In this blog report, Zagreb Pride would like to provide you with short overview of our research progress.
In the past three months, we have approached partner organizations and numerous professionals for the purpose of conducting interviews for the research. Our partner organizations, Lesbian Organization Rijeka LORI and TransAid shared the call for participation with their beneficiaries. Most experts and institutions contacted reported no experience with cases of violence in lesbian relationships or with dating violence against transwomen.
We reached out to two legal offices, one social worker, three women’s aid centres, a police officer who had experience with reports of violence between same-sex couples, and the researcher from the Institute for Social Sciences Ivo Pilar who deals with sex-work and had initiated the conference ‘Models of regulation of prostitution and practices’ in April. We have also contacted the Ministry of Social Policy and Youth, Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Justice to inquire about cases they might have had.
Regarding the types of violence, all of our interviewees experienced psychological violence, four of them physical, and one of them sexual violence. The same person that experienced sexual violence was also forced to perform sex work. Our last interviewee sees the inability of her partners to deal with her decision to start gender transition as the main causes of violence. Generally, she believes that every relationship is potentially dangerous for a transwomen and that she always has to be alerted and careful when meeting new potential partners.
Only one of the persons reported the violence to the police. She was advised by the doctor at the first aid to do it and was also advised by her friend to report it to Zagreb Pride and ask legal advice. Although she had good experience with the police officers, she also expressed her wish to be legally represented by Zagreb Pride lawyers in upcoming court procedure. At this moment, we have only information that police classified this violence as domestic violence and the misdemeanour charges for domestic violence were brought against both partners. Others did not report the violence for various reasons. One persons did not go to the doctor and did not report it to the police because she is convinced that the procedure is humiliating and painful, and would probably end up with both of them getting charges for misdemeanour against public peace and order. Another interviewee did not report the violence to the police because of the fear the policeman would not accept her as a woman and not respect her dignity and gender identity. Finally, we have found out that transwomen are reluctant to report the violence because their gender is not recognised in their documents, which creates additional barrier for them in accessing women’s aid centres. Surprisingly for us, nearly all women’s aid centres and/or shelters in Croatia provide safe space only to women who have previously reported the violence to the police. Only one women shelter in Slavonia region provides space for women regardless if violence was reported or not.
We also interviewed two lawyers from a legal office specialized for family law. They explained that domestic violence is regulated by the Act on Protection against Domestic Violence and that these regulations also refer to life-partners and informal life-partners, as well as marriages and common law marriages. However, the Act does not refer to dates, dating partners, including all the partners that have been in a relationship for less than three years. Therefore, a person who is abused by her dating partner can only report the violence based on a physical injury which will be treated under the regulations of the Misdemeanour Act or Criminal Code, depending on the type of violence. However, the Criminal Code recognizes an offence called “intrusive behaviour” which refers only to the intrusive behaviour committed from ones’ ex-partner. Violence from the current dating partner is not regulated by any special legal category and therefore it is recommended that dating violence should be recognized by law. The lawyers also explained that victims of domestic violence living in Zagreb prefer to report the violence to the autonomous women’s’ shelters rather than to the police.
The police officer we interviewed dealt with three cases of violence between same-sex couples, two of which were female couples. In both cases there was physical violence, and as officer sees it, the causes were power imbalances between the partners. In one case the women had extremely different interests and life values. In addition, the violent one was prone to alcohol and drug abuse. The officer reported that she never dealt with cases of violence against transwomen, but she said that in such cases she would classify it as violence against women regardless of the recognition of the victim’s gender in her ID. The police officer stated that she often attends educational programs regarding violence against women and insists that other officers in her station do the same. From her experience, the officers from her station, which is located in the large working class neighborhood, especially the younger ones, are more aware of issues of gender based violence and homophobia.