Montenegro is one of the most outstanding traditional countries in Balkans, with very strong patriarchal social relations. The picture of ‘pater familias’ is cherished culturally as of the one who ‘defends women and children,’ and he is committed to protect the image of a happy family, but just on the outside. Consequently, such social frame makes women in Montenegro most endangered in the very field of domestic relations, from the gender equality aspect (Indicators of Democracy, CEDEM). Current findings are additionally supported by the results of researches, undertaken by female groups, and which showed that every fourth women is exposed to physical abuse in family, and every third woman bears some other form of domestic violence from husband, partner, father, son etc.
Until foundation of SOS Hotline for Women and Children Victims of Violence-Niksic in February 1998, there was a denial of domestic violence problems in our community. The data that only in the first year of our work, the phone rang more than 100 times, showed its gravity and extent. In the past eight years, 650 women, domestic violence victims received various forms of help, and most often, they were exposed to domestic violence between 5 and 15 years. The fact that physical violence is mostly followed by disdain, maintenance in the state of poverty, shows that women in Niksic have very high level of tolerance for the violence they experience from the male members of the family. On the other hand, such attitude does not come as a surprise, because they grow up in authoritative domestic surrounding, in which at the head of virtues is female obedience, and the ability of forbearance causes public admiration in their surrounding.
It is of particular importance to highlight the great number of children who are endangered as well. So far, forty children directly sought help, which is actually just a top of an iceberg. They belong to the vulnerable group that asks for help harder. The annual statistics show that abuse of children has been reported in another 500 cases for the previous eight years. Those are children of our clients; about 505 of them confirmed that the offender abused entire family. In addition, we can certify that each child, a domestic violence witness, is exposed to various stresses and with possibility to become quiet, anxious, or antisocial, which significantly increases these numbers.
On the other hand, local institutions do not see domestic violence solving as a priority, though it was proved empirically that socio-economic advancement of the community is in direct correlation with the gravity of approach to protection of women and children. The only initiatives in the local community for systematic protection of domestic violence victims come from SOS Hotline Niksic, which has been conducting the project ‘Program of Coordinated Activities for Domestic Violence Elimination in Niksic’ since 2003. Within this program, we work on networking and joint acting of all relevant subjects in the community for protection of women and children victims of domestic violence.
In view of the fact that two-thirds of women who sought help from SOS Hotline Niksic at the same time needed help of Center for Social Care, Security Center, and Court, we formalized cooperation with these three institutions by signing the Memorandum on Understanding and Cooperation. This document precisely states their commitments and responsibilities in treatment of domestic violence victims, and offenders. In the same year, the Multidiscipline team was formed, consisting of representatives of SOS Hotline and of all relevant local institutions that actively work on suppression of domestic violence. Lobbying the leading people in SC Niksic and relevant Ministry by SOS Hotline resulted in opening of the Domestic Violence Office, which has been working since 2005, as one of the police departments that started the institutionalization of certain services to deal with domestic violence victims’ protection.