How is domestic violence defined in the legal framework of Finland?
Criminal Act Code 39/1889
In Finland, there is no specific crime title for offence called ‘domestic violence’. Different forms of violence are criminalized in the Criminal Code 39/1889. Crime titles for physical violence are e.g., assault, manslaughter, homicide, murder, negligent bodily injury, negligent homicide, imperilment, endangerment of health and abandonment.
Assault in a private or public place is a crime subject to official prosecution. Violent crimes at home are treated as seriously as violent crimes in public places and have the same criminal penalties. Therefore, a police patrol called to someone’s home files a criminal report if violence has occurred. Attempted assault is also a punishable act.
The Criminal Code divides assaults into three groups: petty assault, assault and aggravated assault. The degree of an assault is assessed based on the injuries, the way the crime was committed and the mental suffering it causes.
A petty assault is a crime subject to official prosecution if the act is directed at 1) a person under the age of 18, 2) the perpetrator’s spouse or ex-spouse, sibling or relative in the direct ascending or descending line, or a person, who lives or has lived in the same household with the perpetrator or is or has otherwise been close to him/her, or 3) to the person because of his/her work and the perpetrator is not staff of the same workplace.
Note: All physical violence, including petty assaults, are subject to public prosecution if the offender is a family member or ex-family member. This means that the police do not have discretion over filing a criminal offence report.
Marriage or cohabitation does not give the right to violate the sexual autonomy of another person. Marital rape was criminalised in Finland in 1994. Attempted rape is also a punishable act.
There are several crime titles in the Criminal Code regarding sexual violence. In fact, the Criminal Code was reformed in 2023 with regard to sexual crime legislation. Since 2023, the constitutive element of rape is the lack of consent in sexual intercourse. Anyone who has sexual intercourse with a person who does not participate in it voluntarily must be sentenced to imprisonment for a minimum of one and a maximum of six years for rape.
A person’s participation in sexual intercourse shall not be considered voluntary if:
- she/he has not verbally, by her/his behaviour or in any other way expressed that she/he participates in it voluntarily;
- she/he has been forced into sexual intercourse using violence against the person or threats; or
- she/he has not been able to form or express her/his will due to her/his unconsciousness, illness, disability, fear, intoxication, impaired state of consciousness, suddenness of the situation, serious abuse of a special position of power or other comparable reason.
Rape and aggravated rape and an attempt of rape are always crimes under official prosecution.
Other crime titles in the Criminal Code are, e.g., forcing someone into sexual activity, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and rape of a child.
The lack of voluntariness is a key element in sexual offences. A person may commit sexual harassment without touching another person if the act is serious enough. For example, non-consensual dissemination of a sexual image is punishable.
Psychological violence is not a specific offence in the Criminal Code. However, if psychological violence has caused the victim physical injuries or mental health issues, psychological violence can be prosecuted as an ‘assault’ in the court. Yet, this is not very common since the negative consequences of psychological violence towards one’s physical health are difficult to prove in the court. Though, some illegal acts that may be used as tools of psychological violence are criminalised, e.g., dissemination of private information, violating personal privacy, menace, stalking, coercion, defamation and invasion of domestic premises.
Forced marriage is punishable under the Finnish Criminal Code as human trafficking, aggravated human trafficking or coercion. A spouse may have been pressured or forced into marriage by blackmail, threats or violence, or taken advantage of due to their vulnerable status as a minor, disability or other dependency. Refusing a forced marriage can lead to family or community rejection, abuse, or even death. Family or cultural pressure is not always the reason for forced marriage. In some cases, a person is forced to marry a third-country national in order for that person to obtain a residence permit. (Ihmiskauppa.fi, n.d.)
In addition, a situation where, for example, a marriage has first been agreed upon, but due to pressure, one of the spouses cannot leave it if they wish, resembles a forced marriage. Even though it is not actually a forced marriage, forcing the other person to stay in the marriage, i.e. preventing a divorce, can be punished as an act of coercion, for example, because in Finland everyone has the right to divorce. (Ministry of Justice, 2020.)
Female genital mutilation (female circumcision, or FGM)
FGM refers to any non-medical procedure that involves the removal of a woman’s external genitalia or otherwise damaging the female genitalia. FGM is performed for cultural or other non-medical reasons. FGM is usually performed between infancy and 15 years of age. The age at which FGM is performed varies greatly between countries, regions and ethnic groups. (THL, 2024a)
In Finland, FGM is punishable as assault or aggravated assault according to the Finnish Criminal Code. The maximum penalty for aggravated assault is 10 years in prison. A family member can also be guilty of a crime if he/she does not perform genital mutilation himself/herself but arranges for it to be done or assists in it. If a Finnish citizen or a similar person, such as a foreigner permanently residing in Finland, performs female genital mutilation abroad, the act is a punishable act, even if it is not contrary to the legislation of the country in question. (ibid.)
A completely bystander person, such as a friend of a victim’s relatives, who has learned of the threat of the act, but has not notified the authorities or the victim in time, can also be held criminally liable for not reporting a serious crime. Moreover, healthcare and school personnel have an obligation based on their position to report suspected mutilation to the police. (Ministry of Justice, 2023.)
Honour related violence
Honour related violence (HRV) refers to any form of physical, physiological or social violence carried out within the family or the community in the name of ‘family honour’ when person’s social, sexual or familial roles and expectations, given by a traditional ideology, are not followed. Typical forms of HRV may be threatening, extortion, isolation, financial abuse, control of everyday life, physical abuse, sexual violence, forced marriage or female genital mutilation (FGM). (Victim Support Finland, 2019)
Traditional Finnish criminal law weakly recognises community-based forms of violence that have multiple perpetrators and are often more likely to consist of continuous processes than individual acts. (THL, 2024b; see also Hong, 2019)
In 2014, the new offence of ‘Preparation of an aggravated offence against life or health’ was inserted into the Criminal Code.
Coercive control is not a specific offence in the Criminal Code, but some forms of coercive behaviour e.g. eavesdropping, illicit observation and deprivation of personal liberty are criminalised.
Economic violence is not a specific offence but such acts as fraud, extortion and identity theft are criminalised.
Other forms of domestic violence may include destroying someone’s property or hurting or neglecting animals. The crime ‘damage of property’ includes illegal acts where someone’s property is destroyed, damaged or hidden. Abusing a pet, causing suffering, pain or pain to an animal and leaving a pet without necessary care or food is an animal welfare offence.
It is important to understand that many forms of domestic violence are not offences recognised as criminal offences. Some forms of violence, e.g. oppression, are difficult to prove in court, some may be word against word cases, e.g. psychological violence. This does not mean that the police should not collect information of the non-criminalised acts of domestic violence or should disregard cases that are difficult to prove in court. Active intervention and prevention of domestic violence require the police to identify all the forms of violence in order to manage the sources of domestic violence risks. This work cannot be done by police alone, but in cooperation with social and health care sector and relevant NGOs.
The victim has the right to have a support person with him/her during police interrogations and trials. Victim Support Finland organises support persons for victims and witnesses of crimes.
Are there specific laws or provisions that protect victims of domestic violence? What national laws exist to address and prevent domestic violence?
Act on Restraining orders (898/1998)
In Finland, the restraining order is regulated by the Act on Restraining Orders. A restraining order may be imposed to prevent a crime against life, health, liberty or peace, or a threat of such crime or other serious disturbance.
If the threatened person and the person for whom the restraining order is applied for live permanently in the same apartment, a restraining order can be imposed to prevent a crime against life, health or freedom or the threat of such a crime (inside-the-family restraining order).
In order to protect the life, health, freedom or peace of a person, another person may be ordered not to contact him/her. The purpose of the Act on the Restraining Order is to prevent crimes and to improve the possibilities to prevent serious harassment. (Finnish courts, 2023.)
Anyone who feels threatened or harassed by someone can request a restraining order. Typical cases in which a restraining order may be used are the harassment of a former spouse or cohabiter. The restraining order can also be used to protect the witness of a trial. A restraining order may also be issued when the person protected by the restraining order and the person subject to the restraining order reside in the same apartment. (ibid)
One can apply for a restraining order either from the police or directly from the District Court in writing or orally. Applying for a restraining order became free of charge on 1.10.2023. The applicant for a restraining order will not be charged a fee if the application is rejected or the matter lapses. (ibid)
A temporary restraining order will enter into force immediately. It can be issued by a senior policeman or a public prosecutor. In such a case, the decision shall be examined without delay by the district court. (ibid)
Constitution (731/1999) and The Act on Organising Healthcare and Social Welfare Services (612/2021)
The wellbeing services counties’ obligation to prevent violence is based on international human rights treaties and the constitution that bind Finland. According to Article 22 of the Constitution, the authorities are responsible for the implementation of basic and human rights. The Act on Organising Healthcare and Social Welfare Services (612/2021) stipulates the services that wellbeing services counties must organise. The County Councils of the wellbeing services counties decide the strategy of the wellbeing services counties. Wellbeing services counties are responsible for promoting the welfare, health and safety of their own region when the promotion task is related to its statutory organisational task, i.e. social and health care and rescue activities. (October & Laitinen, 2022, p. 6)
Social Welfare Act (1301/2014) and Health Care Act 1326/2010
Social and health care expertise and services are an important part of promoting the well-being and health of the population of the wellbeing services counties. Promoting well-being, health and safety is a multidisciplinary task, which is stipulated in several other laws in addition to the law on the organisation of social and health services. (October & Laitinen, 2022, p. 6)
Social Welfare Act (1301/2014) is a central general act. The purpose of the Act is to promote equal availability and accessibility of social welfare services, to emphasise a client-centred and comprehensive approach and to support people in their everyday environments. Moreover, the Act defines the duties of social welfare authorities, promotes multi-sectoral cooperation, and safeguards the operating conditions of social welfare personnel in duties they are responsible for and have the expertise in. (The Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 2016)
Health Care Act (1326/2010) regulates the promotion of health and well-being by the health care services. This also covers the promotion of safety. Health Care Act obliges the assessment of health and well-being effects in decision-making and preparation of solutions. According to the law, municipalities and welfare regions must monitor the health and well-being of their residents and the factors that affect them by population group and report the measures for the County Councils regularly. (October & Laitinen, 2022, pp. 6-7)
Criminal Investigation Act (805/2011)
The Criminal Investigation Act stipulates i.e., victim’s rights and obligations. The victim has the right to have a legal counsel assisting him/her in filing a criminal report, in interrogations and in participating in the trial. A legal counsel can be an advocate, a public legal aid attorney or a licensed counsel. (Oikeus.fi, 2021a)
People with low and medium income may be granted a legal aid at the expense of the state. In that case, the state pays the counsel’s fee either partially or in full. (ibid.)
The court can order a legal counsel or a support person for the victim if the case concerns intimate partner violence, a sexual crime or a serious crime against the life, health or liberty of the victim. In this case, the state pays the counsel’s or support person’s fee regardless of the victim’s income. (ibid.)
According to the Criminal Investigation Act Section 19 (8.1.2016/10), a victim of a violent crime has the right, at his/her request, to be notified if the prisoner or remand prisoner is released, escapes or, under certain conditions, exits the prison for some other reason (Oikeus.fi, 2021b).
This right is meant for victims of following crimes: rape, aggravated rape, sexual violence, aggravated sexual violence, sexual abuse, child rape, aggravated rape of a child, sexual violence against a child, aggravated sexual violence against a child, sexual abuse of a child, homicide, murder 2nd degree, murder, aggravated assault, preparation of an aggravated offence against life or health, aggravated breach of domestic peace, aggravated deprivation of liberty, human trafficking, aggravated human trafficking, hostage-taking, preparation for hostage-taking, stalking, aggravated robbery or preparation of aggravated robbery, or attempting or participating in such a crime. (Criminal Investigation Act 805/2011)
The pre-trial investigation authority must immediately notify the party concerned of the right to receive notification of the right of a prisoner stipulated in Chapter 19, Section 4, subsection 2 of the Prison Act (767/2005) or the release of a person in pre-trial detention and of leaving a prison or other place of detention. (7/8/2022/724) (ibid)
If the victim wants to receive the notification, she/he must notify the preliminary investigation authority or the prosecutor. The victim must provide the contact information necessary to receive a notification. The preliminary investigation authority or the prosecutor must inform the court of the matter at the request of the person concerned. (ibid)
Act on the Population Information System and the certificate services of the Population Register Centre (661/2009)
Victims of violence, as well everyone who has justified reason to fear for their safety, are allowed to apply for a non-disclosure for personal safety reasons. This measure is regulated by the Act on the Population Information System and the certificate services of the Population Register Centre (661/2009). (Digital and Population Data Services Agency, n.d.) Non-disclosure of information for personal safety reasons is an exceptional measure that limits the disclosure of address information from the Population Information System. When a person has been granted this protective measure, the information about his/her address and municipality of residence can only be disclosed to authorities that can process confidentiality information. (ibid)
Act on the Population Information System and certificate services of the Digital and Population Data Services Agency 661/2009
The personal identification number stored in the population information system can be changed if the change is absolutely necessary to protect the person in situations where there is an obvious and permanent threat to his/her health or safety.
Names Act 694/1985
A person is allowed to change his/her forename and family name.
The Child Welfare Act (12.2.2010/88)
The Child Welfare Act determines regulations concerning child welfare. It applies to all children who live in Finland. The applicability is not dependent on their nationality, religion or culture. All children are entitled to a safe and stimulating living environment, balanced and versatile development and special protection.
Authorities working with children and families are obliged to submit a child welfare notification if they are concerned about a child’s wellbeing.
The professionals mentioned in the Child Welfare Act (12.2.2010/88) 25 § have an obligation to report to the police all sexual crimes and crimes of abuse against children, which are not petty. Regarding sexual crimes, the reporting obligation applies to all acts of Chapter 20 of the Criminal Code (39/1899). Regarding crimes of assault, the obligation to report applies to simple assaults. (RL chapter 21 § 5): Whoever causes physical violence to another person or without doing so damages another person’s health, causes pain to another person or renders another person unconscious or in another similar state, must be sentenced for assault to a fine or imprisonment for a maximum of two years. (Lehtinen & Rossi, 2022)
The obligation to report suspected violence arises if the child has been subjected to violence that has resulted in injury, or if the mild violence has been repetitive and concern has arisen for the child’s safety. In addition to the criminal report, a child protection report must always be filed. (ibid.)
The Act on Organising the Investigation of Sexual and Assault Offences against Children 19.12.2008/1009
According to the Act on Organising the Investigation of Sexual and Assault Offences against Children, child abuse crimes will be investigated in the same way as sexual crimes, and the state will be responsible for the resulting costs.
- Act on Restraining Orders. 4.12.1998/898. Finlex Data Bank.
- Criminal Investigation Act 805/2011.
- Child Welfare Act N:o 417/2007. Unofficial translation. https://www.finlex.fi/en/laki/kaannokset/2007/en20070417_20131292.pdf
- Criminal Code of Finland. Translation from Finnish. Retrieved from https://www.finlex.fi/fi/laki/kaannokset/1889/en18890039.pdf
- Digital and Population Data Services Agency. Applying for or cancelling a non-disclosure for personal safety reasons. Referred 1st of April 2024. Retrieved from: https://dvv.fi/en/non-disclosure-for-personal-safety
- Finnish courts (2023). Restraining order. Published 15.11.2023. https://oikeus.fi/tuomioistuimet/en/index/asiat/rikosasiat/lahestymiskielto.html
- Hong, T. (2019). Kunniaan liittyvän väkivallan uhrin oikeudellinen asema. Turun yliopisto. Turku, Painosalama Oy.
- Ihmiskauppa.fi (n.d.). Forced marriages. Assistance system of victims of human trafficking. Referred 5th of February 2024. Retrieved from: https://ihmiskauppa.fi/en/human-trafficking/forms-of-human-trafficking/forced-marriages/
- Lehtinen, M. & Rossi, M. (2022). Käsikirja lapsiin kohdistuvien väkivalta- ja seksuaalirikosten tutkintaan. 13.1.2022. Helsinki 2022. https://poliisi.fi/documents/25235045/33939256/K%C3%A4sikirja-lapsiin-kohdistuvien-v%C3%A4kivalta-ja-seksuaalirikosten-tutkintaan-web.pdf/01b971f6-8ebb-eb54-dd97-6c1663d616b3/K%C3%A4sikirja-lapsiin-kohdistuvien-v%C3%A4kivalta-ja-seksuaalirikosten-tutkintaan-web.pdf?t=1642679496880
- Ministry of Justice (2020). Pakkoavioliitot ja rikosoikeudelliset seuraamukset. Oikeusministeriö. Retrieved from: https://www.riku.fi/content/uploads/2020/03/OM-Pakkoavioliitot-ja-rikosoikeudelliset-seuraamukset-fi.pdf
- Ministry of Justice (2022). Revised legislation on sexual offences enters into force at the beginning of next year. Finnish Government. https://valtioneuvosto.fi/en/-/1410853/revised-legislation-on-sexual-offences-enters-into-force-at-the-beginning-of-next-year
- Ministry of Justice (2023). Clarification of the Punishability of Female Genital Mutilation in the Criminal Code. Publications of the Ministry of Justice, Memorandums and statements 2023:6. https://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-400-422-0
- Nettiturvakoti. Väkivallan monet muodot. https://nettiturvakoti.fi/tunnista-vakivalta/vakivallan-monet-kasvot/#rikoslaki
- October, M. & Laitinen, H-L. (2022) Ohjeet kunnille ja hyvinvointialueille lähisuhdeväkivallan ehkäisyn koordinaatiorakenteiden ja lähisuhdeväkivallan vastaisen toiminnan järjestämiseksi. Ohjaus 10/2022. Terveyden ja hyvinvoinnin laitos. https://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-343-878-1
- Oikeus.fi (2021a). Legal assistance. 24.1.2021. Referred 1st of February 2024. Retrieved from: https://oikeus.fi/en/index/mattersand/foravictimofacrime/rightsofacrimevictim/legalassistance.html#
- Oikeus.fi (2021b). Notification of the release of a prisoner or a remand prisoner. 24.1.2021. Referred 1st of February 2024. Retrieved from: https://oikeus.fi/en/index/mattersand/foravictimofacrime/rightsofacrimevictim/notificationofthereleaseofaprisoneroraremandprisoner.html
- The Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2016). Questionnaire on the Provision of Support to Persons with Disabilities. Replies by the Finnish Government. 21.10.2016.
- THL (2024a). Prevention of female genital mutilation (FGM). Terveyden ja hyvinvoinnin laitos. The Finnish Institute for health and welfare. Referred 5th of February 2024. Retrieved from: https://thl.fi/en/topics/migration-and-cultural-diversity/immigrants-health-and-wellbeing/sexual-and-reproductive-health-of-immigrants/prevention-of-female-genital-mutilation-fgm-
- THL (2024b): Honour-related violence. Terveyden ja hyvinvoinnin laitos. The Finnish Institute for health and welfare. Referred 5th of February 2024. Retrieved from: https://thl.fi/en/topics/migration-and-cultural-diversity/integration-and-inclusion/specific-issues/honour-related-violence
- Victim Support Finland (2019). Honor related violence. Referred 6th of February 2024. Retrieved from: https://www.riku.fi/en/various-crimes/honor-related-violence/
2. Law enforcement and protective orders
Are there specialised units or protocols for dealing with domestic violence cases?
The Anchor work is a national model for multi-professional cooperation. There are Anchor teams working almost in 40 locations in Finland. The goals of co-operation are early intervention in the criminal behaviour of minors, comprehensive investigation of the young person’s life situation and their need for help, referral to the right help and support, quick intervention in intimate relationship and family violence, and increasing internal security through multi-professional cooperation. (Ankkuritoiminta.fi, 2020)
However, lately the focus has been shifted to promotion of the wellbeing of young people and to prevention of adolescent criminality and extremism, and the resources to intervene domestic violence vary by location. (Bradley et al. 2020.)
Multidisciplinary cooperation enables professionals to serve the customer in a comprehensive way, which is based on the “one-stop shop” principle. Even though the police officer of the investigation unit investigates the crime, the Anchor team’ healthcare and social work professionals examine the situation of the clients and their families as a whole. After assessing the clients’ needs, they are referred to other services, such as victim support services, shelter services, NGOs, mental health services, etc. The benefits of this holistic approach and multi-agency cooperation can be seen especially in challenging situations where the client suffers from several problems, such as domestic violence, substance abuse issue and mental health challenges. (Bradley et al. 2020.)
MARAC (multi-agency risk assessment meeting) is a two-step risk assessment method for repeated intimate partner violence developed in UK. When the risk for severe violence is high, the victim’s safety is systematically improved with the help of multi-professional cooperation meetings. (Robinson, 2004.)
The method has been used in Finland for over ten years. There are 38 MARAC working groups in different parts of Finland. (THL, 2024)
In Finland, the MARAC method has achieved significant results: up to 80 percent of people who had repeatedly been in contact with the police due to intimate partner violence had no new criminal reports of intimate partner violence committed by the same perpetrator after the MARAC process during the six-month follow-up period (Piispa & October, 2017).
The use of the MARAC method requires the recognition of intimate partner violence in one of the first-stage services, such as social services, health care, or police customer encounters. When violence or the suspicion of it comes to light, the systematic risk assessment MARAC-form for serious intimate partner violence is first filled out with the client. The form contains 24 research-based questions that map the forms of violence and the risk of recurrence. The form maps physical, psychological and mental violence in a relationship and the life situations of the partners in the relationship. Risk factors for partner violence based on research evidence include i.e. previous violence, financial difficulties, and substance abuse or mental health problems (Robinson, 2006; Campbell et al., 2003).
In addition, the professional also assesses the risk of intimate partner violence. If the score obtained on the questionnaire exceeds the limit value defined in advance or if the professional assesses the threat of violence as high or continuous, the case will be referred to the MARAC working group with the consent of the victim. In the second phase of the MARAC, the victim’s safety is systematically improved at the MARAC working group meeting. MARAC brings together the local services specialised in helping the victim. The professionals form a common situational picture of the victim’s life situation and the violence experienced. The client is offered services and because of MARAC, the client needs only one contact to access all the necessary services. The client is also supported by a security plan tailored together by professionals. MARAC offers, as required by the Istanbul Agreement, a comprehensive multi-professional approach to addressing violence and helping the victim. (THL, 2024)
What types of protection orders are available for victims of domestic violence?
Anyone who feels threatened or harassed by someone can request a restraining order. Typical cases in which a restraining order may be used are the harassment of a former spouse or cohabiter. The restraining order can also be used to protect the witness of a trial. A restraining order may also be issued when the person protected by the restraining order and the person subject to the restraining order reside in the same apartment. (Finnish courts, 2023.)
There are two types of protection orders in Finland.
- One can apply for a restraining order either from the police or directly from the District Court in writing or orally. Applying for a restraining order became free of charge on 1.10.2023. The applicant for a restraining order will not be charged a fee if the application is rejected or the matter lapses. (ibid)
- A temporary restraining order will enter into force immediately. It can be issued by a senior policeman or a public prosecutor. In such a case, the decision shall be examined without delay by the district court. (ibid)
If the threatened person and the person for whom the restraining order is applied for live permanently in the same apartment, a restraining order can be imposed to prevent a crime against life, health or freedom or the threat of such a crime (inside-the-family restraining order).
- Ankkuritoiminta (2020). Website. Ankkuritoimintaa kehitetään entistä vaikuttavammaksi. 7th of July 2020. Referred 1st of February 2024 Retrieved from: https://ankkuritoiminta.fi/-/ankkuritoiminta-kehittyy
- Bradley, L., Brooks-Hay, O., Burman, M., Bonnet, F., Cuillerdier, F., Delpeuch, T., Felgueiras, S., Giljohann, S., Hera, G., Herbinger, P., Houtsonen, J., Jaffré, J.-M., Jereb, K., Kersten, K., Leonhardmair, N., Limonier, C., Lobnikar, B., Machado, P., Mela, M., Morgado, S., Neunkirchner, M., Nipuli, S., October, M., Pais, L., Pfleiderer, B., Richter, L., Slak, B., Szegő, D., Vassileva, M. and Vogt, C. (2020). Identifying Gaps and Bridges of Intra- and Inter-Agency Cooperation. Deliverable report 2.4. for IMPRODOVA. https://improdova.eu/pdf/IMPRODOVA_D2.4_Gaps_and_Bridges_of_Intra-_and_Interagency_Cooperation.pdf?m=1585673383&
- Campbell, J.C., Webster, D., Koziol-McLain, J., Block, C., Campbell, D., Curry, M.A., Gary, F., Glass, N., McFarlane, J., Sachs, C., Sharps, P., Ulrich, Y., Wilt, S.A., Manganello, J., Xu, X., Schollenberger, J., Frye, V. & Laughon, K. (2003). Risk factors for femicide in abusive relationships: results from a multisite case control study. American journal of public health, 93(7), 1089–1097. https://doi.org/10.2105/ajph.93.7.1089
- Finnish courts (2023). Restraining order. Published 15.11.2023. https://oikeus.fi/tuomioistuimet/en/index/asiat/rikosasiat/lahestymiskielto.html
- Piispa, M. & October, M. (2017). Vaikuttava työkalu toistuvaan parisuhdeväkivaltaan puuttumiseen. Yhteiskuntapolitiikka, 82 (2017):3, 304–312. http://www.julkari.fi/handle/10024/134851
- Robinson, A. (2006). Reducing Repeat Victimization Among High-Risk Victims of Domestic Violence: The Benefits of a Coordinated Community Response in Cardiff, Wales. Violence Against Women, 12(8), 761–788. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077801206291477
- THL (2024). MARAK – moniammatillinen riskinarviointi. Terveyden ja hyvinvoinnin laitos. The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare. Referred 6th of February 2024. Retrieved from: https://thl.fi/aiheet/vakivalta/tyon-tueksi/marak-moniammatillinen-riskinarviointi
3. Support for victims
What support services are available for victims of domestic violence in Finland?
In Finland, the wellbeing services counties organise health and social services for victims of violence. In addition, the State is responsible for organising shelter services for victims of domestic violence and the operation of the Nollalinja helpline. Also, NGOs offer a variety of different kind of help and support to those who have experienced violence. The services of NGOs vary by region.
Domestic violence shelters are meant for people and families who have experienced or been threatened with domestic violence. Shelter clients are offered, for example, round-the-clock secured housing, crisis counselling and psychosocial support. Shelters are free of charge to clients, and people can go to a shelter on their own initiative. Other services also refer clients to shelters.
- available regardless of place of residence;
- free of charge to customers, offered to families and individual clients, regardless of age or gender; and
- if necessary, available anonymously.
For more information: Shelters for victims of domestic violence – Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare: thl.fi/turvakotipalvelut
The Nollalinja helpline (080 005 005) offers support to anyone who has experienced domestic violence, women who have experienced violence, family members and friends of victims of violence, and professionals. The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare is responsible for organising the helpline’s operation, and the service is provided by the Tampere Settlement Association. The Ministry of Justice funds the helpline.
Nollalinja tel. 080 005 005, chat service nollalinja.fi
- Nollalinja is a nationwide free-of-charge helpline.
- It is one of the low-threshold services that the Istanbul Convention requires.
- It is available for anyone who has experienced violence or a threat of violence in a close relationship.
- It is also available for family members of victims of violence and for professionals and officials who require advice in their work with customers.
- Nollalinja is staffed by trained and experienced health and social services professionals.
- Nollalinja helpline is available 24/7 on every day of the year.
- Nollalinja chat service is open on weekdays from 9am to 3pm. The chat operates on the www.nollalinja.fi website.
- The service languages are Finnish, Swedish and English. Nollalinja also helps in eight foreign languages commonly spoken in Finland (Arabic, Dari, Farsi, Russian, Somali, Sorani, Spanish, Thai) through an interpretation service.
Source: Nollalinja. About Nollalinja. Retrieved from https://www.nollalinja.fi/about-nollalinja/
The Seri Support Centres provide support for people over 16 years of age who have experienced sexual violence. Victims of sexual violence can seek help from the centre on their own or the victim can be referred there by the authorities. The Seri Support Centres provide forensic examination, trauma support, psychological counselling and therapy. For more information: Seri Support Centre for victims of sexual violence – Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare https://thl.fi/aiheet/vakivalta/apua-ja-palveluja/seri-tukikeskus-seksuaalivakivallan-uhreille/seri-english
Are there sufficient numbers of shelters or safe houses for individuals fleeing domestic violence situations?
The state has funded the domestic violence shelters since 2015 and since then THL has act as the government grant authority that award government grants to shelter service providers. The number of places in shelters has doubled from 2015. There are a total of 29 shelters in Finland providing 230 family places for clients coming as a family or alone. At the end of 2024 there should be at least 238 family places in Finland. However, it is still needed to further strengthen shelter network in areas where such services are still completely lacking, for example in the home region of the indigenous Sámi people, and in areas where the service is not yet sufficient.
Shelter services do not reach all victims, including persons using substances who often face violence in close relations. In 2024, a new form of service is piloted, where a remote shelter with necessary services is established in supported accommodation for persons who are not able to live in shelters due to active substance use.
How is counselling or psychological support provided to victims?
The wellbeing services counties organise health and social services for victims of violence. In addition, victims of domestic violence can get support, guidance and counselling from professionals at the shelter as well as assistance and information for dealing with practical arrangements.
4. Preventive measures
What national initiatives or programs exist to prevent domestic violence?
The Committee for Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (NAPE) is responsible for the coordination, monitoring and evaluation of the measures required under the Istanbul Convention in Finland. NAPE operates in conjunction with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.
NAPE has published a Action plan for the Istanbul Convention for 2022–2025 for implementing the Istanbul Convention (Finnish Treaty Series 53/2015). The purpose of the Action Plan for 2022–2025 is to promote the national implementation of the Istanbul Convention ratified by Finland in 2015. This Action Plan is the second of its kind. The first Action Plan covered the years 2018–2021.
The Action Plan includes long-term objectives and a total of 36 measures to be implemented in 2022–2025. The objectives are largely based on the recommendations issued by GREVIO. The three main objectives aim at strengthening the gender perspective and intersectionality in the implementation of the Istanbul Convention, reinforcing intersectoral and multi-professional cooperation and improving both the identification of violence against women and domestic violence and intervention in them. The Committee for combating violence against women and domestic violence monitors the implementation of the Action Plan regularly by means of a separate implementation and monitoring tool.
The Finnish National Implementation Plan for the Lanzarote Convention (2022-2025) was launched in 2022. The Plan lays out the implementation of the Lanzarote Convention through 33 comprehensive actions to criminalise all kinds of sexual offences against children in Finland, which focus on prevention, protection, and promotion of national and international cooperation. The Plan has been designed to include young people’s perspectives on sexual violence and how to prevent it.
The Current Government Programme of Prime Minister Petteri Orpo includes some initiatives to combat (domestic) violence more efficiently. Amongst others, there will be more efforts done to investigate the functioning of the chain of care and rehabilitation of seriously violent young people. In addition, there shall be efforts done to recognise and combat honour-related violence.
The Non-Violent Childhood Action Plan was designed to prevent violence against children under 18 years of age. The Action Plan covers both psychological and physical violence as well as sexual violence. A steering group appointed by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare guides and monitors the Action Plan. All key ministries and a large number of other organisations, including many NGOs, take part in the implementation of the Action Plan.
- Action Plan for the Istanbul Convention for 2022–2025. http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-00-9704-2
- The Lanzarote Convention : National Action Plan for the years 2022–2025. http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-00-5443-4
- Non-Violent Childhood – Action Plan for the Prevention of Violence against Children 2020−2025. http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-00-8351-9
- Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. https://stm.fi/en/nape1
Are there educational campaigns aimed at raising awareness about domestic violence in Finland?
THL promotes shelter services for victims of domestic violence and nationwide helpline Nollalinja services to public by marketing and campaigning through various channels, media and social media. Nollalinja campaigns are organised 4-6 times a year to raise awareness and recognition of violence against women and domestic violence among the general public and to spread awareness of the different forms of violence and Nollalinja services to the population.
In addition, through online training materials we raise awareness of gender-based violence and domestic violence:
- Stop the violence online training in especially designed for the social and health care professionals and police.
- Encountering gender-based violence in schools online training is designed for the teaching, education, social welfare and health care sectors. It is suitable for both students and those who work with young people. Specific target groups of the training are teachers and other professionals who work in secondary schools and the upper secondary level. The purpose of the training is to raise awareness of gender-based violence faced by young people as a phenomenon and provide tools for identifying, preventing and addressing violence.
- Gender matters? Promoting equal gender representation in the media, politics and leadership positions -project produced an online training for journalists and communication experts to promote gender-aware communication and to break gender norms and stereotypes in the media. It also promoted a more inclusive and intersectional understanding of gender and raised awareness about the goals and benefits of balanced numeric participation and equal substantive representation of all genders and about the intertwined nature of inequalities in public debates, political decision-making and leadership.
How does the government work with NGOs and other organisations to address domestic violence prevention?
The Committee for Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (NAPE) is the coordinating body required under the Istanbul Convention. It’s task is to coordinate, monitor and evaluate the implementation of the Convention in Finland. The Committee consists of representatives of ministries and their subordinate administration. A permanent NGO working group also operates in conjunction with the Committee and is represented in it.
NGOs also take part in the implementation of the Action Plan for the Istanbul Convention for 2022–2025, The Lanzarote Convention: National Action Plan for the years 2022–2025 and the Non-Violent Childhood – Action Plan for the Prevention of Violence against Children 2020−2025.
In Finland, the shelter service is provided by NGOs and public organisations. Eight (8) of the service providers are wellbeing services counties and 18 are NGOs. The funding scheme is same for shelters of NGOs and shelters of wellbeing services counties.
5. Data and research
Is there ongoing research on the causes and effects of domestic violence in Finland? How regularly is information on domestic violence updated and made publicly accessible?
The provisions of Article 11 of the Istanbul Convention include the obligation of States Parties to regularly collect representative and comparable data in order to develop and implement policies based on evidence to prevent and combat all forms of violence covered by the Convention. The Convention obliges to support research on all forms of violence covered by the agreement, in order to obtain information on the basic causes and consequences of violence, prevalence, convictions and the effectiveness of the measures taken to implement the agreement. (Riski & Viuhko, 2022)
Statistics Finland regularly publishes statistical studies on several topics, many of which are also related to violence against women:
- Statistics Finland publishes Statistics on offences and coercive measures annually. They reveal, for example, crime that has come to the attention of the police.
- In 2020, a statistical study on individuals’ use of information and communication technology reported i.e., digital harassment experienced by women and men (Statistics Finland 2020, in: Riski & Viuhko, 2022, 14).
- At the turn of the year 2021–2022, Statistics Finland conducted a population survey on the prevalence of gender-based violence and intimate partner violence in Finland.
- Quality of Work Life Surveys ask about experiences of sexual harassment in the workplace, among other things (Sutela, Pärnänen & Keyriläinen, 2019).
The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) conducts several surveys on e.g., individuals’ wellbeing and experiences of violence.
- The School Health Promotion (SHP) study monitors the well-being, health and schoolwork of Finnish children and adolescents. The aim of the SHP study is to strengthen the planning and evaluation of health promotion activities at school, municipal and national levels. The SHP study is carried out nationwide every second year in March–April. (THL, 2024a)
- Frequency of domestic violence experienced by persons with disabilities and availability of services (2021-2022). The main objectives of the study were to map domestic violence experiences of children, young people, and adults (regardless of gender) with disabilities, and to study the frequency of the victimisation and the availability of services. (THL, 2024b)
- Moreover, THL has conducted/is conducting several other studies on domestic violence: for example, impacts of the coronavirus epidemic on experiences of domestic violence and the use of services; intervening in digital violence in shelters; and costs of domestic violence in Finland. The other studies on domestic violence can be found on THL’s website: https://thl.fi/en/research-and-development/research-and-projects
The Police University College of Finland (POLAMK) participates actively in several research programs on domestic violence. During last few years, POLAMK has participated in:
- IMPRODOVA project (Improving Front Line Responses to High Impact Domestic Violence) (2018-2021)
- DIGNITEAS (Challenges of tackling digital violence against women in police work, criminal procedure, and support services) (2022-2023) and
- Introduction of the investigation function of adult intimate partner deaths in Finland: purpose, tasks and organization of the investigation function (2022)
The monitoring and research of serious violence are the focal points of the activities of the Institute of Criminology and Legal Justice (KRIMO).
- A homicide monitoring system was launched in 2002. It contains information on all homicides committed in Finland and reported to the police. This data is used to monitor and analyse the characteristics and changes of homicides, for example the background factors of the perpetrators and victims, mutual relationships and the events of the crimes. The system is based on a cooperation agreement between the University of Helsinki and the National Police Board (POHA). The goal of homicide monitoring is to produce information that can be used in the prevention of violence leading to death and in the targeting of crime prevention. (University of Helsinki, 2023)
- The Institute of Criminology and Legal Policy has been conducting population-level victim surveys since 1980, when the first nationwide victim survey was conducted. In 2012, the institute launched a new National Crime Victimization Survey (National Security Survey), which is primarily an indicator system measuring crime and fear of crime. The nationally representative survey is aimed at people aged 15–74 who live permanently in Finland or the Åland Islands. The survey monitors crimes that do not come to the attention of the authorities. (ibid.)
- Riski, T. & Viuhko, M. (2022). Istanbulin sopimuksen toimeenpanosuunnitelma vuosille 2022–2025. Sosiaali- ja terveysministeriön julkaisuja 2022; 7. Sosiaali- ja terveysministeriö. Helsinki. http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-00-8659-6 .
- Statistics Finland (2020). Väestön tieto- ja viestintätekniikan käyttö 2020. Tilastokeskus. https://www.stat.fi/til/sutivi/2020/index.html
- Sutela. H., Pärnänen, A. & Keyriläinen, M. (2019). Working life in the digital age – results of the Quality of Work Life Surveys 1977 to 2018. Statistics Finland.
- THL (2024a). The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare. School Health Promotion Study. Referred 6th of February 2024. Retrieved from: https://thl.fi/en/web/thl/research-and-development/research-and-projects/school-health-promotion-study
- THL (2024b). The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare. Frequency of domestic violence experienced by persons with disabilities and availability of services – a quantitative and qualitative examination. Referred 6th of February 2024. Retrieved from: https://thl.fi/en/research-and-development/research-and-projects/frequency-of-domestic-violence-experienced-by-disabled-persons-and-availability-of-services-a-quantitative-and-qualitative-examination
- University of Helsinki (2023). The Institute of Criminology and Legal Justice. Tutkimushankkeita. Referred 6th of February 2024. Retrieved from: https://www.helsinki.fi/fi/kriminologian-ja-oikeuspolitiikan-instituutti/tutkimus/tutkimushankkeita
6. Collaboration with international organisations
Is Finland involved in any international collaborations or partnerships to address domestic violence?
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health (MSAH) in Finland promotes human rights and gender equality. It also furthers the development of universal social welfare and healthcare policy on international level. Promotion of gender equality is a particularly important objective for Finland both in national and international arenas.
Some of the most significant forums of international collaboration on the topic of domestic violence are as follows:
- European Union (EU)
- United Nations (UN)
- World Health Organization (WHO)
Finland has been involved in several EU-level projects related to preventing domestic violence; including all the above-mentioned online trainings created by THL that are also funded by EU. Finland was also involved in the IMPRODOVA project and is currently involved in the ongoing IMPROVE project.
Finland participates also in developing the European Barnahus and is a founding member of the PROMISE Barnahus Network. A Barnahus provides multi-disciplinary and interagency collaboration to ensure that child victims and witnesses of violence benefit from a child-friendly, professional and effective response in a safe environment which prevents (re)traumatisation.
Finland and Sweden have also exchanged working methods in the field of domestic violence. An example of this is a Swedish method called “iRisk” related to working with children who have been affected by domestic violence. It is called “Suojassa” in Finland and it is widely used in shelters in assessing needs for children who have faced or witnessed violence. The method enables professionals to recognise children’s needs, including protective factors.
- The Barnahus Quality Standards. https://www.barnahus.eu/en/the-barnahus-quality-standards/
- Ensuring child-friendly justice through the effective operation of the Barnahus-units in Finland:
How does Finland engage with global initiatives focused on combating domestic violence?
The UN Women Finland is leading several global initiatives focused on combating violence against women or domestic violence: e.g., Orange Days campaign, the International Women’s Day campaign, and global HeForShe solidarity campaign. President Niinistö is one of ten heads of state, who has committed to promote equality as an ambassador of the HeForShe campaign.
Are there specific international conventions or treaties related to domestic violence that Finland has ratified or adopted?
Finland is committed to the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combatting violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention). It was ratified in Finland on 1 August 2015.
Finland has also ratified the Council of Europe Convention on Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (Lanzarote Convention). It entered into force on 21 September 2011.
The United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child was ratified by Finland on 20 July 1990. According to the convention, governments must protect children from violence, abuse and being neglected by anyone who looks after them.
The United Nations’ Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) was ratified by Finland on 4 October 1986. The United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris, France on 10 December 1948.