The aim of this training platform is to better respond to the different needs of victims of domestic violence, to identify victims more quickly and to protect their children. Special attention was paid to communication with victims in different situations (Module 3: Communication with victims in cases of domestic violence).
Two exemplary cases of domestic violence
Case study: Man as a victim of domestic violence
4:34 p.m. Argument in the parking lot of a shopping mall
An outcry from Mrs. E. is audible when her head hits the roof of the car above the driver’s entrance. Passers-by then notice a loud argument and scuffle between the couple. When the couple gets into the car to start driving, a driver blocks them with her vehicle. Mr. E. then flees.
4:37 p.m. Emergency call at the emergency control centre
One of the bystanders calls the police.
4:50 p.m. Police car arrives on scene
The report of Mrs. E. and the witnesses cannot fully clarify what happened. Witnesses say that they have seen that Mr. E. was violent towards Mrs. E. HOWEVER, Mrs. E. said that they had merely argued, whereupon she got into the car frantically and injured her head. They continued to fight afterwards and wanted to drive home but were prevented from doing so. Mr. E. had probably fled in panic, because of the violent verbal attacks by bystanders.
The police officers took down the statements and personal details of the witnesses and of Mrs. E. During this process, Mrs. E. is also asked questions which serve to assess the danger of being attacked again. Mrs. E. refuses a medical examination and is informed of the possibility of having her injury documented in a violence protection outpatient clinic in the following days in a legally secure, cost-free and, if necessary, anonymous manner. After Mrs. E. has been informed about her victim rights, one of the two policemen sensitively addresses the issue of domestic violence and points out the possibilities of specialised counselling and the proactive approach. Mrs. E. listens to these hints and the explanation of police protection options (judicial protection order according to the Protection against Violence Act, approaching endangered persons, expulsion, accommodation in a women’s shelter), but remains firm that everything is fine at home. She refuses any support and the information flyer offered to her. Since the overall circumstances indicate a case of domestic violence, the police officers inform Mrs. E. that they are initiating an investigation against her husband for physical injury and hand her a victim protection leaflet with the police’s case number.
Mrs. E. finally makes her way home alone and, because of her head injury, by public transport.
7:14 p.m. Emergency call in the control center
An emergency call is received at the control centre from neighbours due to disturbing noise in Mr. and Mrs. E.’s apartment.
7:35 p.m. Police intervention in the apartment of couple E.
Two police cars arrive at the address of the couple since the afternoon’s operation and the address of couple E. are already stored in the police system. The police officers assume that there could be another incident of domestic violence. The police crew entering the apartment immediately see that the couple and Mrs. E.’s mother are intoxicated. When questioned separately, all three parties trivialize the incident and state that they were upset that Mr. E. had fled in the afternoon, leaving his wife alone with the police and a head injury. As there are no visible injuries either to Mr. E. and Mrs. E.’s mother, and there are no concrete indications of a criminal offence, those present are urged to remain calm and are informed that if the police are called in again, a report of an administrative offence will be made for disturbing noise.
9:44 p.m. Emergency call in the operations centre
Again, an emergency call from the neighbours for disturbing the peace. The neighbours say, “Things are really getting lively next door. I think they’re having another one of their problems.”
10:10 p.m. Police action at the home of couple E.
Due to the suspicion that this is a case of domestic violence, two police cars arrive again. Among them are police officers from the previous operation in the apartment of family E. They find that the degree of alcohol intoxication of couple E. as well as of Mrs. E.’s mother seems to be much higher compared to the previous visit. Furthermore, all those present show traces of blood, injuries to hands, arms, and face. Mr. E.’s injuries are particularly serious.
Once again, all three persons are heard separately, whereby Mrs. E. and her mother state that Mr. E. began to become violent towards them and they had to defend themselves.
Mr. E. breaks down crying in front of an official and says that he could not stand the violence by his wife and mother-in-law which had been going on for years and that he did not know what else to do that evening but to become violent as well. In spite of his strong intoxication, Mr. E. appears credible and provides conclusive information about the crime and the violence to date.
Mrs. E. and her mother are confronted with the information provided by Mr. E., whereupon they react verbally in a very aggressive manner, and both want to attack Mr. E. in order to “show him what it means to spread such lies about them”. Further violent assaults on Mr. E. can be prevented by the police forces deployed.
Mr. E. wants to leave the apartment and can only be accommodated in a homeless shelter due to the lack of a special accommodation for men as victims of domestic violence. He would like to contact a counselling centre for men affected by domestic violence the very next day and have his injuries documented in an outpatient violence protection clinic. In contrast to Mrs. E. and her mother, he agrees to immediate medical treatment of his injuries. To treat his injuries, Mr. E. is driven to the nearest hospital by an ambulance car. From there, he goes to the emergency shelter on his own. Once again both women reaffirm that they only “had to defend themselves” against the attacks of Mr. E. As a result, the police assesses the risk of Mr. E. becoming the victim of violent assaults by his wife and her mother again as very likely.
In the following days and weeks
In the course of further investigations, the witnesses of the first argument in the parking lot and a neighbour of the E. family are questioned by the police. Mr. E. makes an extensive statement to the police, in which he again describes the development and successive increase in violence against him, as well as his fear that someone may discover that he is a victim of violence in his relationship.
The forensic medical report of the violence protection outpatient clinic is also included in the investigation, which supports the course of events as described by Mr. E. Mrs. E. and her mother only make statements regarding the criminal charges of assault against Mr. E. In doing so, they stick to their original version that Mr. E. caused the escalation of violence but become entangled in contradictions which are documented. With regard to their charge of grievous bodily harm against Mr. E., both make use of their right to refuse to give evidence.
Mr. E. seeks advice from a specialised counselling centre for men affected by domestic violence. He is granted the sole use of the marital home.
After four weeks, the police investigations are concluded with the result that Mr. E. has apparently been a victim of violence by his wife and her mother for years. Both incidents are sent to the Special Department for Cases of Domestic Violence of the District Attorney’s Office for further decision.
Case study: Domestic violence increases in severity over time
Family F. has been living with two small children in their own apartment for a short time when Mr. F. became unemployed. Mrs. F. is able to scale-up her office activities; she is working from home since she is self-employed, and thus, she can ensure that the loan on the house can continue to be paid off. She notices how much her husband suffers from the situation and supports him as best as she can.
The situation between couple F. has become very tense in the meantime. Since the children have been in the day-care centre during the day, Mr. F. uninhibitedly unleashes his disappointment and anger about the turning-down of his job applications and related financial issues by criticizing and humiliating his wife.
Mrs. F. suffers so much from the accusations that she proposes marriage counselling. She has great hope that everything can be improved. She feels that her husband has changed in his behavior completely, but she firmly believes that he will be back to his old self if he can find work again.
To Mrs. F.’s surprise, Mr. F. reacts violently to her suggestion to get help and strikes his wife in the face. Mrs. F. is desperate but considers this to be a one-off slip.
Slaps in the face, shaking and bumps are now part of the weekly routine. Mrs. F. defends her husband’s behaviour from herself, hides it from others and hopes for improvement through a new employment of her husband.
Over the summer, the situation has relaxed a little with the children at home during the summer holidays. Mrs. F. is hopeful because her husband is now also starting to work short time.
Mrs. F. can breathe a sigh of relief during the day because her husband is out of the house. In the afternoon and evening, she spends every minute with the children, and also mostly sleeps with the children at night; she almost convinced herself that the children have problems falling and staying asleep and that at least her husband has to sleep through.
Mr. F. is once again unemployed and from one day to the next he resumes to the old pattern of accusations, humiliation, and assaults against his wife.
A poster in the day-care centre draws Mrs. F.’s attention informing her that there is a hotline that gives advice to women who are exposed to domestic violence. The advertisement seems familiar to her, she must have passed it countless times. But for the first time, she connects it with herself. However, she does not consider her situation serious enough that she would need help for herself.
The incidents of domestic violence occur at shorter intervals, and it becomes increasingly difficult for Mrs. F. to explain or hide her erratic and desperate behavior, her broken relationship and her numerous injuries from her family, her circle of friends and her children’s social environment. She withdraws more and more.
The F. family is now almost completely isolated: their social environment at first reacted more and more uncomprehendingly to the many cancellations, becoming increasingly disappointed and irritated as disputes arose. Finally, their environment withdrew with resignation. Many attributed the situation to the family’s noticeably tense financial situation and assumed that everything would be the same when this difficult phase was over.
After a particularly violent incident of physical assault in the bedroom in the evening, which Mrs. F. suspects the children may have heard, Mrs. F. calls the nationwide help line for violence against women. It helps her to have someone who listens to her with understanding.
Again and again, Mrs. F. calls the hotline after incidents. Finally, she also asks to be referred to a local advice centre and comes under increasing pressure because she realises that her children now also know and understand more than she would like them to know. Nevertheless, the step to filing a complaint and/or a separation seems impossible for Mrs. F.
From another mother from her neighbourhood, Mrs. F. learns that the police also advise citizens anonymously. She has never been in contact with the police, she has great respect and rather little trust that someone there could understand her situation. Nevertheless, she finally calls her districts’s victim protection officer with a suppressed telephone number. Surprised to be informed calmly, not to be condemned or pressed to report the case, she finally takes more courage. The police’s advice made her all the more aware of what she actually knew long ago: there is no easy way out and her family life is too disrupted to continue hoping for change. At the same time Mrs. F. is aware that she will never have the strength to oppose her husband alone or to pronounce the separation.
Mrs. F. is accompanied to the police by her counsellor from the women’s facility and files a complaint. Her counsellor has informed the police about this case in advance and so a police officer, who is trained for cases of domestic violence and has already dealt with a large number of such cases, takes up her complaint. Her counsellor stays with her the whole time. During the interrogation, in which the officer proceeds very carefully and emphatically, Mrs. F. senses that there is apparently a relationship of trust between the counselling centre staff and the police officer, which makes it easier for her to report her ordeal. The police officer also asks her about her current and her children’s current situation of danger. Mrs. F. cannot assess the situation and is afraid of confrontation with her husband. She is informed about her rights as a victim, the further course of the criminal proceedings and the police protection possibilities. The police officer informs the youth welfare office about the situation with Mrs. F.’s knowledge.
Mrs. F. takes the courage to call her brother from the police station and informs him of the situation. He immediately leaves his workplace to take her and the children in overnight.
After the report was filed, Mr. F. was visited by the police and expelled from the shared flat. Mr. F. appears completely surprised and extremely angry to the police officers. He cannot believe that he is being expelled from the flat. After he has been made aware of the legal situation and has received information from the police officers about emergency shelters as well as counselling possibilities, he firmly agrees to stay away from his wife and children until further notice.
Mrs. F., supported by her counsellor in the women’s protection centre, takes the opportunity to apply to the Family Court for a protective order.
During the three-week police investigation, Mr. F. exercised his right to refuse to give evidence and was represented by a lawyer. Mrs. F. is able to conclusively demonstrate the longstanding violent relationship in her renewed interrogation; again, she is accompanied by her advisor from the women’s protection agency. A hearing of the children is waived due to their age. After the release from medical confidentiality, medical documents from Mrs. F.’s family doctor are included in the procedure, which substantiate the information provided by Mrs. F.
After completion of the investigation, the police will send the criminal complaint to the competent department of the Office of the Public Prosecutor for cases of domestic violence for further decision.
A family court will decide on the rules of contact concerning the couple’s children. In later court proceedings, Mr. F. is convicted of multiple bodily harm and is instructed to take part in anti-violence training.