During the emergency situation, the number of people seeking help from the victim support helpline 116 006 due to domestic violence has significantly decreased. As the crisis has reduced access to help for many victims of violence, it is important that loved ones, colleagues and neighbours who are aware of the violent relationship would contribute to ending the violence.
“Twice as many people called the helpline in April compared to the time before the crisis, but the number of calls on domestic violence decreased by almost 40 percent,” Head of the Victim Support Service and Helpline of the Estonian National Social Insurance Board Mari Tikerpuu says. “It does not mean that there has been less violence – on the contrary. The offender now has an ‘excellent’ environment, as both the offender and the victim are constantly at home. If the victim used to have the opportunity to communicate at work or seek help while the offender was at work, this path is now cut off.”
“All options for help for victims are still available,” Tikerpuu says, but emphasises that bystanders have a particularly important role to play in helping to end the violence.
“Those who have been able to adapt to the emergency situation and currently have the time to notice what is happening with their neighbours should report if anyone needs help. The victim support helpline 116 006 provides help to anyone who has been the victim of a crime or violence,” she adds.
According to Tikerpuu, many people who have suffered from violence describe experiences where colleagues, neighbours and loved ones have not asked anything about the years of violence. “Signs of violence on the body, changes in social interactions, loud noises from the apartment, being away from work – these are examples of normal situations that could encourage us to take action in order to help victims of violence and often children who witness such violence. By ignoring such signs, we will inevitably become contributors to the continuing violence,” Tikerpuu explains.
An information campaign was launched across Estonia this week, aiming to invite bystanders to notice and help victims of domestic violence. The campaign is organised pro bono by marketing agency Havas Creative and media agency Havas Media in cooperation with the victim support team of the Estonian National Social Insurance Board.
“Today, people are more at home and it is easier to notice. With our campaign, we emphasise that a person in need is actually very close – perhaps even on the other side of your home walls. Fortunately, help is also close by, however, in order to reach it one needs to be aware of it. We hope that thanks to the campaign, the necessary helping hand will reach those who need it the most,” head of marketing agency Havas Creative Mailis Timmi says.
There are many different ways to intervene and express care. “We should not be afraid to ask the alleged victim directly about possible violence, and we can discuss such an issue in a wider family circle. With today’s campaign, we are encouraging people to ask advice from the victim support helpline 116006 to find the best ways to intervene. If loved ones and neighbours often fear that they do not have enough knowledge and skills to intervene and help, our victim support specialists will be there to help them find the most suitable approach for each situation,” Tikerpuu explains.
- In April, the victim support helpline received 631 calls from people and although this number has doubled compared to the previous month, it has happened due to other reasons – inquiries concerning domestic violence have been replaced by issues of mental health and suicide. In the months before the crisis, the main reason for contacting the victim support helpline concerned domestic violence. In April, these calls decreased significantly – while previously the calls that were related to domestic violence amounted to 30–50% of the total calls, the same figure was 15% in April.
- The police, victim support, women’s support centres, local governments, and other institutions continue to help victims – the number of services has not been reduced.
- For advice, please call the victim support helpline at 116 006 or read more about how you can help at www.palunabi.ee. The victim support helpline is a free 24-hour helpline. People can ask for help and advice in Estonian, Russian, and English. Those who do not want or cannot call the helpline will receive 24-hour assistance and support in three languages via web chat at www.palunabi.ee (Start chat)
- Please report a child in need to the child helpline of the Estonian National Social Insurance Board at 116 111.
- If you hear screaming and shouting, noises of violence or cries for help from your neighbours, please notify the police immediately at 112. Noticing is the first step. When remaining silent, you contribute to domestic violence.