During 4thyear of my social work studies in Glasgow, Scotland, I attended a domestic violence course. I found the course to be captivating, thought provoking and very engaging. At some point throughout the course we were asked to go up to the white board and write down key words describing how a victim of domestic violence feels during the abusive relationship. I wrote down the words ‘on edge’ and was subsequently asked to explain what I meant by those words. I clarified that I imagine a victim of domestic violence to be constantly wondering about when the abuser will lash out again, which must place them in a perpetual state of anxiety. This in return, must be excruciatingly exhausting for the victim. Following my answer, one of the course leaders proceeded to demonstrate this feeling of being ‘on edge’ all the time. However, this performance was carried out with no explanation. She blew up a balloon and walked around the room squeezing and rubbing it while continuing the course. The act itself was so simple and yet so significant. I cannot speak on behalf of the other students but for me the effect was immediate. My focus shifted to the balloon. I was distracted to the point I couldn’t listen to the course leaders. The fact that the balloon could burst at any given time was, truthfully, angst provoking for me. At that moment, I was able to understand, to a certain degree that is, what kind of stress and anxiety a person suffering domestic violence experiences.
Within the European Union, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg presents a unique stance against gender inequality. In fact, Luxembourg has a Ministry, which is specifically devoted to promoting gender equality in every domain of private and public life – the Ministry of Equal Opportunities (Ministère de l’Égalité des Chances).
Since 2006, Luxembourg has been actively reinforcing legislation in regards to domestic violence. For instance, the Domestic Violence Act 2003 has been amended and republished in 2013 (Loi du 30 juillet 2013 portant modification de la loi du 8 Septembre 2003 sur la violence domestique) and provides significant safety, care and support for victims of domestic violence. Safety is provided by an eviction order (with permission from the State Prosecutor) against the perpetrator for up to 14 days form the family home. The perpetrator is not allowed to approach or contact the victim in any form (oral, written or through a third person). Therefore, the police regularly monitor the victims and the perpetrators as a way of checking the bans are being respected and as a preventative measure. Care and support are provided by the highly specialised domestic violence victim support service (Service d’Assistance aux Victimes de Violence Domestique), which is responsible for aiding, guiding and advising victims, including the children who often witness the violence and become victims themselves.
Moreover, notable importance is also placed on supporting perpetrators. Hence, perpetrators are required to register with the Responsible Service For Perpetrators of Domestic Violence. The Luxembourgish Red Cross service ‘RIICHT ERAUS’, for example, is centred on counselling, advice and conflict/anger management.
To this day, domestic violence remains the most prevalent human rights violation in the world and yet, it is the least disclosed and talked about. It is a deep violation that affects women and girls in every country and does not discriminate against race, class, culture, ethnicity and age (McQuigg, 2011). Global estimates published by the World Health Organisation (2017) indicate that roughly 1 in 3 (35%) of women worldwide have experienced domestic violence in their lifetime.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, domestic violence is defined as ‘violent or aggressive behaviour within the home, typically involving the violent abuse of a spouse or partner’ (Oxford Dictionaries, n.d.).However, this definition is not enough to truly understand the nuances and complexity of domestic violence (Pitman, 2017).Violent behaviour can take on various forms and manifest as physical, psychological and emotional, sexual, verbal and economic abuse.
Pitman (2017, p.144) states that, within the field of domestic violence research, the ‘long-term negative impacts of domestic violence on women’s economic, physical and mental health and the consequences for children and their life chances are indisputable’. However, awareness of recoveries after separation from the perpetrator has been receiving more attention and gradually developing (Katz, 2015). Some researchers are beginning to change their views on the mothers’ weaknesses and failures (i.e. not leaving the abuser sooner) (Holt, 2017) as well as their understanding of children as passive and docile victims. Domestic violence does not affect every child in the same exact way (Hungerford et. al. 2012). Therefore, the focus is shifting on identifying and acknowledging children’s strengths and even desires to support their abused mothers in finding solutions to their situation (Katz, 2015). As a matter of fact, if children are exposed to effective parenting from their mother and possess good pro-social and emotion regulation skills, their resilience can be increased considerably (Hungerford et al. 2012)
In Luxembourg we have a great array of services that are specialised in supporting and empowering victims of domestic violence and their children. Here are the following:
Femmes en détresse
18-20, rue Glesener l L-1630 Luxembourg
Tél. : 40 73 35 l Fax : 40 73 34
C.F.F.M. - Centre pour Femmes et Familles Monoparentales
MaCoU - Maison Communautaire d’Urgence
SAVTEH - Service d’Assistance aux Victimes de la Traite des Êtres Humains
SAVVD - Service d’Assistance aux Victimes de Violence Domestique
VISAVI -Vivre sans violence
2, rue du Fort Wallis l L-2714 Luxembourg
Tél.: 49 08 77-1 Fax : 26 48 26 82
In light of this, the Ministry of Equal Opportunities and the Luxembourg Zonta Club organise an annual event named ‘Orange Week’ in order to raise awareness around issues of domestic violence in Luxembourg. This event was first launched in 2008 from the United Nation’s General Secretary with the aim to raise awareness and work towards putting en end to gender-based violence. Luxembourg’s first ‘Orange Week’ took place from the 19thto the 26thof November 2017 andconsisted of a series of small events and manifestations (public and non-public buildings lit up in the colour orange, as a sign of solidarity). The end of the ‘Orange Week’ was marked by the ‘Orange March’.
Holt, S. (2017). Domestic Violence and the Paradox of
Post-Separation Mothering. British Journal of Social Work, 47, pp. 2049-2067
Hungerford, A., Wait, S. K., Fritz, A. M. and Clements, C. M. (2012). Exposure to intimate partner violence and children’s psychological adjustment, cognitive functioning, and social competence: A review. Aggression and Violent Behaviour, 17(4), pp. 373–82
Katz, E. (2015). Recovery-Promoters: Ways in whichChildren and Mothers Support One Another’s Recoveries from DomesticViolence. British Journal of Social Work, 45, pp.153-169
McQuigg, R. (2011). International Human Rights Law and Domestic Violence: The Effectiveness of International Human Rights Law(1st ed.). Routeledge
Pitman, T. (2017). Living with Coercive Control: Trapped within a Complex Web of Double Standards, Double Binds and Boundary Violations. British Journal of Social Work, 47, pp.143-161