In 2020 authorities were notified in 12,970 cases of domestic violence, with over 1,100 more cases than in 2019 and with almost 2000 more cases than in 2018. This is one finding of the study “Assessing Criminal Justice System Response to Domestic Violence Cases," conducted in four regions of the country – Criuleni, Soroca, Cimișlia and Comrat – by the Women's Law Center in the framework of the “Strengthening Efficiency and Access to Justice in Moldova” project, implemented by UNDP Moldova, with the financial support of Sweden.
Despite the growing tendencies of the number of domestic violence cases, the study authors noted that the number of started criminal cases against perpetrators is declining. Last year, prosecutors led investigation in 866 criminal cases, with over 100 less than in 2019, when 969 criminal cases were initiated. This trend is conditioned by the legislative amendments made in 2016, including inclusion in the Contravention Code of a new article stipulating that “abuse or other violent acts committed by a family member against another family member, which caused insignificant harm to corporal integrity, shall be sanctioned by unpaid community work from 40 to 60 hours or by arrest from 7 to 15 days.”
Other findings of the study are:
- domestic violence victims come from socially disadvantaged backgrounds and know very little about the services designed for them;
- too soft sanctions for the violation of emergency restraining orders encourage perpetrators to reoffend;
- victims lack the necessary legal literacy to defend their rights, which prevents them from filing a complaint in court;
- the organization of trials does not provide domestic violence victims with protection from intimidation by other trial participants, especially when the victim has to wait for the trial beginning or deliberation in the hall;
- inaccurate information about the sanctions that can be applied to the perpetrator;
- myths about domestic violence;
- financial dependence on the perpetrator and insufficient financial resources needed to travel to the district center, to access the services available to victims;
- insufficient number of free services provided to domestic violence victims etc.
The study also highlighted that women were most often victims of domestic violence. In 2020 at national level, 517 people suffered from domestic violence, 64.4% of them being women.
"Violence against women is rarely reported to the police and other organizations as there is lack of trust in the institutions that should provide support and services to victims. Shame, fear of the perpetrator, and lack of long-term and practical support, such as housing and financial assistance, are obstacles that prevent women from reporting domestic violence incidents,” the study shows.
The authors made several recommendations for reducing the number of domestic violence incidents, including:
- conducting awareness campaigns to inform domestic violence victims about their rights and how to access legal, psychological, social and healthcare protection and assistance services;
- developing informative materials for domestic violence victims on how to access online and offline state-guaranteed legal aid;
- setting up a network of lawyers to provide state-guaranteed legal aid;
- training family doctors in how to examine and describe injuries of domestic violence victims;
- creating separate entrances to court buildings for victims and perpetrators as well as organize separate waiting areas for domestic violence victims within court buildings.
To improve the response of specialists in the criminal justice sector, the Women's Law Center organizes mixed format trainings. Within the same project, a brochure and leaflets have been developed which indicate all the accessible services at regional level from which victims of domestic violence can benefit. They are distributed to specialists and residents of Criuleni, Soroca, Cimișlia and Comrat.