Today, women’s organizations and initiatives held a media conference on the occasion of institutional violence that is perpetrated against victims of violence, both women and children, through long-term custody procedures. The coercion they suffered in the relationship, women and children suffer even after the breakup, mostly thanks to the complete misunderstanding of the people in the institutions. They do not understand the consequences of trauma and talk about high-conflict relationships between parents, not about the relationship between abusers and victims. Very often the bully is helped and the victims are retaliated and punished.
“The experiences of organizations in direct work with women confirm that the situation in which Severina Vučković found herself and the scandalous statement of the President of the Supreme Court is almost a rule in the treatment of institutions, not an exception. It is necessary to urgently introduce systemic changes through laws and practice”, said Sanja Juras in front of the Croatian Women’s Network at today’s press conference.
Sanja Sarnavka, Solidarna Foundation, told several cases from which it is evident that coercive control and abuse continue even after the victim has left the abusive relationship. Abusers kill women or initiate proceedings before the judiciary and social work institutes that last for years or even decades. Everything is justified by the best interest of the child, without taking the children’s wishes into account at all. Ana Pecotić, representative of the Save me initiative, resolutely stated that we must never allow the case of little Cesare, who was mercilessly handed over to his violent father by our government, to repeat itself. The initiative no longer requests any changes to the law because they are fed up with changing the law and equal treatment by institutions. She announced the defense of Alexander, who we will defend with our bodies if necessary.
The Women’s Network of Croatia asks the Government of the Republic of Croatia and the Croatian Parliament to fundamentally change the existing Family Law, and in accordance with the recommendations of the GREVIO committee, to introduce a completely new approach for victims of violence. One of the requested requests is that the law defines clear procedures for expert reports for family court proceedings and standard procedures and tests that can be used, and the introduction of an obligation for experts to clearly state in the report the limitations of the assessments and tests they used for a particular proceeding. It is necessary to introduce mandatory training of experts that includes knowledge about gender-based violence against women and the effects of this violence on children.
“We ask the Minister of Justice and Administration to initiate disciplinary proceedings against Supreme Court President Radovan Dobronić for violating the court’s reputation and judicial duties with discriminatory misogynistic statements related to the case of Severina Vučković,” said Juras on behalf of the Women’s Network of Croatia.
Sanja Sarnavka, added that changes were made in the system, but – only on paper. As an example, she cited the ban on the use of the term ‘parental alienation’, but that it is still said at training sessions for experts that ‘one should not listen to the minister because they are a profession and not politicians’. She showed with examples that the views of children are not respected at all, and women are declared to be manipulators and emotional abusers. The case of the former director of the Institute for Social Work points to several things – who can do everything in the system and who should protect the victims; how shamelessly he obstructs his wife’s entry into the house after his release from prison and does not give her children, except for a small baby that he clearly does not want to deal with. She noted that the UN special rapporteur Reem Alsalem’s instructions are clear, and she states in 19 recommendations what the state must do so that the system does not abuse the victims.
Dorotea Šušak, in front of the Center for Women’s Studies, said that there is enough out-of-contextual use of the concept of ‘alienation’ and ‘high-conflict divorces’ in cases of domestic abuse: “There is enough unawareness, oversight and ignoring of the fact that child-witnesses of abuse are also abused themselves. Enough of the court’s judgment of the party’s “authentic statement” without education about trauma and traumatic experience. There are enough “urgent” procedures that last a whole decade and end either with the child coming of age or with the loss of the parents’ health”.
Ana Pecotić warned that the essence of the problem is that the abuser’s right to parenthood is placed before the victim’s right to protection from violence, and that the primary interest of the judiciary should be the protection of the child’s rights. She also said that Vučković and her son will not be alone in this process and that a protest is not excluded depending on the development of the situation. If the system does not start working properly, citizens will have to start acting.