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Other important legislative provisions for assistance to complainant/survivors

  • Legislation should require a free, 24-hour hotline that is accessible from anywhere in the country and staffed by persons trained in domestic violence issues. (Crisis Centers and Hotlines, StopVAW)
  • Legislation should mandate a shelter/safe space for every 10,000 population, located in both rural and urban areas, which can accommodate complainants/survivors and their children for emergency stays and help them to find a refuge for longer stays. (UN Handbook, ch.  3.6.1; and Shelters and Safehouses, StopVAW)
  • Legislation should require long-term housing assistance for complainants/ survivors as they work to attain economic independence from their perpetrators.

 Example: Title VI of the Violence Against Women Act (Reauthorized in 2013), United States (hereinafter "VAWA, USA") provides that a complainant/survivor cannot be evicted from public housing because there have been incidents of domestic violence at her residence. Further, the complainant/survivor may not be denied public housing assistance due to domestic violence, her landlord may not claim that domestic violence incidents constitute “good cause” to terminate her lease, and the lease itself may be divided so that the joint tenant perpetrator may be evicted and the complainant/survivor tenant may retain possession of the lease. A complainant/survivor may also change jurisdictions within the public housing program to protect the health and safety of herself and her family, without violating the terms of the lease. This law protects complainant/survivors when one incident of domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking occurs against the complainant/survivor. However, if the landlord demonstrates that there is an actual or imminent threat to other tenants or to those employed at the property, then the complainant/survivor’s tenancy may be terminated. 42 U.S.C. §1437

  • Legislation should mandate a crisis centre for every 50,000 population, with trained staff to provide support, legal advice, and crisis intervention counseling for all complainants/survivors, including specialized services for particular groups such as immigrants. (UN Handbook, 3.6.1; and Crisis Centers and Hotlines, StopVAW)
  • Legislation should mandate access to free-of charge health care for immediate injuries and long-term care including sexual and reproductive health care, emergency contraception and HIV prophylaxis in cases of rape.

 

Example: The Law of Brazil contains the following provision:

The assistance to the woman in a situation of domestic and family violence will include access to benefits resulting from scientific and technological development, including emergency contraception services, prophylaxis of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) and of the Acquired Immune-Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) and other necessary and appropriate medical procedures in the cases of sexual violence. Chapter 2, Article 9, Paragraph 3.

 

Example: In 2010, the Ecuadorian Minister of Public Health, with assistance from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), opened the first emergency room dedicated to victims of gender-based violence in the country. The new emergency room is located in San Lorenzo, an area with many reported cases of gender-based violence. The IOM and the Ministry of Health conducted training for health professionals and held a public awareness campaign in the region on women’s human rights and prevention and response to gender-based violence.

See: IOM and Ecuador's Ministry of Public Health Open the First Emergency Room for Victims of Gender-Based Violence in the Country, IOM (July 16, 2010).

 

 

Case Study: USA – Initiative Increases Domestic Violence Health Screenings in Indian Communities

Women in the American Indian and Alaska Native communities experience domestic abuse at a higher rate than any other race or ethnicity in the United States. One major obstacle to addressing domestic violence in Indian Country is the lack of domestic violence health screening by health care professionals. To address this problem, the Family Violence Prevention Fund partnered with Sacred Circle, Mending the Sacred Hoop Technical Assistance Project, and local health care centers to increase the number of domestic violence health screenings. Through their collaborative effort, they developed a Government Performance Results Act (GPRA) measure which required that “every IHS [Indian Health Service] facility institute a policy and procedure on [domestic violence], and conduct routine assessment, intervention and referral for intimate partner violence with women aged 15 to 40,” according to its 2010 report. 

Thanks to this initiative, more than half of all women at Indian Health Services facilities now receive a screening for domestic violence by doctors and nurses, an improvement from only 4% when the program first began in 2002. The model brought together numerous approaches including an increase in domestic violence health screening, access to community and legal services for victims, and an increase in public awareness about violence against women.

According to IHS Chief Medical Officer Dr. Susan Karol, this model was effective “because it offered a multi-faceted response to violence, offering community supports and legal services when women needed them, improving the way health care providers respond to women disclosing violence, raising awareness of domestic and sexual violence in local communities, and strengthening community partnerships to help victims of domestic and sexual violence." The 2010 report, Building Domestic Violence Health Care Responses in Indian Country: A Examples Report, highlights this successful model, and offers an outline for other communities to increase domestic violence health screening as well.

See: Progress in Addressing Domestic Violence in Indian Country, Family violence Prevention Fund, (July 27, 2010).

 

  • Legislation should mandate the development of protocols and trainings for health care providers, who may be the first responders to domestic violence. Careful documentation of a complainant/survivor’s injuries will assist in obtaining redress through the legal system. In countries with mandatory reporting laws, legislation should require mandatory reporters to provide survivors with a full explanation of laws and policies when a report is required.

 Example: The Law of Philippines requires health care providers, therapists, and counselors who know or suspect that abuse has occurred to record the victim’s observations and the circumstances of the visit, properly document all physical, emotional, and psychological injuries, provide a free medical certificate concerning the exam, and to retain the medical records for the victim. They must also provide the victim with “immediate and adequate” notice of their rights and remedies under Philippine law, and the services which are available to them.  Section 31

See the health module for step-by-step guidance on working with health care providers and the health care system.

See the Role of Health Care Providers, Confidentiality and Support, Screening and Referral, Documentation and Reporting, and Creating a Health Care Response, StopVAW, The Advocates for Human Rights.

  • Legislation should require that aid, including shelter, clothing and food, should also be provided for the children of complainant/survivors. (UN Handbook, ch. 3.6.1)
  • Legislation should include provisions that provide for restitution or compensation to complainants/survivors. (UN Handbook, ch. 3.11.5) 

Example: The Law of Malaysia states that a victim of domestic violence is entitled to compensation in the court’s discretion:

Where a victim of domestic violence suffers personal injuries or damage to property or financial loss as a result of the domestic violence, the court hearing a claim for compensation may award such compensation in respect of the injury or damage or loss as it deems just and reasonable.

(2) The court hearing a claim for such compensation may take into account—

(a) the pain and suffering of the victim, and the nature and extent of the physical or mental injury suffered ;

(b) the cost of medical treatment for such injuries;

(c) any loss of earnings arising therefrom;

(d) the amount or value of the property taken or destroyed or damaged;

(e) necessary and reasonable expenses incurred by or on behalf of the victim when the victim is compelled to separate or be separated from the defendant due to the domestic violence, such as—

(i) lodging expenses to be contributed to a safe place or shelter;

(ii) transport and moving expenses;

(iii) the expenses required in setting up a separate household which, subject to subsection (3), may include amounts representing such housing loan payments or rental payments or part thereof, in respect of the shared residence, or alternative residence, as the case may be, for such period as the court considers just and reasonably necessary. (Part III,10)