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Mobile teams: urgent assistance to the survivors of domestic violence

31 August 2018

On August 22, 2018, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine adopted three important regulations making a real step forward in combating domestic and gender-based violence. In particular, the government approved the Standard provisions on mobile teams for social and psychological assistance to people affected by domestic and/or gender-based violence.

Despite the seeming novelty of the decision to implement the Emergency Violence Response Mechanism in Ukraine, such mobile teams have already been successfully operating in 10 regions of Ukraine, thanks to the fruitful cooperation between the UN Population Fund, the Ministry of Social Policy and international donors.

The unique model of work with victims in Ukraine has been around for three years - in 2015 first specialized support services that provide social and psychological assistance were established. Therefore, the mobile teams are expected to become a component part of the state system for domestic violence response.

"When creating a family, the woman used to rely on her husband, but later he turned out to be the greatest threat"

Gender-based violence, in particular, domestic violence, is an ample issue comprising a number of aspects. For a victim of violence, this is a multi-faceted problem affecting all areas of life. A person in despair often does not know where to seek support. Women who suffer physical or psychological abuse from their partners are very vulnerable. And often they do not have anyone to ask for help. The issue of solving the situation is getting more and more acute for women and their children, the victims do not know what to do next. Most often, a woman simply has neither understanding nor resources to change something in her life.

In such cases, specialist assistance of qualified social workers and psychologists is needed. Therefore, the mobile teams were staffed with profile specialists who could work with a woman affected by violence in a gentle and appropriate manner.

Currently mobile teams of social and psychological support for victims of domestic violence operate in 10 regions of Ukraine, although everything started as a pilot project in 5 regions. In the eastern regions of Ukraine, they have been working since 2015.

"This was a completely new form of working with the population for Donetsk oblast. Our centers operated in all the settlements of the region, including locations along the contact line. They focused on the problem of domestic violence. We then used to receive about 850 requests each year from such families, and responded to them, providing social and psychological assistance. When we were asked to create a mobile team and work in partnership, we, of course, grabbed at this idea", says Volodymyr Dziumak, Deputy Director of the Donetsk Oblast Center for Social Services for Family, Children and Youth.

According to him, the first five mobile teams (there are now seven of them), significantly changed the work of the centers. The mobile team was a group of three people who were attached to a certain location and provided field visits with their vehicle. That is, it became possible to respond to situations of violence in families urgently: first of all, to provide psychological support.

"In the future, the mobile team kept the client's situation under observation they could visit them again, or take a victim to the Center for Social Services, or hand this case over to other state organizations or lawyers who could provide other assistance. But prompt response to the call was the distinguishing feature of their work modality. From the outset, we selected qualified specialists to work in the teams. These were people familiar with the specifics of this activity or having already worked with families on domestic violence".

According to Volodymyr Dziumak, at the initial stage this work differed greatly from that coherent format which they managed to elaborate later on.

"At that time there was no new police yet, it was only being established, therefore, we arranged cooperation with them, with social service centers, with children's services, that is, with all organizations and institutions related to domestic violence area. It was a novelty for us".

In the first half of 2018, mobile teams in the Donetsk region already carried out more than 500 trips, and served about 10 thousand cases since their establishment. Thousands of women and children have been provided with practical assistance.

Mobile team in Kramatorsk, Donetsk region

The city of Kramatorsk is now functioning as the regional center of Donetsk oblast under the control of the Ukrainian government. In Kramatorsk, as in other cities, there is a mobile team responding to gender-based violence, including domestic violence, which serves several locations: Kramatorsk itself, the nearest Druzhkovka and Oleksandrivskyi district.

The team consists of three people: a coordinator, a psychologist and a social worker. They have been working with this staffing since 2015.

The mobile team has its own route schedule, which is formed in advance on the basis of existing tasks. They ride around the defined route three times per week in the location assigned to them. But the team's activities are not limited by these three trips. In addition to scheduled trips upon previous requests from clients during other working days, specialists are busy with activities that may be called educational: they conduct trainings, lectures, etc.

On the one hand, there are emergency calls when a signal arrives and the team takes off to provide assistance at the specified address. They can receive such a signal from the police or social services. Alternatively, a woman who has suffered domestic violence and knows about the existence of a mobile team, can call them.

Not every woman opens up to a mobile team on their first visit − women are ashamed or even afraid to communicate, especially if the perpetrator is at home. In this case, the mobile team gives her a leaflet with the contact numbers and addresses, as well as the list of services provided. This is efficient, because, according to the team members experience, a woman often is prepared to establish contact with the team not at their first visit, but during a subsequent call. Only in certain cases, if the situation is or may become dangerous, a woman can take her possessions at once and go with the team to the special shelter where she will be safe. Not everyone is braced up to do so at once. Many people need time to take a decisive step, therefore, mobile teams continue to work.

 


Contact all mobile teams at: http://rozirvykolo.org/contacts.html

The activities of mobile teams of social and psychological assistance are supported within the framework of the United Nations Population Fund Program "Integrated Approach to Addressing the Problem of Violence against Women and Girls in Ukraine", implemented in partnership with the Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine with the financial support of the Government of the United Kingdom.