Sleeping with the enemy

Domestic violence killed 37 women in 2013
Despite recent official data revealing that crime generally is “showing a downward tendency”, domestic violence is most certainly not – it is now considered Portugal’s most worrying type of crime with as many as three victims – almost always women – losing their lives every month.
2013 saw even more ‘domestic’ murders than 2012, and 2014 has so far been a horrendous year, with shocking reports coming out almost every week: wives shot by husbands, girlfriends strangled by jilted lovers, even elderly women killed by misguidedly-jealous husbands.
In one week at the beginning of this year, the Resident reported on three women in different parts of the country being killed by their partners or ex-partners.
Talking to us this week, the coordinator of the support group Projecto Criar said that so far this year 10 women have been killed in situations of domestic violence.
“That is more than normal,” said Leonor Valente Monteiro. “The problem is very serious. We hear terrible stories all the time, and to be honest the way domestic violence is dealt with is key.
“To give you an example, it took one woman six visits to the police station before anyone took her complaints seriously. The last time, she was barefoot and in her pyjamas. It was only then that the police took any notice of what she was saying. She had taken huge risks each time going to make complaints against her husband, and five of those times no-one had helped her. She was very lucky to escape with her life.”
Presenting last year’s crime figures, Antero Luís, secretary general for the internal security system, said domestic violence is now the country’s greatest concern – particularly because in terms of prevention, it is something over which police have little influence.
As journalist Ignacio Ramonet, writing for the LeMonde Diplomatique English edition, pointed out, domestic violence has become more lethal than road accidents and cancer. It is affecting thousands of women throughout the country every year and there seems little being done to stop it.
Of a total of 27,318 crimes reported in 2013 (640 more than in 2012), most cases took place in Lisbon (5,885), while Portalegre was the area where domestic crime increased the most (by 18.8%).
Overall, PSP and GNR police registered a total of 31,930 victims (over 80% of which were women) and 31,079 aggressors (of which 86% were men).
In 58% of cases, victims were either married to or living with their aggressor.
The worst day of the week for incidents of domestic violence were Sundays, between the hours of 7pm and midnight – and according to a report by Correio da Manhã there are 948 police in Portugal specially-trained to deal with issues of domestic violence.
Leonor Valente Monteiro would suggest this is far from enough. Her group is busily putting together an initiative – to be funded by the Gulbenkian Foundation – that will involve a team of 32 specialists travelling round the country training all sorts of professionals on how best to tackle the growing scourge.
“We’re hoping to get funding sometime in the next few months. It is vital we get this started. It is something we believe will combat the increasing tendency for incidents of domestic violence in this country,” she explained.
We hope to bring you more news from Projecto Criar as it moves forward with this project. In the meantime, the group can be contacted on 222 085 949 or 964 899 958. Email: [email protected]
By NATASHA DONN [email protected]