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Domestic abuse thrust into open in Greece

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
December 3rd, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

High unemployment in Greece in the wake of an ongoing economic crisis may be pushing more men to violence. This in turn, with wives and girlfriends who have no place to go, forces them to stay in abusive relationships. A greater awareness of domestic abuse in Greece has increased over the past two years, forcing this nation's shameful secret out into the open.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Female victims here in domestic violence cases that are reported to the police have increased from 1,186 in 2010 to 2,043 in 2012 - a substantial 72 percent rise. The jump may be attributed to a $40.7 million campaign that has pushed the problem to the forefront, experts say.

Greece has set up a 24-hour hotline and is opening 60 counseling centers and shelters across the country with European Union funding. To this end, the helpline has received more than 12,300 calls since its launch in March 2011.

Greece's former secretary general for gender equality, Maria Stratigaki, who implemented the initiative, says that Greece was "30 years behind the rest of Europe" in tackling domestic abuse.

Stratigaki says that there was no national data on domestic violence, making it impossible to say whether rates had increased. She says that the nation's economic crisis was probably having an impact.

"The problem is women may find it harder to leave a violent partner if they have no means to support themselves and their children. We also think that men, faced with economic problems, may become more violent, but there are no statistics," Stratigaki says.

"However, we cannot say that it is only the economic crisis that makes Greek husbands violent because the structure of society is so patriarchal. It's really unbelievably male-dominated."

Unemployment in Greece topped 27 percent in the summer with nearly two-thirds of young people, those 25 and younger, out of work.

There are those who disagree. "Domestic violence is an issue of power and control," Kiki Petroulaki, president of the European Anti-Violence Network says. She says that the crisis might make abusers more aggressive, but it does not create abusers.

"In Greece, children are still brought up with very strong gender stereotypes. And this is why some men may feel entitled to set the rules and punish the woman whenever she is not fulfilling what he sees as her role. This is what we need to address."

Greece introduced a law criminalizing domestic violence and marital rape in 2007. Experts say the legislation is flawed and much more needs to be done.

"Many, many times you hear that a woman went to the police, and the police sent her home in order not to break up the family," Petroulaki said.

"If an abused woman reaches a police station she is already in crisis. She has needed all her courage to go there. And then they send her away! The lack of protection is a very serious issue."

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