Domestic violence - Council of Europe and Ukraine

The world is full of good causes and those in need of assistance - regardless of whether a nation is developed, developing, or indeed not much more than a failed state.

For me it has always been a bit of a dilemma what to support and what I won’t.  When I ran my companies in the UK, as a board, we decided to nominate and sponsor 3 charities each year and simply rebuff any other approaches.  It made life relatively simple and tended to give all staff a justified reason to repel all other charity approaches - which were a regular occurrence.

It is not so easy to be so clinical now I have been living in Ukraine for a decade and am free from the rat race of corporate life.  I have plenty of time to see causes all around me worthy of support in a very direct way.

My involvement in a disabled charity which was fairly large some years ago when it first registered, is now minimal, as I am a firm believer that any Ukrainian cause should be driven by Ukrainian people.  Thus as that particular charity is now being driven quite well by Ukrainian people, I have all-but bowed out.

Disability is one of those causes that has always struck a chord with me.  Others are human trafficking, domestic violence and local government issues.

As regular readers of this blog will know, in the past month or so, I have been approached by some Ukrainian civic minded people to get involved in new NGOs dealing with human trafficking, domestic violence and local government.

In order to set up an effective NGO, internal systems, external contacts and all the other operational matters, quite simply it is a lot of work to do one - let alone three.

So having looked at what exists in Odessa already, local government was struck from the list - for now anyway - leaving human trafficking and domestic violence as the two potential NGOs for which I have been approached that I would happily get involved in.

I eventually decided to progress with those wanting to set up a human trafficking NGO in Odessa rather than domestic violence - although it was a difficult decision.

The reasons for human trafficking coming out on top are simply that my knowledge of English will be more of a benefit when dealing with foreign NGOs of similar leaning, my diplomatic, political and “other persons of influence” connections pretty much cover most of the EU, Turkey, Ukraine, Russia and Egypt.  All areas relevant to human trafficking from and through Ukraine.

Hopefully this new NGO will become reality in the new year when NGO registration becomes much easier to do and the new laws relating to NGOs come into effect.  We will see.

Anyway, returning to domestic violence, something from which no nation on earth is immune, it seems the Council of Europe (PACE) and Ukraine are to take steps to address the issue.

It seems that legislation will be amended, agencies forced to take particular notice of the issue, and a general awareness campaign launched - which is all necessary and jolly good - except when I was doing my due diligence over which NGOs were needed, and more importantly which I would and could be most useful for, much more than upgrading legislation,the reeducation/focusing of agencies and public on the issue needs to be done in far more practical ways.

None of the above will have much, if any effect on the prevention of domestic violence.  It may only have little additional  benefits via the judicial and law enforcement agencies reactively as well.

In Odessa I found no short term sheltered accommodation (with or without security) for victims of domestic violence to stay for a few days whilst wounds heal and clear thoughts for the future could be formulated by the victims.

Upon asking several departments of the police here, it appears there are no dedicated domestic violence units.  It also appeared on speaking to them there are few multi-agency meetings over such matters.  Panic alarms if they exist are never fitted in cases where serious potential harm may occur when offenders are still at large.  Pretty much everything you would expect to find in every UK constabulary by way of specially trained officers, sheltered accommodation, dedicated multi-agency approaches et al - simply doesn’t exist - or if it does, nobody I spoke with knew of its existence.

Again, I will caveat the above two paragraphs by stating that just because those I spoke to, who I felt should know of, but didn’t know of any facilities or standard multi-agency approaches, that doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t exist.  They may well do - it’s just that it could be more or less an unofficial secret for some unbeknown reason - like so many things in Ukraine to be honest.

This website does exist, however when I called the helpline to find out what assistance it offers, I got no reply.  Maybe they were busy as to be fair I only called once.

However, on the presumption those I spoke to should know and would know, seriously, no place of safety for victims to go for a few days in the absence of anywhere else?  Victims of domestic violence have a choice of the street or remaining in a place where they are abused?  Not everybody has friends or family that would or could accommodate them, and even if they did, not every victim would want to take those options for a multitude of reasons.

Of course most people will think of domestic violence towards women in particular, and as that is undoubtedly the largest group subjected to domestic violence it is only natural, thus the PACE scheme specifically targeting that group, however I am also thinking about violence towards pensioners who quite often live with their children and inherited in-laws, children indirectly suffering within abusive relationships, and of course men.  Men are not immune from being the victim either.

So, whilst it is all very good, and indeed necessary, to create new laws, amend existing laws, focus the priorities of Ukraine’s agencies on this issue etc, there seems to be a serious need for very practical and very real physical assets to be  created/set aside/dedicated to actually address both the immediate aftermath of domestic violence as well as longer term assistance with the most difficult and serious of cases that often are quite protracted in their resolution.  Not to mention an equally important preventative program as well.

Without that very real social safety net and awareness, the domestic homicide rate will remain unnecessarily high, as will assaults resulting in extremely serious injury - and ultimately Ukraine will fail to meet the standards of PACE should it ever actually sign and ratify what is currently only an initialed Council of Europe Convention by Ukraine.

A lot to do here for Ukraine as a government (of which ever colour or stripe) both national and regional, for civil society, for philanthropists and for society and the volunteers within - because as with anything that will actually work, it will have to ultimately be Ukrainian led - top down and bottom up, in tandem - both with regards to prevention and the aftermath.

Having written all that, it is easy to feel I have chosen to get involved with the easier of the NGOs when it comes to their dedicated task - and maybe I have - however, it is the one that fits the “who I know and what I can do” category more effectively when it comes to the benefits the NGO would get from asking me to get involved - and if the human trafficking NGO doesn’t fly for whatever reason, maybe the newly forming domestic violence NGO will still want my help in some way.

Anyway, it seems that both the Council of Europe and Ukraine are going to attempt to do something together - which may or may not actually be better than nothing.  We will see.