Domestic Violence Help in Sweden
It’s ugly to think about domestic violence. It’s uglier to experience it.
For many months, I have had this post on a back burner – not because the topic isn’t critically important, but because every time I began work on the post I found myself without the strength to continue. It’s time to write about it.
I want to share this information because I’m sure many of you will find the statistics on domestic violence in Sweden surprising. More importantly, I write because I know the readership of this blog – most in my audience are those who are contemplating a move to Sweden or have already arrived. There are those who might need the following information – desperately. It is for you I write.
Abuse comes in many forms. All are abhorrent. It can be physical, mental, emotional, or verbal. It is carried on in secret. It happens behind closed doors. It leaves its victims shattered, and forever altered. And it is extremely prevalent in Sweden.
The European Union published their report, Violence Against Women Across the EU, March 2014. “The highest percentage of victims of violence against women are in northern Europe: Denmark (52%), Finland (47%) and Sweden (46%).”
Euronews reported on Feb 22, 2013, “Until a few years ago, violence against women in Sweden was almost a hidden subject even in a country often rated number 1 when it comes to gender equality. Violence is on the rise. Every three weeks a woman is Sweden is killed by a man close to her. Last year, the police said a total of 35 thousand cases of violence were reported.” (See the video here.)
In America, we have 24 hour DV hotlines with a full-time staff. Support is immediately available. In Sweden, we have “calling hours” and more often than not hotlines are merely answering machines. Most crisis centers are not manned on weekends or holidays – exactly the time when crisis centers should be manned.
There are two national hotlines, one is available 24 hours a day. There are 161 women’s shelters and at least 631 shelter places available. A recent study showed that currently (as of 2014) 32% of the recommended sheltered places are absent. During 2012, 2,287 women and 1,961 children were accommodated, while 4,089 women and children could not be accommodated over the same period. *This information provided by Women Against Violence Europe in their 2014 report.
In 2014, I placed phone calls to two Gothenburg help centers. I explained to their voice mail service that I was a journalist working on a story in which to provide women-in-need the verified phone numbers and website addresses to their organization. Neither center returned my call. I followed up with emails. Neither center responded.
Here is a video of a “social experiment” conducted by Swedish organization STHLM Panda showing people ignoring domestic abuse witnessed while riding in an elevator. Fifty-three people got on to the elevator, only one reacted to stop the abuse.
Much has been written about the number of refugees and immigrants arriving in Sweden. They come because they have had to flee their home country. They come for love. They come for promises of a better life.
But what happens when that immigrant comes from their home country to find their dreams annihilated by abuse. The woman from Thailand who was promised marriage and an idyllic lifestyle in utopian Sweden, only now to find herself isolated, threatened, and bruised. The 27 year old who comes from Australia for love and finds herself not yet knowing the Swedish language or the culture and is unable to call for help. The man from Canada who relocates and now finds himself humiliated, or perhaps even beaten, and is lost on how to express his situation. Abuse in a relationship often happens fast – perhaps not in time for the immigrant to learn the language, the culture, or to create a support system.
Those who have been granted a temporary residence permit based on the status of their relationship are often afraid (or unable) to report the crimes of violence for fear of being deported. This is known as the “Two Year Rule”. Should the relationship terminate, the immigrant’s residence status is put into jeopardy. She finds herself between two very bad alternatives – Be deported or deal with the abuse. So many stay, they endure, some feel they have little choice. They hope they can survive until they are granted a permanent residence permit after two years.
While you can read many articles and many reports on this topic – they provide statistics and ideas for improvement – they rarely provide resources.
Here are the resources. May you never have to use them.
• Sweden Emergency Phone Number: 112
Hotline: 020-52 10 10
Besökadress: Lorenbergsgatan 18
Postadress: Box 53268, 400 16 Göteborg
Terrafem is a nonprofit organization working for women’s and girls’ right to live without male violence and dominance. The organization was formed in March 2000 and operates the only nationwide hotline for women of foreign descent. Terrafem also has a lawyer on call and offers assistance apartments.
Hotline: 020-50 50 50
A national helpline for people who have been subjected to threats and violence. If you are a relative or friend you are also welcome to call. We are open round the clock and you call us for free no matter where you live in Sweden. Your call will not be visible on your phone bill. The staff is Swedish-speaking but will use an interpreter when necessary. Please hold while the interpreter is being connected. It may take up to 15 minutes.
If you are American
Americans Overseas Domestic Violence Crisis Center
International Toll-Free 866-USWOMEN
Embassies by Country: http://www.government.se/sb/d/5616
Writer/photographer Lisa Mikulski. Available for print or online publications and business in the Nordic region, Europe, and the U.S. Editorial, features, marketing copy, and public relations. Contact me here or at lisa @ 2sweden4love.com