Public Attitudes towards Domestic Violence in Georgia - Trends at a Glance

Date: Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Have public attitudes towards domestic violence (DV) changed in Georgia? How open has the public become to this topic; and what do people do when they fall victim to such violence themselves, or realize that it is taking place?

"Lysistrata" by Aristophane - the spectacle against violence against women; Photo: UN Women/Maka gogaladze
Over recent years, the disclosure of domestic violence cases has dramatically increased in Georgia. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia, it actually doubled in 2015, while the number of restraining orders issued increased from 227 in 2013 to 2,598 in 2015.

This increase is largely attributed to a significant shift in public attitudes towards domestic violence: this problem used to be perceived as a “family issue” (78.3% in 2009), where victims or their relatives were reluctant to report it to the relevant agencies, even in quite extreme cases - but now this attitude has changed. According to a UN Women study on the perceptions of Violence against Women and Domestic Violence in Tbilisi, Kakheti and Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti ( 2013), only 25% now believe that DV is a family matter, while 69% believe DV is a crime.

Nowadays, there are more people applying to law enforcement bodies with domestic violence problems, as well as people who benefit from state services.

For example, the emergency management center “112” received 5,447 calls about domestic conflicts in 2013. Out of these calls, 212 cases resulted in restraining orders being issued. While in 2014, the hotline “112” received over 10,000 calls about domestic violence resulting in 817 restraining orders. However, there is no information about how the rest of the cases were addressed.

The nation-wide is one important state service for victims/survivors, as well as for the domestic violence hotline general public. It was established in 2010, with UN Women’s support (with generous funding from the Swedish Government). The hotline is a counseling service covering the relevant services and support on issues of domestic violence and crisis intervention. Lawyers provide callers with information over the phone about shelters and the various services available for victims/survivors, and about legal remedies regarding protection from domestic violence: protective and restraining orders, legal proceedings, healthcare services, psychological counseling and those state and non-governmental organizations working on the issues surrounding domestic violence.

The hotline number 2 309 903 was changed this year to 116 006 and as of January 2016, all calls, including international calls, are free for the callers of any phone service operator. The service is anonymous and it works around the clock. It is operated by the State Fund for the Protection and Assistance of Victims of Human Trafficking. In addition to victims/survivors, their friends and relatives often call the hotline for help: “My friend is under so much pressure that I cannot help her in any way. Could you please help me”; “There is a woman whose husband regularly beats her, how can I help her?” – these are the types of request often made to hotline operators.

There were 1,143 calls made to the domestic violence hotline in 2015. Most of them (235 cases) were about physical violence and 182 were about psychological violence. Likewise, it was the physical violence that was most often reported via the hotline in 2013-2014. With regard to the frequency of the various types of reports made, psychological violence ranked second in previous years, followed by sexual and economic violence, with coercion being the least reported.

According to the Public Defender's Special Report on Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (2014), most often it is the victims/survivors themselves who call the hotline to report DV, followed by neighbors or relatives. Men and children refer to the service very rarely. The duration of each call is not limited.

As a result of this shift in public awareness and attitudes towards the phenomenon of domestic violence, the number of beneficiaries using shelters for the victims/survivors of domestic violence has also increased. As a result of UN Women’s support to the State Fund for the Protection and Assistance of Victims of Human Trafficking (with generous funding from the Swedish Government), there are four shelters operating throughout the country, fully funded from the state budget. In 2015, 155 women and children used shelter services, compared to 114 people in 2014 and 100 in 2013.

Even though challenges remain in terms of public attitudes towards domestic violence and violence against women (e.g. some still believe that it can be justified in certain circumstances ), the significant progress that has already been made should be noted. Numerous public awareness raising interventions by different actors, ranging from international organizations and local NGOs to government, are gradually being translated into behavioral change. However, domestic violence and violence against women and girls still remain some of the most critical challenges of our time. The knowledge base and tools which have been developed over the past decade to prevent and eliminate such violence, must be utilized more systematically and efficiently to put a stop to all violence against women.