The Counseling Against Family Violence is a non-governmental organization, established on 08/07/1996 in Belgrade, with aim to help women and children, who are victims of domestic violence.
For 19.5 years the Council has helped and supported a huge number of women and children to get out of violent situations and overcome the their personal and family crisis.
The Counseling Against Family Violence has realized over 15,000 calls through phone counseling in a five years period, from 2009-2014. During 2015, 3530 calls were completed through the work of our organization.
The number of calls to our organization has been increasing through the years, which means that the violence gets reported more often, that people write and speak about it more, and that domestic violence is regulated by laws. All these things encourage women to speak out, hoping that someone would help them.
The first level of help, which was provided from the start in our organization, is counseling with women who have a problem, either over the phone or directly with qualified consultants (social workers, psychologists…) The Counseling offers free legal help to the victims of domestic violence in its office. Additionally, during 2013 a network of lawyers was formed within our organization in order to provide free legal aid to the victims who turn to the Counseling, and who are not residents of Belgrade and have no opportunity to come to the our office.
The second level of help consists out of accommodating the victims of domestic violence into the Safe house, where they are safe on a secret address, under the conditions that guarantee their safety, recovery, support and professional help. Safe houses save the lives of women and children who run away from violence in the family, but during their stay in the House we also work actively on their empowerment, provide them with professional help and support, connect them with institutions, but we also connect them with each other through group therapy, so the women can be able to continue a life without violence once they left the Safe house.
The first Safe house within the Counseling was opened 01/11/2000. Today the Counseling has three Safe houses for victims of domestic violence. In the period between 2009-2014 we have accommodated 644 women with 719 children victims of domestic violence in our Safe house in Belgrade. During 2015 the Safe house accommodated 247 women and children.
Numerous examples of women who succeeded to get out of the violence in the family and build up a different life without violence for their children witness about the work of our organization.
Within the Clinic we also opened Safe houses where women and children, victims of domestic violence, can receive psychosocial help, counsel from professionals, help from a lawyer, safe stay, food, personal hygiene items and various educational programs.
During their stay in the Safe house the women are encouraged to become independent, acquire self-esteem and respect of others. During that time they start believing in themselves and realizing their value.
The stay in safe houses is limited to 3 months, but women stay from 5 to 6 months on average, because the length of their stay depends on the level of their endangerment. If a woman is in greater danger in regard to the abuser, her stay is prolonged and lasts until the moment of the problem’s solution.
Website Safehouse – Belgrade is devoted to women who are at the risk of abuse in their homes. The Counseling Against Family Violence together with safe houses brings the fight out of the homes of vulnerable women and transfers it into a completely different dimension, one without tears, bruises….it transfers it onto a field of speech, words, advice, care…
The exposure of women to violence has deep roots in our society’s patriarchal structure. The violence occurs as part of the role as a breadwinner, master and protector from the man’s point of view. Related to that, the woman gets to passively tolerate and her destiny is one of a traditional woman. Violence is tacitly or sometimes even publicly approved in our environment. Vulnerability mostly lies in the woman’s effort not to take this role and to become financially and personally independent. Men sometimes consider this kind of behaviour to be an assault on their identity. The identity crisis gets compensated through the proof of power in the family. One of the forms of that power is – violence.
The changes in public life like wars, poverty and loss of employment have an influence on the relationship between people and favour the violence in the family and elsewhere. The 90s in Serbia – the war in the neighbourhood, poverty, incertitude and fear served the escalation of violence in the society, and also the escalation of domestic violence. Being aware of this situation we wanted to find the best way to help women – victims of violence.
Right from the start the Counseling Against Family Violence tries to support the needs of victims of violence to find their way out of that situation.
Above all, the victims of violence should be informed about our existence and work. Even though we had a clear goal, the fear of carrying out the project was always present. Questions arose – what should we say to a woman who calls, how long should we listen to her, should we interrupt her with questions, estimate the colour and the tone of the voice, how to show empathy and sincere readiness to listen and to help? That was all important for the woman to realise that she should make a decision and find a solution to her problem. We had to be careful not to give suggestions or ready advice. The goal was that alone a phone conversation can enforce a woman and assure her that she can take the first steps for getting out of trouble.