Euronews moderated a special online Q&A to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on Monday.
We brought expert Iris Luarasi to a European affairs group on Reddit and she answered users' questions on domestic violence and violence against women.
Luarasi is an expert on violence against women at the Council of Europe. She also runs a counselling hotline for victims of domestic violence in Albania, her native country.
You can read the full thread here.
Here are some of the highlights from the discussion:
In your experience are there differences between the different parts of Europe in terms of domestic violence?
Luarasi: The last EU-wide survey was undertaken in 2014, in which the European Agency for Fundamental Rights surveyed 42,000 women across the bloc.
The survey echoed global figures, stating that one in three women in the EU had experienced some form of physical and/or sexual assault since the age of 15. The percentages of women who say they are have experienced violence are even higher in eastern and southeastern European countries where 70% of women say they have experienced some form of violence since turning 15 (OSCE survey on well being and safety of women funded from European Union.
The survey - released by the EU's external action service - highlighted violence against women in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Moldova and Ukraine.
In crime surveys, the percentage of Swedish women who reported being a victim of sexual crimes in the previous 12 month period was below 3% during 2006-2011 and rose to 11% in 2017. Were you aware of this and what do you think has caused this?
Luarasi: The fact that the reporting of cases was increased in 2017 might have a link with the "MeToo" Global Campaign. The high number of reported rapes and sexual assaults in Sweden, together with the accounts of sexual violence in the framework of the #MeToo Campaign in the fall of 2017 showed with clarity how important it is to ensure the victim's access to holistic support services.
A recent survey by the OSCE in Kosovo came to the conclusion that cases of domestic violence are vastly underreported. This includes physical, sexual and also psychological abuse. Do you observe similar reluctance in the GREVIO area? Are there regional differences? (Due to culture, size of communities?)
What can be done in general? What do you do with your counselling line to raise awareness and encourage women to come forward? And what do you do to keep women safe from further abuse? Are there any best practices throughout the CoE member states?
Luarasi: In general, the lack of comparable data on violence against women has limited the ability of key actors to develop cross-regional initiatives aimed at improving policies and measures on the prevention of violence against women. The OSCE survey, to which you are referring, clearly finds that all women, regardless of their economic or social status, can experience violence, but that some groups of women are at a higher risk. These risks include being poor, economically dependent or having children.
We do a lot of work at the Counselling Line for Women and Girls in Albania to raise awareness and encourage women to come forward. A lot of initiatives on women's access to justice, advocacy for women's rights, media debates and raising awareness with young boys and girls, etc.
Yes, there are a lot of great initiatives and practices throughout the CoE. I would recommend reading all GREVIO reports that have been concluded in several countries that show good country examples. One of the best practices is engaging women domestic violence survivors on becoming advocates and agents for change.