Photo:Claudio Bresciani/TT

Battered women often without help

3:58 min

Violently abused women and children in Sweden are not getting the help that they need. An investigation of the work carried out by municipalities involving battered women is scathing in its criticism, with serious flaws found in many places.

The Health and Social Care Inspectorate (IVO) presented on Thursday the results of a national investigation in which it said it had found shortcomings in 50 of 60 municipalities it had surveyed. And it said that the differences between the various muncipaltities when treating battered women and children was large.    

"There is a danger to the rule of law when abused women and children who witness violence are not getting the help they are entitled to under the law. In most municipalities there is emergency help. But what happens when there is no emergency anymore?"said Mikael Thorn, project manager at IVO.

He said that local authorities are poor at investigating domestic violence, on deciding to intervene and following-up. Although the National Board of Health and Welfare tightened the advice and guidance a few years ago, it has not improved. Of the 60 inspected municipalities, between 10 and 15 were found to have serious flaws. "The issue is not a priority in many municipalities, probably because it's about women and children," said Mikael Thorn to news agency TT.

Among the most common shortcomings described by IVO on Thursday was poor governance and competence and a lack of leadership and documentation. Often there are also no reliable statistics available. This despite the fact that the Social Services Act is very clear on matters relating to violence against women and children who have witnessed violence.

"When it looks as bad as it does in some municipalities there is a risk that the vulnerable women will return to a violent environment. It can lead to both serious injury or, in extreme cases, death," said Mikael Thorn .

Although many flaws have been discovered in supervision , there are examples where local authorities take the issue of abused women very seriously. Asked why there was such a discrepancy, Mikael Thorn said there are several reasons: "Poor skills of workers when it comes to violence against women and the laws and high turnover of staff. In small communities, it can also be difficult to recruit people with the right skills."

The IVO suggests that every year thousands of women are abused in relationships and on average 17 women are killed by male relatives. In several cases, the authorities have known about the violence. "It's scary,but unfortunately , it is perhaps not a coincidence when it comes to just women and children, said Mikael Thorn.

Compared with the previous investigation that IVO undertook from 2008 to 2009, the results are not significantly better, which angers Mikael Thorn. "It is a betrayal of women and children. It's very surprising and a little hopeless. One gets really angry."

Siv Gustavsson is chairperson of Sollentuna Women's Shelter, where women and children who have suffered or witnessed violence come from all over the country. She told TT that many municipalities lacked plans for what will happen to a woman and child when they move out again from the shelter. Cooperation between municipalities is flawed too, she says, such as when victims of violence need to change their municipality to avoid the risk of encountering the man."It's difficult to get apartments. They seem to have trouble prioritizing abused women and children," said Siv Gustavsson to TT.

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