Private Violence - Public Issue
EuroPROFEM - The European Men Profeminist Network http://www.europrofem.org
Private Violence - Public Issue
Summary of: The Netherlands Government
Over the past years, ‘security’ has become a much-debated issue in Netherlands society. Most people associate the term ‘security’ with security in the streets, in their neighbourhood, in their city or town or in traffic.
However, people run most security risks in their own homes, in their own family.
A Netherlands study of 1997 showed the figures. Nearly half the Netherlands population had at some point been confronted with domestic violence. More than a quarter of the respondents stated that he or she had at some point been the victim of domestic violence that manifested itself daily or weekly.
Since then, projects have been initiated throughout the country and methods have been developed to combat domestic violence. This often occurred in consultation with and financed by central government.
In the course of the year 2000, the Minister of Justice, at the request of Parliament, stated that a stronger impulse by central government was necessary to intensify the approach to domestic violence. Central government had to promote the ‘integral approach’, demonstrated in practice to be the most effective method. Central government also wished to set a good example.
In October 2000, the national project ‘Preventing and Combating Domestic Violence’ (‘voorkomen en bestrijden huiselijk geweld’) was initiated under the auspices of the Ministry of Justice. All ministries involved participated in this project: The Ministries of Justice, of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, of Health, Welfare & Sports, of Social Affairs & Employment and Education, Culture & Science. Dozens of implementing organizations, professionals, researchers and individual experts made a contribution to the development of the final report on the project. The final report, the memorandum ‘Private violence - Public Issue’ (‘Privé geweld – publieke zaak’) eventually became a government memorandum and was sent as such to Parliament on 12 April 2002.
Over the next four years, an interdepartmental consulting body will supervise the implementation of the activities from the memorandum and, where necessary, take initiatives to develop new policies. A cooperative link will continue to be maintained with the network of national organizations developed during the project.
This brochure provides a summary of the government memorandum ‘Private violence – Public Issue’.
1. Private violence, Public Issue
A person needs to feel secure in his/her own private environment. And yet, the chance of becoming a victim of violence there is greater than in the public domain. Dealing with violence in the private realm may therefore not be omitted on the political and social agenda. This is all the more pressing now that research increasingly clearly shows the effects of domestic violence. This does not merely concern the physical and mental effects on the victim itself, but also the impact on the immediate environment and society as a whole.
Recent research has shown that children growing up in an environment of domestic violence, even where they are not the direct victims, more often have problems or display behavioural problems than other children. They may become depressed, do badly at school or play truant. They also display criminal and violent behaviour sooner than other children, have an increased chance of ‘looking for’ criminal behaviour as an adult, either as an offender or as a victim.
The Netherlands government believes that domestic violence, apart from the effects it has on children, is always unacceptable, regardless of the circumstances and regardless against whom. As government has a duty to ensure the security of all citizens, the Netherlands government seeks to specify and intensify the policy on counteracting domestic violence.
1.1 Nature and scale of domestic violence
Domestic violence is violence committed by a member of the domestic circle of the victim. This may be a family member, the partner, a parent, brother or sister, a child or house friend. Contrary to other types of violence, the victim and the offender form part of one another’s living environment. Recidivism is therefore extremely high.
Domestic violence occurs in all social classes and within all cultures.
The results of a large-scale study, conducted in 1997 by order of the Ministry of Justice, were widely discussed. The study concluded that 27% of the respondents had at some point been the victims of domestic violence manifesting itself either weekly or daily. In the case of 21% of the respondents, this lasted more than five years. Domestic violence is not confined to women. Boys and men are also often the victim of domestic violence. However, the violence against women appears to have an increased intensity. Furthermore, the violence against women is more often sexual. Men are predominantly the victims of domestic violence in their youth. In 80% of all cases, the offender is male. In only 12% of the cases, the victim had reported the violence to the police. In half of those cases, this was eventually followed by an official complaint.
More recent studies and research abroad furthermore show a connection between experiencing domestic violence (either as a victim or a witness) and other problems that such persons may have, such as behavioural or health problems.
1.2 Policy frameworks and starting points
An important reason for regarding domestic violence as a public issue is the fact that the government has a duty to ensure the security of all citizens. Where security in the public domain is at risk, no one questions the legitimacy of government action. The Netherlands legislature does not accept violence ‘behind the front door’ either and it even condemns some types of domestic violence more harshly than violence against strangers in the public domain. The Netherlands Penal Code includes an article imposing a more severe sentence on abuse of one’s own father, mother, spouse or child.
Domestic violence is not simply a problem of security. It has become increasingly clear what it means that domestic violence concerns violence in often long-term relationships. Victims wish to put a halt to the violence, but in many cases, they do not want to break off the relationship or the contact. Dealing with violence in the domestic environment is not confined to breaking the patterns of violence. It also means that such violence must be acknowledged and signalled at an early stage and support must be provided to the victims, to any child witnesses and, if possible, to the offenders. Dealing with domestic violence therefore also forms part of the public health policy.
Apart from judicial intervention, a chain of prevention, support, reception, treatment, and after-care increases the chance the intervention may also be effective in the long term. Such a chain sets high demands on the mutual harmonization and cooperation between local and supra-local care and welfare institutions.
Many parties play a role in dealing with domestic violence, including central government.
The government regards the following as its responsibility:
- increasing the awareness regarding the unacceptability of domestic violence among the Netherlands population and thereby also stimulating the awareness regarding one’s individual responsibilities;
- increasing the awareness on dealing with domestic violence among all parties that may or ought to make a professional contribution to the approach to domestic violence;
- creating conditions for adequate action against domestic violence at decentralized (administrative) level;
- taking measures for more effective, practical responses in individual cases.
By means of measures in these areas, the government aims at supporting any improvements in combating domestic violence, in particular, in the practice sphere. However, it is not realistic to expect that the central government can act effectively, in the approach to violence in the private realm, without the cooperation of all parties confronted with domestic violence in practice.
Ultimately, the gravity and scale of domestic violence must be reduced by joint action: at central and decentralized level, by policy as well as by enforcement. Nor must the individual responsibility of citizens be forgotten. In the end, any individual must take his or her responsibility in the approach to domestic violence. Victims must learn to stand up for themselves. No excuse is acceptable, offenders are responsible for their actions. The environment of victims and offenders, such as neighbours, friends and family must talk to them about the unacceptability of domestic violence and possibly provide them with help. Officials called in to help, the police, welfare workers and doctors, must assist victims and offenders, stop the violence and seek to prevent any reoffending.
The measures taken by the government serve to stimulate everyone and support people in taking the responsibility that they must take.
The Netherlands government is aware of its responsibilities under international Conventions such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and the UN Women Convention (in particular, recommendation 19 of the Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women). The memorandum must therefore also be viewed in the light of such international obligations.
1.3 The national project ‘Preventing and Combating Domestic Violence’.
In order to provide an additional incentive, further to the regular national policy, to the awareness and realization of activities by the national organizations involved, the Minister of Justice commenced the national project ‘Preventing and Combating Domestic Violence’ in the course of 2000.
An important starting point was the idea that the cooperation between all disciplines would considerably increase the effectiveness of the efforts by each of the parties. The cooperation between all parties involved at national level should also have a motivating effect on decentralized administrative levels and organizations. This expectation was fulfilled.
This approach produced, inter alia, the following results:
- The organizations participating in the project were stimulated to promote the action against domestic violence within their own ranks which has already led to specific actions.
- Proposals to intensify or expand activities based on the action plan drawn up for the project were worked out in the ‘Private Violence, Public Issue’ memorandum. Most of these activities have already been initiated.
- A large, national network has developed that may also appear to be important in the future.
From the beginning of 2001 until April 2002 , representatives of central and decentralized government, (implementing) organizations and expertise centres have closely collaborated in three working parties. The issues discussed by the working parties often concerned signals from the implementing practice on existing bottlenecks and suggestions for solutions. These signals also provided the input for the project and eventually also provided much of the basis for the government position as described in the ‘Private Violence – Public Issue’ memorandum.
2. Responsibilities and Organisation
Experiences abroad but also in the Netherlands show that dealing with domestic violence may only be effective if the various organizations involved collaborate. The necessity to collaborate applies to the different administrative tiers (vertical) but even more strongly to the partners within municipalities and regions (horizontal).
In order to promote the collaboration throughout the country, agreements are concluded at national level. Such agreements support the people developing local and regional initiatives to set up collaborative projects.
2.1 Direction by municipalities
The government believes that municipalities must have a directing role in setting up and leading collaborative projects. The Integral Security Programme and its ancillary policy plans as adopted by the government therefore lay down that action against domestic violence forms part of the integral security policy.
The local authorities have a special responsibility in the implementation of integral security policy.
The local authorities also have this responsibility in the implementation of policy in the context of public health. The issue of domestic violence is therefore also included in national memorandums concerning the public health policy to be pursued.
The direction implies, inter alia, the implementation of the following tasks:
- the designation of domestic violence as an issue in the relevant local policy plans,
- the initiation of collaborative projects and setting up the contacts necessary for that purpose,
- the supervision of the provision of resources for the implementation of the policy by the parties involved,
- the supervision of the conclusion of result-oriented agreements and
- determining to what extent the agreements have been realized and what the effects are.
The government supports the municipalities in various ways to stimulate them to assume such a directing role.
For example, the Ministry of Justice has granted subsidies to more than twenty municipalities to enable them to initiate local collaborative projects against domestic violence. In consultation with the Association of Netherlands Municipalities (Vereniging van Nederlandse gemeenten), the Ministers of Justice, of the Interior and Kingdom Relations and of Health, Welfare and Sport are to develop a long-term project or programme. In order to provide the municipalities with the support they need, it is examined what kind of support the municipalities would like to receive. The project or programme is worked out on the basis of the results of this examination.
An annex to the ‘Private Violence – Public Issue’ memorandum contains the model for an action agreement. This model provides insight into different organizations that may be contacted (locally or regionally) for a collaborative project (women’s shelter, ambulant adult care, youth care, police, the Public Prosecutions Department, victim support and probation and after-care services). The model not only describes which organizations should be involved, it also describes what the tasks of each individual organization should be in the action against domestic violence. The model is partly based on the experiences gained with collaborative projects in some regions.
Commissioned by the Ministry of Justice, a ‘Scenario for Action against Domestic Violence’ (‘Draaiboek voor de aanpak van huiselijk geweld’) was also developed. This scenario is composed of practical experiences and contains a checklist of issues that must be observed in the set-up and implementation of project-based or structural action against domestic violence. An ancillary workbook lists financing options and provides specific practical examples and models.
2.2 Police and the Public Prosecutions Department
The police organization is an important partner in collaborative projects. The police often receive the first signals if domestic violence escalates to such an extent that the persons concerned or persons around them decide that outside intervention is required.
Structural action, including trainings and collaborative agreements within and outside the police forces, is necessary to improve actions against domestic violence in the long term.
Since the end of 2001, a ‘national network of domestic violence’ has become active within the police organization. The Board of Police Commissioners had taken the initiative to realize such a network and was also represented in the steering group of the ‘Preventing and Combating Domestic Violence’ national project.
During several years, the national network intends to improve the action against domestic violence throughout the country. The network considers the approach to domestic violence as a core task. The agenda of the national network includes such issues as expertise development, improving the registration, improving the file composition, exchange of know-how on ‘good practices’.
Within the Public Prosecutions Department, the improvements on the action against domestic violence forms part of the tasks of the National Implementation Vice Care and Domestic Violence Committee (Commissie Implementatie zedenzorg en huiselijk geweld). This Committee advises the Board of Procurators-General on national direction of action against domestic violence by the Public Prosecutions Department. The chapter on the special attention for victims and offenders discusses the specific actions by the Public Prosecutions Department in paragraph 3.2.
Within the districts, insufficient attention has thus far been drawn to the Public Prosecutions Department’s tasks and role in the action against domestic violence. Every district office must therefore entrust an official with the task of developing activities to improve the action against domestic violence by the district office and within the region, in consultation with the other regional partners.
2.3 National support
In order to continue to stimulate the development and maintenance of activities to improve the approach to domestic violence over the next years, the central government must carry out supporting activities, such as:
· the development of knowledge by setting up and stimulating a research programme;
· a description of ‘best practices’ as well as method development on the basis of research and practical experience;
· supporting the introduction of ‘best practices’;
· stimulating the promotion of expertise by means of courses, in-service and refresher training;
· stimulating and supporting local/supra-local, supporting structures, such as municipalities and possibly provinces;
· provision and development of information, including providing information to the public;
· monitoring (the effects of) policy and communication with the responsible authorities on any desired amendments to policy.
In order to be able to implement such tasks properly, a coordinated, national framework is necessary within which ‘the action against domestic violence’ is the binding element. Within such a framework, the organizational link must also be made between the activities of implementing organizations, on the one hand, and (inter) departmental direction on the other hand. The government will set up a national service desk for the implementation of these tasks, which desk will use, where possible, the already available supporting functions and expertise.
3. Interventions aimed at supporting victims and dealing with offenders
It is estimated that approximately 70% of the victims reports complaints to welfare workers, occasionally without the welfare workers being able to trace the problems back to domestic violence. Only the tip of the iceberg becomes visible at the police and the Public Prosecutions Department. Only about 12% of the victims report to the police, in approximately 6% does a victim make a formal complaint.
Most interventions therefore occur – and must occur – outside the judicial framework. It concerns interventions aimed at protecting, supporting and possible taking care of victims or teaching offenders how to behave in a socially acceptable manner.
Such interventions must be sufficiently harmonized for the support and guidance to have sufficient effect: a ‘system-oriented’ approach therefore. Naturally, this requires cooperation between all functions involved.
3.1 Support of (potential) victims
3.1.1 Juvenile victims
Children are hardly ever able to defend themselves effectively against violence in the domestic realm; this certainly applies to young children. In such cases, outside intervention will therefore sooner be necessary.
This is the reason why the legislative proposal to amend the Youth Services Act (Wet op de Jeugdhulpverlening) regulates, inter alia, that welfare workers or other parties bound to (medical) professional secrecy may nevertheless disclose information if it is deemed necessary to end a situation of child abuse or to investigate a suspicion of child abuse.
Since 1 January 2000, there is a national network of Child Abuse Advice and Reporting Centres (AMKs). AMKs may gather information, without the permission of the persons involved, if there is a reasonable suspicion of child abuse. The AMKs are publicized by means of public campaigns.
Children that are ‘merely’ witness to violence within the family also run grave risks. In 2001, by order of the Ministry of Justice, research is conducted into the impact that witnessing domestic violence has on children . Out of the 100,000 children that witness violence between their parents annually, 40,000 run an increased risk of problems. The Ministry of Justice has decided to subsidize projects aimed at preventing, early signalling or timely action against problems related to children as witnesses of domestic violence.
In practice, the Child Care and Protection Board increasingly often deals with cases concerning violence within the family. The Board, partly in consultation with guardianship institutions, will develop a specific policy for such situations, including cases where the violence was not directly aimed at the child.
Action is not merely necessary in the event of suspected or signalled child abuse, the prevention of child abuse and sexual abuse of children may deserve even more attention.
In the years 2000 and 2001, the Ministry of Justice, via stimulation schemes, subsidized defence training for the groups 7 and 8 of primary schools. Partly as a result of this, defence training became more widely known.
By now, more than 10,000 children in primary schools throughout the country participate in trainings where children learn to increase their physical and mental defences against extreme behaviour and abuse of power.
Due to the positive results in primary schools, laid down in an evaluation study, the Minister of Education, Culture and Science currently has similar trainings developed for the first classes of secondary schools.
However, once a child has become a victim of abuse or sexual abuse, it is of vital importance that the right support be provided to restrict the damage insofar as possible. Incorrect or late treatment may lead to psychological or behavioural problems. Such a child may even become an offender himself. Very few special programmes for young victims of abuse, sexual abuse or neglect are available in the Netherlands. Structural and multi-disciplinary provisions are necessary where specialized diagnoses and treatment are provided to such children. The government is currently developing trial projects to stimulate the development and dissemination of this type of welfare work.
3.1.2 Victims in general
If an adult feels insecure in his or her private environment, he or she will usually have to be the first to take measures to change this. By undertaking action against the offender or by calling in the help of others in one’s immediate surroundings or official bodies. Once someone asks for help, he or she must be able to count on the availability of such help.
Several expertise centres, for the major part financed by the central government, focus on the development and dissemination of expertise in the field of action against domestic and sexual violence. They develop methods and ancillary material, provide active and passive information to welfare workers and other professionals or professional organizations and they assist in setting up and implementing projects. Over the next years, TransAct, the national expertise centre for gender-specific care and sexual violence, will continue to focus on action against sexual and domestic violence. This also applies to the national Ambulant FIOM. A Child Abuse Expertise Centre forms part of the Netherlands Institute for Health and Welfare Services (NIZW).
Over the coming period, the centre will draw up a survey of ‘good practices’. The NIZW is also concerned with action against abuse of the aged. In 1999, the NIZW initiated a project to set up a national network of regional initiatives to improve the provision of welfare services with respect to abuse of the aged. They focus in on regional and local institutions that do (ambulant) work for the aged, such as Home Care (Thuiszorg), the General Social Services (Algemeen Maatschappelijk Werk) and Welfare Work for the Aged (Welzijnswerk Ouderen). In 2002, a training course will be developed aimed at the systematic signalling of abuse of the aged.
As the problems of offenders, victims and ‘bystanders’, such as family members, are interconnected in situations of domestic violence, the question arises as to what extent more or different services must be provided to these persons than the usual care and support services. By order of the Ministry of Justice, the Netherlands Institute for Health and Welfare Services (NIZW) has described the preconditions for care programmes for domestic violence. The description consists of two parts. One part describes the general preconditions, the minimum standards of quality and the other part describes the different elements of the minimum package of provisions on the basis of a division of age and a distinction between victim and offender.
The institutions for women care fulfil a unique role in the chain of support and care. They provide a safe haven as the first shelter for women and any children that must escape their home and they provide help, if necessary, in a safe and supervised restart toward a new existence. The Netherlands has more than 100 provisions in total for residential and supervised living, including approximately 2,430 shelter places. Annually, 10,000 women (50%) and children (50%) are taken in. 60% of them belong to an ethnic minority. Some large municipalities (34) receive a specific grant from the Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport for women’s shelters. They are expected to develop an integral policy within their region regulating issues such as: 24-hour availability, advice and information, emergency shelter, intensive supervision, safe addresses, temporary houses and ambulant supervision to prevent any reoffending. Information activities are also carried out. In 2001, it concerned a total grant of approximately 36 million Euros, in 2002, it was increased to a structural grant of 42 million Euros.
However, some problems occur in women’s shelters. For example, the number of application exceeds the shelter capacity, many women have to stay in the shelters for too long or return frequently (‘revolving-door effect’). Furthermore, the financing basis is occasionally felt to be a problem.
Currently, the problems are outlined and analysed by order of the Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport. The Minister will thereafter initiate ‘Women’s Shelter Consultations’ with the 34 large municipalities, the Association of Netherlands Municipalities and the coordinating organizations for women’s shelter institutions, the Shelter Federation (Federatie Opvang). These consultations must result in an action plan providing solutions for the existing bottlenecks.
In order to prevent situations where victims, and any children, must escape from the housemate or partner committing the violent offence, an extension of the option of (temporary) outplacement of the offenders of domestic violence seems appropriate. There are already possibilities for the victim to request the court to issue an order on the basis of which the partner must leave their home. However, the existing possibilities seem too limited and occasionally too laborious. On the basis of a study into other forms of crisis interventions, in particular in Germany and Austria, the Minister of Justice has opportunities examined for the introduction of similar crisis intervention in the Netherlands.
Sometimes, if a relationship between partners is terminated, an ex partner seriously threatens the former partner (and any children). In such situations, a (mobile) alarm system that directly connects the threatened partner with the police, may offer protection. In some places in the Netherlands, experiments are carried out with this system. The organisation involved with the implementation and the use of the system is fairly complicated. A uniform national introduction will therefore not be at issue for the time being. The Minister of Justice will have a scenario drawn up containing information on the application of the system and the preconditions to promote the use of this system. The scenario will be provided, inter alia, to municipalities. The Minister of Justice will furthermore lay down a subsidy scheme to encourage local parties to introduce the mobile alarm system.
Situations where victims of domestic violence are involved in legal procedures against the offender do not merely involve a legal conflict but often also emotional or loyalty problems. With a view to this particular burden of legal procedures on victims of domestic violence, the government wishes to provide them with additional support. The research project ‘Criminal Procedure (Strafvordering) 2001’ further examines the position of victims and witnesses in procedures relating to domestic violence. The Minister of Justice intends to organize at least two experimental projects offering pre-trial legal assistance to victims of domestic violence. Legal advice from specialist lawyers must assist the victim in making choices with regard to the legal steps to be undertaken. Following this experiment, a decision is made on the national introduction of pre-trial assistance. The Minister of Justice also likes to examine whether victims of domestic violence receive compensation for legal assistance during a criminal procedure against the offender.
The cultural background of the victim and/or offender is an important factor in the action against domestic violence, both with a view to the approach of the individuals involved and in the approach of target groups. Currently, research is conducted into the nature and scale of domestic violence in Turkish, Moroccan, Surinam and Antillean families, the four major ethnic minorities in the Netherlands. In advance of the research results, an expert meeting has been organized attended by practical experts and representatives of the various professional groups involved in the context of the national project. They offered specific advice, but also discussed principal matters such as ‘wariness in acting’ on the part of professionals and institutions and the awareness process of offenders and victims regarding ‘when does it concern domestic violence’. The advice and considerations are included in the further development of the activities from the memorandum.
Special attention is also drawn to foreign women that stay in women’s shelters due to domestic violence and that have a residence permit dependent on their partner. In many cases, they only obtain an independent permit after a long procedure, they cannot leave the women’s shelter because they are not entitled to independent accommodation and they are occasionally even refused access to women’s shelters. All such problems are being handled. The Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND) will handle all current matters of these women via an accelerated procedure, the Accommodation Act (Huisvestingswet) and the Accommodation Decree (Huisvestingsbesluit) are amended to such an extent that (all) women staying in women’s shelters due to violent abuse by their partner are given priority in the allocation of houses. All Netherlands municipalities have been informed of this and were requested to anticipate these new regulations insofar as possible. The institutions for women’s shelters have received information via a (loose-leaf) manual ‘Guide to Aliens’ Country’ (‘Wegwijzer in vreemdelingenland’) on the reception of clients with an uncertain or unclear title of residence. The set-up of a telephone hotline in addition to the manual is under consideration.
3.2 Dealing with offenders
Any action against domestic violence does not, by definition, have to be aimed at terminating the relationship between victim and offender. In practice, they are often not prepared or able to do so. The latter is usually the case in situations of dependency, e.g. in child-parent relationships. But in many partner relationships, both partners also wish to stay together. The starting point is therefore that the violence must be terminated rather than the relationship. Provisions of services and treatment will therefore be the predominant means required. However, where necessary, legal remedies must also be available to cause to terminate the violence and, if all else fails, to separate victim and offender or to keep them away from one another.
3.2.1 Provision of services and treatment
The provision of services to and treatment of the offenders includes three different types: voluntary provision of services, offender therapy after some insistence and treatment in detention.
Voluntary provision of services is not yet widely available. To confront and motivate offenders (e.g. by pointing out the importance of this for the children) is less recommendable as long as there are insufficient services. There are various projects within the regular services or within the context of regional or local collaborative projects. The Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport has the existing projects and other services in the field of voluntary services to the offender surveyed and evaluation and will, subsequently, have a work model drawn up. The work model must encourage municipalities, provinces and institutions to expand their provision of services.
Offender therapy after some insistence occurs in four of the eight forensic policlinics in the Netherlands. They run specific treatment programmes for offenders of domestic violence referred via the police. The methods used for offender therapy are also evaluated in order to promote the national application of ‘best practices’.
Offenders of domestic violence that are held in detention may profit from treatment of their aggressive behaviour to prevent any reoffending after their release. The Ministry of Justice conducts research into the need of treatment in detention, the services currently available and the necessity and opportunities of new treatments. It is, at any rate, important to motivate offenders to participate in the treatment during the detention period but also afterwards. Post-detention treatment is essential.
3.2.2 Legal action
Several amendments to the law are implemented to improve the legal action against offenders of domestic violence.
- For example, the maximum penalty for (simple) abuse will be increased. The combination of that new maximum penalty with the increase in penalty for abuse of the mother, the father, the spouse, the registered partner or the child (Article 304 (1) Netherlands Penal Code) means that pre-trial custody is possible and arrest of a person not caught in the act.
- The statutory provision regulating the increase in penalty in situations of domestic violence, as stated in the preceding sentence, is too limited. Partners other than the spouse or officially registered partner fall outside its scope, while many people in Netherlands society live together with a partner but are neither married nor registered. The scope of Article 304 (1) Netherlands Penal Code will therefore be extended to include the ‘partner’.
- The Minister of Justice furthermore considers increasing the term of limitation with respect to violent offences against minors to such an extent that this term only commences when the victim turns 18. This is currently not the case. If a child is abused, it will almost never report this since it is often dependent on the offender. Once the child is an independent adult, the offence has often become extinguished by limitation. The Minister will have it reviewed in practice to see whether an extension of the term of limitation is indeed desired in such situations.
- Research is also conducted into extending the possibilities of deny the offenders of domestic violence to the victim’s home even in cases where it concerns the joint home of the offender and the victim. The legislation and ancillary infrastructure in other countries, in particular Germany and Austria, have been examined. The objective is to find a form that fits in the Netherlands context.
The available legal remedies will not merely be extended, the use of such means will also be promoted and structured nationwide. The Board of Procurators-General will therefore apply an instruction to this effect. The instruction prescribes to police and judicial officials how they must act in situations of domestic violence (and stalking) with respect to the investigation, prosecution and enforcement of punishments and measures.
4. Awareness and knowledge
It was established during the project that few professional groups faced professionally with situations of domestic violence have developed a specific approach to deal with this problem. Some organizations have made a start. Organizations that have long experience in this specific issue traditionally continue to act alone in many cases.
In order to increase the willingness on the part of the organizations to develop policies for joint action against domestic violence, the staff members and the management must become aware of their responsibility. This awareness goes hand in hand with acquiring knowledge on domestic violence, the role of other organizations that must be involved in the joint action, the role that the professional him/herself may or should fulfil.
Professionals are not the only important factor in the approach to domestic violence.
Individual citizens may also play a major role in counteracting domestic violence. Clearly expressed disapproval of the use of violence in general and therefore also in the private realm is often lacking. The self-evidence of this is too often missing. The government must spread the message that domestic violence is an issue for both government and citizens.
4.1 Professionalization professional groups and organizations
During the vocational training of officials that may have to deal with domestic violence, explicit attention must be drawn to: awareness, recognition and signalling, backgrounds of domestic violence from different cultural perspectives, the possibility of action to be taken, knowledge of partners in the approach and partner organizations and awareness of one’s own
blocking and prejudices. However, central government does not prescribe the contents of the vocational training. Central government may stimulate the teachers though to draw sufficient attention to domestic violence.
For example, the Minister of Education, Culture and Science will develop teaching material and other didactic instruments for the relevant sectors of the upper secondary vocational education and teacher training courses.
The Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport has the contents of the curricula of health care training examined with respect to attention drawn to domestic violence. If any shortcomings are noted, the training institutes and organizations will be confronted with the fact of their responsibility.
The National Victim Support Bureau of the Netherlands, with branches throughout the country conducts a basic training ‘domestic violence’ for all its volunteers. A limited group of volunteers, selected in part through this basic training, receives a follow-up training as a result of which every branch will have specialists available.
The police academy also provides for the ‘domestic violence’ issue. Since January 2002, this subject has been added to the training courses for assistant police staff members, police staff members and all-round police staff members. It forms part of the ‘approach on joint safety care’ course, but attention is also frequently drawn to it during other courses in the form of cases. The police officers that have already completed their training where less emphasis was put on this subject, are given refresher training via application routes.
Within the Public Prosecutions Department and certainly within the judiciary, there is still insufficient awareness of this issue. In May 2002, the Training and Study Centre for the Judiciary (Stichting Studiecentrum Rechtspleging), the education institute for these professional groups, therefore organized a special day focusing on this subject. The Minister of Justice will promote that structural attention be drawn to domestic violence in the regular teaching materials.
4.2 General awareness
The action against domestic violence will produce limited results if anyone fails to participate. People must be made to feel responsible for one another and for their own acts or omissions. (Potential) victims must be aware of their right to draw clear lines and must use that right.
Public campaigns may raise the awareness of the unacceptability of domestic violence. Apart from the awareness, public campaigns must also be used to outline specific support options (‘what can you do, where can you go’).
As not all regions in the Netherlands will be able to comply with the requests for support that will certainly emerge as a result of public campaigns at the same time, the government has decided to create a ‘toolkit’ with information that may be further developed and used at local or supra-local level.
This will only be followed by a nationwide public campaign once the national provisions of support are fairly certain. Preceding such a campaign, research must be conducted into the conditions under which and the manner in which the national campaign may be successful. Naturally, attention will also be drawn to the different cultures represented in the Netherlands in this regard.
Since February 2001, a web site offers all current and background information on domestic violence that is available to the Ministry of Justice. Many people consult the site www.huiselijkgeweld.nl that includes information with respect to example projects, regional and national support organizations and current issues on a daily basis. A quarterly newspaper with the same name accompanies the site. The newspaper provides background information, interviews and further information on initiatives.
Employers are contacted separately. Although domestic violence concerns violence in the private realm and not violence at work, employers must be aware of the effects that this type of violence may have on one’s work. It is, in particular, important for organizations that deal with domestic violence themselves, such as the policy, welfare services, health care, to know what action you may take as an employer. The coordinating organizations of employers are contacted via fact sheets. The information focuses primarily on counsellors, company welfare workers, works doctors and company support teams.
5. Collecting, processing and managing information
The following substantive, organizational and technical bottlenecks with regard to the registration of domestic violence were signalled during the national project.
- A characteristic of domestic violence is that the parties involved often wish to keep it secret; one cannot obtain a clear and reliable picture of the actual gravity and scale of domestic violence through registrations.
- A large number of parties are involved in the action against domestic violence as a result of which the collection of relevant data, where available, is complicated.
- There is no uniform definition of the basic terms.
- Gender-specific registration only occurs sporadically.
- The registration systems used are not compatible.
- There is insufficient insight into the need for information on the part of the respective partners, while it is exactly the need for information determines the willingness to collect and store reliable data.
Although the ‘domestic violence’ registrations still leave much to be desired, there are some indications of positive developments. Such developments are accompanied by an increasing awareness of tasks and responsibilities in this field. After all, this awareness means that the organizations themselves feel an increasing need to register domestic violence and to specify the gender; as stated earlier, this is an absolute prerequisite for obtaining reliable data.
The victim support centres currently use the same registration method nationwide.
Types of violence such as stalking and domestic violence are explicitly included in the registration. In May 2002, the Child Abuse Advice and Reporting Centres (Advies- en Meldpunt Kindermishandeling -AMK-) introduced a new system that makes nationally compatible data available with respect to, for example, the nature of the abuse. The women’s shelters are also developing a national system that makes it easier to retrieve data concerning sexual and/or physical violence. From
1 January 2002, the Public Prosecutions Department has marked all matters concerning domestic violence separately in the operating processes system. The police are examining possibilities of improving the registration in the short term in the nationwide network (for the improvement of actions against domestic violence).
As it has been demonstrated that collaboration with various partners at local or regional level is most important for adequate action against domestic violence, it is furthermore examined to what extent the data exchange may be improved in practice. Firstly, one must communicate better with the information holders as regards their powers. The impression is that less use is made of the exchange of information due to ignorance of the laws and regulations in force. The Minister of Justice, subsequently, intends to review whether the statutory powers may perhaps be adapted more to practical needs.
Apart from improving the registration of all organizations involved and the data exchange between those organizations, periodic and systematic monitoring of the developments in the action against domestic violence in the Netherlands is also necessary. Although various monitors are performed (e.g. a police monitor on feelings of (in) security, an emancipation monitor and an Integral Security report), there is not yet any periodic research with respect to the action against domestic violence.
The Minister of Justice has commissioned the development of such a monitor. In the context of the Services for the Homeless Monitor, the Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport has furthermore commissioned a study into the influx of women at women’s shelters.
· Child Abuse Advice and Reporting Centre (Advies- en Meldpunt Kindermishandeling, or AMK) Amsterdam
· District Courts of Assen, Arnhem and Utrecht
· Foreign Women Centre (Centrum Buitenlandse Vrouwen)
· Clara Wichmann Institute, research institute for women and law
· De Waag, centre for ambulant forensic psychiatry
· Shelter Federation (Federatie Opvang), coordinating body for shelter organizations
· FORUM, institute for multi-cultural development
· Municipality of Haarlem
· Amsterdam Court of Appeal
· Den Bosch Court of Appeal
· Municipal Health Care Services (Gemeentelijke Gezondheidsdiensten) Zuid-Holland/North
· Ambulatory Mental Health Care (Geestelijke Gezondheidszorg) Netherlands
· HERA, women’s shelter Gelderland
· Institute for Stalking Problems (Instituut voor stalkingproblematiek, or ISP)
· Institute for Health and Social Care Insurance of Officials (Institute Zorgverzekering voor Ambtenaren, or IZA)
· Regional Police Force Managers Consultation (Korpsbeheerdersberaad)
· National Police Selection and Training Institute (Landelijk Selectie en Opleidingsinstituut, of LSOP)
· National Domestic Violence Working Party (Landelijke werkgroep huiselijk geweld)
· Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations
· Ministry of Justice
· Ministry of Education, Culture and Science
· Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment
· Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport
· Netherlands Police Institute (Nederlands Politie Instituut)
· Netherlands Institute for Health and Welfare Services (Nederlands Instituut voor Zorg en Welzijn, or NIZW)
· Palet, support centre for multi-cultural development
· General Office Public Prosecutions Department
· Police force Amsterdam-Amstelland
· Police force Haaglanden
· Police force Utrecht
· Police force Zuid-Holland/South
· Police force Rotterdam-Rijnmond
· Province of Zeeland
· Board of Police Commissioners (Raad van Hoofdcommissarissen)
· Child Care and Protection Board (Raad voor de Kinderbescherming)
· Council for the Judiciary (Raad voor de Rechtspraak)
· Netherlands Victim Support (Slachtofferhulp Nederland)
· Social and Cultural Planning Board (Sociaal en Cultureel Planbureau, or SCP)
· Support Centre for Minorities (Steunpunt Minderheden)
· Ambulant FIOM Foundation (Stichting ambulante FIOM)
· KEZBAN Foundation (Stichting KEZBAN)
· Netherlands Probation and After-Care Foundation (Stichting Reclassering Nederland)
· Training and Study Centre for the Judiciary (Stichting Studiecentrum Rechtspleging, or SSR)
· Transact Foundation (Stichting Transact), national expertise centre gender-specific care and sexual violence
· Association of Netherlands Municipalities (Vereniging van Nederlandse Gemeenten, or VNG)
· Verwey-Jonker Institute
· Vonk Amsterdam, knowledge centre for refugees and asylum seekers
· Women Health Care Centre HARA
· Women’s Shelter Amsterdam
· Women’s Shelter Rijnmond
· Women’s Shelter Rotterdam
· Women’s Shelter Utrecht
This brochure provides a summary of the ‘Private Violence – Public Issue’ memorandum. On 12 April 2002, the Minister of Justice submitted this memorandum to Parliament, on behalf of the Government. The contents of the memorandum were drawn up during the ‘Preventing and Combating Domestic Violence’ national project carried out under the auspices of the Ministry of Justice, Directorate-General Prevention, Youth and Sanction Policy.
Grafisch Buro van Erkelens, The Hague
You can order copies of this brochure, the Government Memorandum (Netherlands language) and other publications concerning research of and action against domestic violence via:
or via the Crime Prevention Section,
Juvenile and Crime Prevention Department,
Ministry of Justice
Postbus 20301, 2500 EH The Hague.