Final report on National Campaign carried out within the framework of the Council of Europe Campaign to Combat Violence against Women, including Domestic Violence
Legal and policy measures
In addition to a package of effective measures combating violence against children and the standardisation of the obligation to inform the police, it is, above all, with regard to civil law that changes aiming to strengthen the position of the victim are planned. Examples of such changes are: the specifically “considerate interrogation” of victims during questioning, also in civil cases; the non-disclosure of the victim’s place of domicile in cases in which disclosure would endanger the victim; the possible extension of legal and psycho-social court accompaniment system to include civil cases and the possible recognition of long-standing domestic violence as a (new, separate) crime. A study aimed at evaluating and pinpointing necessary revisions to the offence of “stalking” has already been commissioned.
Furthermore, Law of Criminal Procedure will also clearly state that in all cases of domestic violence and stalking an out-of-court settlement is only possible with the express agreement of the victim.
From 1st January 2008 every main public prosecutor’s office has special responsibilities pertaining to “violence in the social environment” – the Federal Ministry of Justice is gradually making provision for purpose-oriented rooms for witnesses and overseeing the comprehensive installation of video equipment.
Moreover, the following changes in the Protection against Violence Law are under consideration:
An amendment to the Security Police Act, BGBl. I No. 114/2007 clearly regulates the data transmission and the passing on to the intervention centres of documentation concerning police intervention in cases in which eviction and barring orders are issued. The regulation issued by the Federal Ministry of the Interior determining data transmission has been amended to comply with the new legal situation.
In addition, the perpetrator must be demonstrably informed by the police regarding a pending application to a court and the duration of the barring order in accordance with the Protection against Violence Act in cases in which a restraining order is being applied for.
The duration of the period of protection granted by the restraining order against domestic violence in accordance with the Austrian Protection against Violence Act is, in situations in which cohabitation is unacceptable, to be extended from three to six months.
The provision of an economically independent existence is an important contribution to combating violence against women, especially in the case of female immigrants:
The Austrian Economic Chamber and the Association of Trades Unions representing employers and employees respectively have reached a framework-agreement by which the sum of EUR 1,000 per month, based on full-time employment, is to be adopted in the branch collective contracts in 2009. It is, above all, in those branches typically employing female workers that the collective contracts often stipulate a wage under EUR 1,000.
Special measures have been introduced to facilitate access to paid employment for female migrants who have experienced domestic violence. These measures aim to improve communication and to ease access to the job market. For example, the Labour Market Service (Arbeitsmarktservice – AMS) in Vienna has been offering diversity training for its advisors since 2007, and AMS-staff and staff from other agencies involved in further training in the field of political measures impacting the labour market are offered the opportunity to attend a course aimed at extending inter-cultural competencies and communicating pertinent knowledge in the context of immigration. On completion of the course, participants act as multiplicators dealing with questions relating to integration and as contact persons for female migrants in the agencies in which they work.
The need-oriented guaranteed minimum benefits, which are at present at the planning stage, are intended to further develop the current social welfare system. First and foremost, the needs of female victims of violence are to be taken into account:
On the one hand, it is proposed that women should not be obliged to claim maintenance from their husbands when this is likely to cause renewed violence; in such cases the guaranteed minimum benefits are to be granted immediately.
On the other hand, the need-oriented guaranteed minimum benefits are intended to improve the financial situation of single-parent families. In future such parents are to be guaranteed the same minimum standard as single people, and not, as has been the case up to now, the lower guiding rate for “primary recipients of benefits”.
Support and protection for victims
In 2007 the Federal Minister for Women, Media and Public Service together with the Federal Minister of the Interior adjusted the funding of the intervention centres to comply with the latter’s needs, and in 2008 further funding was again granted. Total funding was raised from EUR 3,368,324.97 in 2006 to EUR 5,459,208 (+62%) in 2007, and was increased by a further 3.14% to EUR 5,630,740 in 2008.
With the aim of raising public awareness of the Women´s Helpline against Male Violence – a nationwide freephone making professional support for women experiencing domestic violence available 24 hours a day everyday of the year – a publicity campaign took place between November 2007 and the end of January 2008; posters, freecards, advertisements and TV-spots were employed in the campaign.
Another focal point was the quality management of the services offered by agencies dealing with women’s questions. In order to ensure that the staff of these agencies is properly qualified further training courses are being held in 2008. A specific curriculum for staff giving psycho-social legal support to women is being developed.
Moreover, the funding for psycho-social and legal court accompaniment has been substantially increased with the aim of providing victims of violence with the best possible advice and support during criminal proceedings. The concept of court accompaniment offers victims the right to advice, support and care for the extent of the criminal proceedings and also provides vital psychological and legal back-up. During the most recent funding period the Federal Ministry of Justice granted court accompaniment to 2,606 victims and paid out some EUR 3m in funding to 47 victim support agencies. In 2008 this amount was raised to EUR 4.5m, whereby the budgetary funding for victim assistance has been doubled. The Ministry of Justice aims to secure the comprehensive and nationwide provision of facilities and to optimise the flow of information; in this way, access to court accompaniment should be available throughout Austria.
On 1st July 2007 the Ministry of Justice victim helpline was entrusted to a new provider. This service is open to all crime victims (regardless of sex), and ever since then does it offer not only purely legal support, but also psycho-social support at times of crisis and, following initial care, will refer victims to specialised and locally competent victim support agencies. This coordination point is to be developed into a competency centre.
Since September 2007 150 policewomen and policemen nationwide have undergone training relating to the prevention of sex crimes. These seminars provide a basic knowledge relating to the field of “sexual abuse”, psychological, sociological causes and the socio-political handling of these subjects as well as a basic knowledge regarding cooperation with other institutions and corresponding prevention measures.
In September 2007 an advanced seminar for senior staff and multiplicators was organised in cooperation with the intervention centre Vienna, at the Federal Ministry of the Interior Security Academy on the subject of “Multi-agency risk-assessment (MIREK)”.
At this seminar a model from Cardiff, Wales for the effective prevention of domestic violence in cases of particularly endangered victims was discussed.
In addition the Ministry of the Interior was responsible for the making of an informative film – “Beharrliche Verfolgung – Stalking” to be used at internal and external lectures. The film is already being used at appropriate training sessions.
The Ministry of Justice has developed a comprehensive education concept for the basic and advanced training of candidates for the position of judge, judges and public prosecutors. Judges, state prosecutors and staff from victim protection agencies will attend these basic and advanced training sessions on violence prevention and protection against violence together; interdisciplinary speakers active the field of prevention, from the police and legal authorities will also participate.
In autumn 2007 a project aimed at producing a comprehensive picture of the phenomenon of “domestic violence” in Austria was initiated by the Federal Crime Office to be carried out in cooperation with the University of Vienna and the relevant psycho-social agencies. As a result, necessary preventative measures and the development of appropriate psychometric tools for the risk-prognosis of perpetrators are to be identified and target group-specific measures for further training are to be developed. The project will run for 6 – 12 months and began in February 2008.
Furthermore, emphasis was laid on the combating of violence against the elderly. In the majority of cases, this means violence against women, both within the immediate domestic environment and in care-situations and nursing-homes. The dynamics of violence and the attendant circumstances in such situations explain why the measures, such as the Austrian Protection against Violence Act, so successful for younger women, prove ineffective in cases of violence against older women.
Austria is therefore participating in an international research consortium which is working on a concept for a pan-European survey on violence against the elderly. One aim is the establishment of good and best practice examples for the prevention of and intervention in cases of violence in care situations. As a consequence purpose oriented prevention and intervention measures can be introduced in future.
The second Austrian senior-citizens report “On the Life Situation of the Aged in Austria”, includes a chapter on violence in domestic and institutional care situations. The report will be presented to the public in autumn 2008.
In Austria there is no comprehensive network of specialised advisory agencies and hotlines to which victims, perpetrators and others confronted with violence against the elderly in the immediate social environment can have recourse. The Federal Ministry for Social Affairs and Consumer Protection has commissioned a survey of existing contact agencies and experts. As a corollary, concepts for further training are to be developed and such training carried out.
The goal is to create a central hotline and/or network of specialist contact/advisory agencies.
The Federal Ministry for Social Affairs and Consumer Protection offers various forms of support for relatives (usually female) acting as carers; this is a significant means for the reduction and de-escalation of violence within the family.
A Ministry of Justice workgroup is currently addressing the improvement and development of statistics and the evaluation of data relating to legal questions.
At the Ministry of the Interior work is now being undertaken on the creation of a comprehensive violence protection data file to be used with regard to the execution of eviction and barring orders in accordance with the Protection against Violence Act. In future, this data will facilitate gender-based analysis and the comparison with other member states of the European Council.
Pursuant to BGBl. I No. 114/2007 the Security Police Law under the recently introduced § 58d permits the creation of a “ Central Analysis Data File on Crimes of Violence Bearing a Heavy Penalty, in particular Sexually Motivated Crimes”. The relevant analysis will greatly facilitate preventative measures and the early recognition of serial contexts.
Besides the campaign, mentioned above, to publicise the Women’s Helpline against Male Violence, the following measures should be emphasised:
The Federal Minister for Women, Media and Civil Service has commissioned the translation into German of Rec (2002)5.
The exhibition “Hinter der Fassade - Behind the Façade “ was presented in the Federal Chancellery from 7th to 9th March 2007. This exhibition targeted professional groups working with domestic violence, and, in particular, school students of both sexes.
From 5th to 7th November 2007, an international symposium was also organised by order of the Federal Minister of the Interior and the Federal Minister for Women, Media and Public Services. To mark the ten-year existence of the Austrian Protection against Violence Act, participants considered experience gained in dealing with domestic violence over the past ten years both in Austria and throughout Europe; good-practice models and innovative measures were also presented.
For the first time in 2007, the Federal Minister for Education, Arts and Culture, the Federal Minister for Social Security and Consumer Protection and the Federal Minister for Women, Media and Civil Service cooperated on the organisation of gender-days, which took place from 3rd November to 10th December and had the motto “Role-clichés and Violence Prevention”. Gender-specific teaching material directly related to this theme, background texts and details of the activities of the participating ministries were publicised via the web-portal Gender + Bildung www.gender.schule.at. Furthermore, workshops, exhibitions, seminars, events and projects on violence prevention aimed specifically at boys were funded in every federal province.
The general meeting of the Federal Ministry for Education, Arts and Culture on 30.11.2007 enabled teachers to have special access to the analysis of role-clichés and gender-specific violence in experiential workshops and educational theatre productions by two schools.
With regard to the combating of violence against the elderly, which in the main affects women either within the family or in care institutions, the Federal Ministry for Social Affairs and Consumer Protection has commissioned the production of a folder highlighting the forms of structural violence, violence in institutions and in the domestic environment involving the elderly. This folder is to be made available to the public both in doctor’s surgeries, chemists’, adult education centres, etc. and through the assistance of mobile services.
Political measures targeting males are still concentrating on combating violence perpetrated by males and violence prevention, specifically in the cases of boys and youths. The following measures undertaken in the field of violence prevention may serve as examples:
Support for the White Ribbon Campaign was the focal point of activities in 2007: The Federal Minister for Social Affairs and Consumer Protection (responsible for men´s issues also) opened an exhibition of White Ribbon posters at a vernissage at the Ministry for Social Security. The multi-lingual poster campaign of White Ribbon for Violence Prevention “I only deliver my punches in the ring”, is intended to raise the awareness of (above all) young migrants since the posters are multi-lingual (e.g. Turkish, Serbo-Croatian).The White Ribbon Campaign “We are men without violence”, with the motto “ Partnership is my strength. My strength hurts nobody. Violence – no thanks!” was developed further and will be presented in spring 2008. An advertising campaign comprising all new White Ribbon posters is planned for the first half of 2008.
The Screening of the film “Knallhart – Two Fisted” in January 2008 was an additional measure against violence undertaken by the Ministry for Social Security. The Federal Minister for Social Affairs made use of this occasion to discuss “violence” with young people. Within this framework young people were asked - online by the film magazine “Skip” and by the Ministry for Social Security and Consumer Protection - about their personal experiences of violence. The results can be read on the Ministry for Social Security website.
During the first half of 2008 a new information platform on the subject “We are men” will go online. This platform contains interactive elements and also comprehensive information regarding violence prevention with regard to boys and men.
The Federal Ministry for Education, Arts and Culture has enacted various measures for the prevention of violence in schools. It is assumed that these measures will impact indirectly on the prevention of domestic violence (origins of conflicts, de-escalation, constructive conflict management,…).
The homepage “Violence Prevention in Schools” furthers a differentiated view of acts of violence and can provide valuable input for all concerned in the immediate confrontation with conflict situations and in the planning and realisation of projects.
Approximately 180 seminars on the subject of violence, conflicts and mediation, whereby 70 deal directly with violence, will be held at teacher training colleges during the spring semester 2008.
Themed “Together against Violence” a draft plan for the prevention of violence in schools is to be adopted. This strategy aims at increasing sensitivity and knowledge relating to the various forms of violence, social competencies and competencies and strategies in dealing with violence, and at developing a sense of responsibility and civil courage.
Violence prevention and conflict management are key-themes in the ongoing and further training of teachers during the whole of 2008. An immediate measure is to be initiated in January 2008 when the Train the Trainer programme commences in teacher training colleges; the participation of 1 – 2 trainers from each teacher training college is mandatory. This programme focuses on the prevention of aggressive behaviour based on the most recent research. At the same time, new materials for the further training of teachers at teacher training colleges in accordance with the latest quality criteria were developed and will be implemented from May 2008.
A homepage (www.gemeinsam-gegen-gewalt.at) is to inform both schools and the general public about the problems, scientific data, best-practice model, contact persons, etc. The homepage also aims to advise teachers, parents and school students in crisis situations.
A further function is to make information available about experts available for information sessions and discussions in schools and about cooperating partners (e.g. out of school institutions such as social work).
Within the framework of “Together against Violence” existing violence prevention programmes should be developed and new programmes established. Two important examples are the “Faustlos – without fists” and “WiSK” programmes.
The “Faustlos” campaign aims to create fundamental impulses for the highly important 6 to 9 age-group. This campaign, which has already been tested in individual federal provinces, will now be implemented nationwide. Since the initiation of the campaign at the beginning of 2008, 300 project modules can be used within the campaign framework in Austrian primary schools. By 2010 50% of all primary schools should be using “Faustlos”.
The social competency training referred to as “WiSK” (Vienna Social Competency Training for the Reduction of Aggressive Behaviour) is suitable for 10 to 16 year-olds and is intended to facilitate a comprehensive confrontation with the subject “Violence in School”. Relevant data will be made available to schools at secondary level I in the autumn.
In addition to the above measures, the schools summit on “ School: Workplace and Environment” held on 31st March acted as a forum for school partners, representatives of the federal province, social partners and experts to discuss the subject of the climate in schools and the violence prevention .
Austria’s federal structure requires that the campaign is also implemented on a regional level in all 9 federal provinces. Numerous activities organised by the provinces, towns and local communities, especially those concerning public sensitivity and victim protection, gave added support to the measures initiated by the federal authorities.
National Plans of Action
During the Council of Europe Campaign Austria did not adopt or implement a national plan of action. Two inter-ministry work-groups were, however, set up to coordinate activities aimed at increasing (professional) public sensitivity and to work on suggestions to improve legislation and on organisational measures, some of which have already been or are currently being implemented.
Assessment of the impact of the Council of Europe Campaign
The Task Force will partly base its assessment of the impact of the Council of Europe Campaign to combat Violence against Women, including Domestic Violence on the following indicators. Please respond by ticking on the boxes.
Numerous crimes included in the Austrian Penal Code relate to physical, sexual violence or restriction of personal freedom (e.g. dangerous threats), as well as stalking. Psychological violence is, even in less serious cases involving no other punishable crime, always considered grounds the serving a restraining order in accordance with the Protection against Violence Act, which forbids the perpetrator to enter the victim’s dwelling, etc.
The recent plan to make long-standing violence in relationships a punishable crime will, in future, include physical abuse, perpetrators of which cannot at present be prosecuted, unless physical injury has been caused.
2. Is violence committed by a partner or former partner punished more severely than violence among strangers (eg. gender based violence as such or the abuse of power will be considered an aggravating circumstance)?
According to the Austrian Penal Code whilst a relationship of dependency is not, as a rule, considered an aggravating circumstance, the circumstances and the effects of the act itself (e.g. particular humiliation action during or in the case of physical injury, pregnancy or death as the result of rape) are considered as such.
3. Are victims enabled to seek justice in a human manner (eg. specialised courts on domestic violence, specialised units within the police, the public prosecutor or the judiciary)?
Under Austrian Law of Procedure victims are guaranteed a number of rights, whereby the right to psycho-social and legal court accompaniment system during legal proceedings free of charge are accorded special importance. Furthermore, the report also emphasizes the new specialized responsibility of public prosecutors and wide-ranging basic and further training programmes for those working in the legal professions.
4. Does a national emergency 24/7 help-line exist free of charge for victims of domestic violence in your country?
5. Have safe shelters been set up for victims of domestic violence in an adequate ratio in your member state? 1
29 safe shelters for women and children (providing 772 places) are currently available in Austria. During the campaign “Stop domestic violence against women” a further safe shelter for women was set up in the Federal Province of Carinthia. In the Federal Province of Salzburg an already existing safe shelter for women was replaced by a new building, whereby the number of rooms was increased from 13 to 16 (+ 23%).
Apart from safe shelters for women, shelter for victims of domestic violence is also available in institutions not specifically designated for this target-group, (e.g. 1 social house in the Federal Province of Burgenland or shelters for the homeless).
6. Is administrative data being collected on victims of domestic violence?
The Federal Ministry of the Interior, the Federal Chancellery, the Federal Ministry of Justice, NGOs (safe shelters for women, intervention centres, advisory agencies for women, Women´s Helpline Against Male Violence ) and public hospitals.
The Federal Ministry for Social Security and Consumer Protection, which is responsible for “policies relating to men”, plans to improve its data by means of the special evaluation of existing statistical evidence
7. Is domestic violence considered as a human rights violation to be addressed in your legal system?