In January 2015 Reykjavík City started a project titled Together Against Violence in cooperation with the Capital Area Police Department, the Women’s Shelter in Iceland and the Health Centres in the Capital Area.
Research and several surveys done in recent years on violence in Iceland against both women and children have increased knowledge on the nature, extent and consequences of gender based violence. That again has provided the Icelandic government and municipalities with the opportunity to fight violence systematically. A survey on violence in 2010 showed that around 42% of women in Iceland from the age of 16 have experienced threats, violence, or sexual harassment that caused them distress.
Judging from the results of this study, the violence was often serious. The survey revealed that 22% of the women experienced violence in intimate relationships; of this group, 26% said that their life had been in danger during the last violent incident, and 41% said that they had suffered physical harm.
The World Health Organization has listed numerous consequences of gendered violence, including physical pain, increased frequency of illness, depression, post-traumatic stress, sleeping problems, various mental illnesses, increased incidence of suicide attempts, alcohol and drug abuse, and deaths, to name a few.
The aim of the project Together Against Violence is to send a clear message that domestic violence will not be tolerated improving the City´s services to both the victim and the perpetrator of domestic violence and to strengthen cooperation between the institutions and NGO’s that work in this field.
Emphasis is being placed on taking appropriate measures as soon as violence in intimate relationships is detected. As a part of that measure and if there is a child registered at the home where domestic violence is reported a psychologist, on the behalf of The Child Protection Department, and a social worker, on the behalf of the Welfare Department, accompany police officers to the scene. This is followed up with a phone call within three days and by a visit by the police and the Welfare Department/social worker within a week. If there are no children on the scene people are offered the services of a social worker.
In this project a special focus has been placed on people of foreign origin, people with disabilities and LGBTQIA+ people. Workgroups, with the relevant stakeholders, were founded in order to analyse the situation and make suggestions concerning how to improve services for these groups.
The Reykjavik City Human Rights Office oversees the project.
Number of call outs
The number of call outs due to domestic violence has gone up since the project started. This rise is both due to better documentation but it is also thought to be due to an increase in faith in service providers.
An evaluation report of the project has been published in Icelandic by the Institute for Gender, Equality and Difference, University of Iceland. The evaluation is based on interviews with the staff working with the guidelines of Together Against Violence as well as several victims/survivors of domestic violence cases that surfaced in Reykjavík during the project.
An english summary of the evaluation is also available.
According to the evaluation, there was an increase of reported domestic violence cases in the wake of the project‘s launch. In the first half of 2015, the Reykjavík Capital Area Police Department experienced a steep increase in reports of domestic violence, a total of 264 cases. Cases of dispute also increased to 334. Meanwhile, The City of Reykjavík (child protection and social services) processed 78 cases.
The evaluation is on a whole positive. Collaboration between the police, social services and child protection services of Reykjavík City has been good and work guidelines and protocol has improved steadily during the project‘s lifetime, as staff has adjusted to new ways of working.
The staff is happy with the project and its results, speaking of a necessary change in responses to domestic violence. Case processing has improved a lot and a clear message is being sent that domestic violence is not tolerated. The cooperation between the Police and Child Protection Services was considered especially beneficial as it reduces the incidents of police staff responding to situations they are not fully equipped to respond to.
ll victims/survivors were happy with the response from the police and social services on site. Several of them however didn‘t get the follow-up they needed and had been promised from the social services, in accordance with the new guidelines.
Criticism of the project from the staff concerned the lack of space for independent judgement in responding to domestic violence cases, because the protocol was strict. They reported a large variety of cases and said that most of them did not fit the stereotype of domestic violence cases. In some cases, the victim/survivor was male, in which case there was a lack of resources for appropriate responses. Restraining orders have increased since the project‘s implementation, which most staff participants considered a positive development.
The evaluation includes a list of recommendations for further improvements on responses to domestic violence.
Halldóra Dýrleifar-Gunnarsdóttir, at city of Reykjavík Human Rights and Democracy Office, is the project manager: