive relationship.
Society has a tendency to place the responsibility for the perpatrator’s actions on the woman who is a victim to the violence. Such attitudes are prevalent e.g. in practitioners’ approaches towards the victims. Such approaches do not take into consideration the comprehensive social and psychological strains of being abused and harassed in an intimate relationship. The Commission stresses the need to acquire more data on the situation, needs and conditions for victims of domestic violence. Importance must be placed on research regarding victims from vulnerable and marginalized groups.
The Commission has found it important to shed light on the fact that also children are victimised when men expose women to violence in intimate relationships. The Commission states that it is unacceptable that children should grow up in conditions where they are exposed to this violence. Children must be regarded as independent subjects with their own needs and rights. It is crucial that interventions towards the children take place at an earlier stage than is the case today. The assistance these children receive must be intensified, and the instruments and measures applied must be strengthened. The Commission also emphasizes the need for increased knowledge on the consequences for children growing up in households where men are violent to women, and also for research on survival factors for children who manage to cope well in spite of such conditions. The Commission further recommends that the total situation of children exposed to domestic violence be made the subject of an independent and comprehensive study.
It seems evident that the majority of men who expose their partners to violence do not seek help. An important condition for preventing further violence is to offer adequate intervention to a larger number of perpetrators and at the earliest possible stage. Male offenders are found across all socio-economic and cultural boundaries. Increased knowledge about the barriers for men to seek assistance is necessary so as to ensure that a larger number of offenders get qualified assistance and treatment, and take responsibility for their actions. It is necessary to enhance awareness in these men about the consequences of their violence, both as partners and as fathers. This requires a nation-wide infrastructure of agencies and practitioners with the required competence regarding work with perpetrators.
1.6 Social and medical services for victims and perpetrators
The chain of agencies which provide services for victims and offenders include both medical assistance and a number of social services. Chapter 6 raises some general issues which are common to working with domestic violence within both these fields. Women and children who are subjected to men’s violence are a diverse and heterogenous group who require a variety of services adapted to their individual needs. The Commission also discusses some of the strains which practitioners and professionals working with victims of violence may face. This chapter also looks at the importance, seen from the users point of view, in ensuring that services are available, flexible, meet quality standards, are unbureaucratic and coordinated.
1.7 Social services
Social and health service providers encompass a number of public and private agencies. Some of them primarily offer medical services, and these are presented in chapter 8 of this report. Others are providers of various forms of assistance, and these are presented in chapter 7.
Shelters for battered women
The refuge or shelter movement has for many years been the most important community-based care and safety provider for battered women and their children. Women’s shelters provide services which are poorly provided for by other agencies. In chapter 7.2, the Commission recommends that shelters in Norway be regulated through a separate law which defines their services and ensures their status. It is advised that the professional qualifications of employees be developed, and that services for children be improved. Shelters must be provided with the financial support and training facilities required to comply with these raised standards. It is proposed that the public administration of the shelter movement be transferred to the new regional public administrator under the Ministry of Children and Family Affairs, Statens Barnevern og Familievern (SBF). The Commission also recommends that the Government iniciate a development project for the shelters in Norway in order to review geographic coverage and technical, safety and housing standards, including a plan for implementation.
Family Care Centres
In chapter 7.3, the Commission emphasises that the Family Care Centres (Familevernkontorene) have the potential to reach a much larger number of women and children victims of violence in intimate relationships, and perpetrators of the violence, than is the case today. The Commission recommends that the methodology applied by all family care centres in dealing with domestic violence be systematised and strengthened. Women victims of violence must always be given information about their right to meet on an individual basis at mediation proceedings in connection with divorce or child custody. Furthermore, it is proposed that mediators’ competence be improved regarding the effect of living in a violent relationship. It is further proposed that mediators’ awareness be raised on the importance of taking the violence seriously into consideration during the proceedings and the decision-making.
Child Welfare Services
In chapter 7.4, the Commission looks at the Child Welfare Services (CWS) and recommends that a survey be conducted on this agency’s role in cases of domestic violence. Furthermore, it is advised that the competence of professionals be raised regarding the situation of children who experience men’s violence against women in intimate relationships. The capacity of the agency to follow up these children must also be increased. The CWS must apply a larger array of measures to support the non-abusive parent or care provider, in addition to measures which can help to stop the violence. The Commission recommends that routines and procedures within the agency are developed, and that inter agency work with other departments be systematized. It is also proposed that an emergency unit of child welfare services (Barnevernvakt) be established in every municipality.
It is the Commission’s opinion that women and children subjected to men’s violence in intimate relationships must be prioritised within the social services. This agency’s role is discussed in chapter 7.5. It is recommended that measures are implemented in order to secure a unified national practice and approach towards victims of violence in intimate relationships. Among the suggestions included is that social workers are provided with a common manual on domestic violence.
Health and Social Insurance Services
Women who have lived with men’s violence and chosen to break a relationship with the perpetrator ought not be entrapped in poverty when trying to establish an independent existence. In chapter 7.6, some relevant social security and public insurance benefits are presented. It is recommended that the level of financial support for single parents who have experienced violence in intimate relationships be revised. Furthermore, case workers in social security offices should be provided with training in order to increase their knowledge of domestic violence.
Other public service providers
A number of other public agencies could play a role in providing assistance to victims of abuse and to contribute towards uncovering and preventing men’s violence against women and children in intimate relationships. Chapter 7.7 looks at the services of The Councelling Offices for Crime Victims ( Rådgivningskontor for kriminalitetsofre ), Protection for the Elderly ( Vern for eldre ) and reception centres for refugees and asylum seekers. Some recommendations are provided as to how these agencies may be strengthened and their services improved in this area.
Voluntary and self-help groups and next of kin
It is the opinion of the Commission that the importance of informal networks has been given too little attention when it comes to providing assistance to abused women and children. In chapter 7.8, the Commission recommends that next of kin and primary networks who take such a responsibility are given provisions for support and counselling. Furthermore, it is proposed that workers in voluntary groups and organisations who work with victims of violence are offered training opportunities and network support.
The Commission feels that there is a need for increased awareness and accountability among all religions groups and communities in Norway when it comes to the issue of men’s violence against women and children in intimate relationships. In this context, religious leaders have a particular responsibility. The Commission recommends that religious societies be given incentives so as to increase their knowledge and competence on domestic violence within their own communities.
1.8 Medical services
Chapter 8 reviews medical services for abused women and children, and for perpetrators of violence. The Commission considers these services to be insufficient and unsatisfactory, and emphasizes the need for a substantial increase in prioritization within the health system for victims of violence and male perpetrators. In order to achieve this, it is necessary to improve the level and quality of the existing health services. In addition, new specialised services need to be established and made available to larger groups of persons than those who are in emergency situations.
The Commission recommends that a new specialised, high competence health service be established at a regional level, for women and children victims of violence in intimate relationships. It is proposed that this service be institutionalised in such a way that there be located one centre in each of the five regions within the national health sector, with personnel who have specific competence in dealing with physical and psychological violence and sexual abuse. The centres should offer clinical services in somatic and mental health for abused women and children, and thus be a supplement to the local health services. This specialised measure should be accessible for the users without the need for referral. In addition, these specialised centres ought to function in a training and advisory capacity for personnel throughout the region, and carry out research.
The Commission also recommends that services for abused women and children within the area of mental health be expanded substantially, both in connection with somatic treatment facilities, but also independently of these. Abused women and children should furthermore be guaranteed mental health services when they are in need of this, and should have this provided free of charge.
It is advised that social and medical services for perpetrators be extended so that they have national coverage in Norway. These services should be easily accessible and maintain high standards of competence. In addition to providing treatment to abusive men, the services may include treatment to young people with problems of violence and aggression, to women who are victims of men’s violence in intimate relationships and to children who are exposed to domestic violence.
The Commission also recommends that the field of medical evidence regarding domestic violence and sexual abuse be developed.
1.9 The Police and criminal justice system
In chapter 9, the role of the police and the criminal justice system in cases of men’s violence against women and children in intimate relationships is discussed. These institutions play a major role when it comes to implementing sanctions against the perpetrators of violence, as well as in providing protection and safety measures for the victims. The Commission has proposed a number of recommendations in connection with the role of the police and judiciary in dealing with these cases.
In order to provide stronger legal protection for women subjected to men’s violence in intimate relationships, the Commission recommends a new article in the penal code which includes violence against women in intimate relationships. It is proposed that such an article encompass the complexity characteristic of such violence, and also include psychological violence.
The Commission recommends an extension of the aggrieved person’s right to an advocate, so that it includes victims of men’s violence in intimate relationships.
The act relating to free legal aid is also proposed extended, so that aggrieved women who are victims of violence and have the right to an advocate shall receive free legal aid also in connection with further issues arising as a consequence of breaking out of a violent relationship (particularly regarding settlement of estates and issues concerning child custody). The Commission also suggests that the period of limitation in cases of violence in intimate relationships shall begin to run from the date when the relationship has been terminated by the parties having moved apart from each other.
The Commission proposes a number of changes in the criminal procedure aimed at strengthening the position of abused women and children within the judiciary. It is, for instance, recommended that the aggrieved person should be given the possibility of being present during every sitting of the court, have access to all documents on equal basis as the charged person, and be given the right to present evidence. It is recommended that children who have been subjected to violence against their mothers are given the right to have their own advocate.
It is also suggested by the Commission that a father’s violence against the mother always be made a relevant consideration by the court in rulings regarding child custody and visition rights.
The Commission has made a number of recommendations for research on how cases of men’s violence against women in intimate relations are dealt with by the police and within the legal system. In addition, various measures are proposed aimed at increasing levels of competence among police officials, public prosecutors and judges. It is suggested that all police districts be provided adequate funds so that the family violence coordinator per district is engaged with this work on a full time basis. Additionally, a number of improvements in police procedures and routines regarding domestic violence cases are recommended by the Commission.
It has been suggested by the Commission that the level of penalty regarding violence against women in intimate relationships be raised. Regulations regarding compensation are reviewed, and the Commission recommends that the level of state compensation for personal injury caused by violent acts be increased substantially for women who have been subjected to violence in intimate relationships.
1.10 Knowledge and competence
Increased knowledge and competence, both among practitioners within social and health services and among the police and judiciary, are important conditions for improving services for victims of violence as well as for perpetrators. Chapter 10 recommends that elementary knowledge on the subject of violence in intimate relationships be integrated into the training of a number of professional groups. Such modules of basic competence should be made mandatory at all levels, i.e. primary, higher and post graduate levels. Furthermore, the Commission proposes that personnel who work more specifically with violence against women in intimate relationships should be offered more indepth knowledge and training on the subject (specialised competence). It is recommended that the Ministry of Education and Research be responsible for compiling the content, quality and organisational matters regarding the development of these training measures.
The Commission also proposes the establishment of a new research programme on men’s violence against women and children in intimate relationships. Further, it is suggested that a national competence centre on domestic violence be established under the Ministry of Children and Family affairs.
Towards systematising knowledge in this area, the Commission recommends that a web-site be developed. This site would gather information on the various services and agencies working within the field at a national level.
1.11 Collaboration and confidentiality
Abused women and children and male perpetrators must be secured services which are unified and user-friendly. This requires strong and sustainable routines of collaboration between agencies, as well as a clear location of responsibility and division of work. Pilot projects implemented in Norway illustrate that systematic and targeted efforts in this area provide good results.
In the study of multi-agency collaboration in chapter 11, the Commission recommends that it be made mandatory for local authorities (the municipalities) to provide adequate and coordinated services for abused women and children and male perpetrators. The obligation to provide a minimum of services to these groups must be specified through relevant regulations and also be integrated in the local authorities’ plans for health and social services. Adequate services may also be provided locally through inter-municipal collaboration where relevant. Furthermore, the Commission suggests that the responsibility for coordinating such multi-agency collaboration be placed at management level within one of the agencies or departments, and that this institution be provided with the required resources and competence in order to be able to take on such a responsibility.
The chapter also discusses current rules on the principle of confidentiality (duty of secrecy), by which the flow of information between agencies is regulated. In this connection, an assessment is made as to whether the rules impose a hindrance to collaboration. It is advised that the rules on confidentiality for personnel in shelters be regulated by law, and that this be implemented through the new law to regulate shelters for battered women which the Commission has recommended. Furthermore, the Commission suggests that shelter personnel be instructed to disclose information in accordance with section 6–4 in the Act relating to Child Welfare Services. Apart from these measures, the Commission regards the rules on confidentiality to sufficiently allow inter-agency collaboration regarding victims and perpetrators of violence in intimate relationships. However, the commission points out the need to increase the level of competence about these rules through training measures for health workers, social workers and other practitioners.
1.12 A future model for the organisation of services
Chapter 12 gathers a number of the Commission’s recommendations regarding the organisation of future social and health services presented in various sections of this report. An important factor to be kept in mind when working with the organisation of services, is that local conditions vary a lot in a country such as Norway. However, the Commission emphasises the importance of establishing a system of local agencies that are coherent, accessible and known at community level.
The starting point for a future model is the Commission’s recommendation that each local authority must be responsible for ensuring the existence of adequate and coordinated services for abused women and children and male perpetrators.
Furthermore, the Commission suggest that a specialised health service for women and children victim to men’s violence in intimate relationships be established in the five health regions in Norway. Such a service is suggested established parallel to the strengthening of the general, local health services.
It is recommended that services provided to men who use violence against their partners be made available nation-wide.
In order to ensure a unified perspective and policy development, the Commission recommends that the administration of child welfare services, family care centres, women’s shelters and certain services provided to male perpetrators be gathered under Statens Barnevern og Familievern (SBF). The Commission proposes that SBS’s five regions in Norway be strengthened in order to facilitate this expanded public administration responsibility, and that the staffing at the regional offices be adjusted accordingly. These units should also be given the responsibility to ensure a coordinated development of competence within the agencies in the region for which SBF is responsible.
In order to secure that the totality of services are visible and user-friendly, the Commission suggests that a national phone service (hotline) be established. This is recommended as a service for abused women and children, male offenders, and next of kin. It should also provide assistance to professionals who need to convey information about relevant services to various user groups.
Regarding the establishment of a new national compentence centre on domestic violence, the Commission proposes that this be administered under the Ministry of Children and Familiy Affairs.
The Commission recommends that a permanent national committee be established to review the quality of work provided by all the public agencies that have been in contact with a victim of a homicide in an intimate relationship.
A development plan for the implementation of the Commission’s recommendations
The Commission recommends that the Government establishes an inter-ministerial development plan for the period 2004–2009 aimed at following up the recommendations of this report. It is advised that such a measure shall ensure the implementation of immediate measures, conduct the necessary further surveys – also connected with the establishing of a future model for services, and follow up the other recommendations of the report.
Such a development plan is suggested to be led at the highest political level. The Commission suggests further that an advisory board for this process be established consisting of representatives from central agencies and organisations working within the field of domestic violence.
The Commission emphasises that the work to combat men’s violence against women and children in intimate relationships must be strengthened within a number of sectors and policy areas. It is necessary to implement an array of measures and instruments which the various sectors have at hand in combination with each other in order to achieve an increased protection of the victims of this violence. It is recommended that the Ministry of Children and Family Affairs is given a coordinating responsibility for the area of work concerning domestic violence, including the inter-ministerial process which needs to be established. The Commission urges the Government to secure women and children in Norway the right to a life free from violence in intimate relationships through the necessary prioritization of resources in the years to come.
1.13 Administrative and financial consequences
The Commission has made a number of recommendations regarding policies, practices and processes within a number of fields. The implementation of measures to strengthen the position of women and children victim to men’s violence requires a multi-disciplinary approach. In chapter 13, the administrative and financial consequences of the recommendations in this report are reviewed. Initially, the consequences of recommendations on the national level are presented, followed by the consequences of measures within the sector of gender equality and family issues, the legal system, health, social services and the regional sector.
There are already a number of ongoing processes and measures to combat men’s violence against women and children. In the future, this work should be linked to the follow-up of the policy recommendations in this report. The Commission emphasizes the importance of seeing these various processes in connection with each other in order to ensure a unified effort.