Domestic violence, while widespread, is a difficult problem. Especially when it takes the form of coercive control. This crime is committed in a home environment and is therefore often underestimated as a private matter. However, the figures recorded in Lithuania are eloquent: every year the specialized complex help centers receives over 50,000 reports of domestic violence; two dozen women are killed yearly. The scale of the violence escalated during the quarantine announced to control the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the calculations of the European Institute for Gender Equality, the budget for the elimination of the consequences of domestic violence in Lithuania may reach 2.3 billion. euros.
All the consequences of domestic violence lie on the shoulders of the municipalities. It is in municipalities that people live, here all services and assistance are provided. So, it is important to make sure that assistance is effective: to ensure the safety of victims and to help prevent burnout, and frustration of those providing assistance. This goal can only be achieved by pooling forces and coordinating actions based on a clear algorithm. For almost two years, gender equality experts have been working with professionals providing assistance to victims of violence in Alytus, Jonava and Ukmergė to create a mechanism for institutions to combat violence.
The Coordinated Response Algorithm for Domestic Violence is a sequence of actions that defines how authorities work together to prevent domestic violence, report potential violence, organize assistance, and maintain the algorithm. This algorithm aims to strengthen cooperation between aid agencies, institutions and organizations so that the system works efficiently and people get help quickly.
The main participants in the multi-agency algorithm in each municipality are the police, the territorial branch of the State Child Rights Protection and Adoption Service, a specialized complex help center operating in the region and an institution performing the case management function. However, the network for protection against domestic violence also includes specialists in other fields: educators, kindergarten teachers, health care workers and appointed municipal staff. These professionals have the closest contact with people and may be the first to notice signs of domestic violence. In such cases, it is important that they not only inform the relevant authorities of their suspicions, but also be able to establish a relationship with the victim, asking if they have any difficulties, refer them to a needed specialist and informing them of the services provided.
In cases of domestic violence, it is not enough to know the role of each institution – the system must be flexible to adapt to ever-changing circumstances. The Law on Protection from Domestic Violence expands the concept of inter-institutional cooperation and provides for the establishment of an inter-institutional commission, in the work of which all institutions included in the algorithm should participate. Therefore, an innovation emerges in the algorithm, the Algorithm Working Group, which should oversee the functioning of the system, and the Prevention Coordination Working Group, which would plan comprehensive sustainable prevention measures. The COVID-19 pandemic, for example, has fundamentally changed the context for the response to domestic violence. During the quarantine, the number of serious injuries and killings due to isolation increased. In such or similar circumstances, the Algorithm Working Group should delve into the feedback on what measures could be taken to ensure the safety of victims in the face of new challenges.
The algorithm has already been implemented and is operating in three pilot municipalities of the project “ BRIDGE: Connecting Local Community Members for Effective GBV Solutions” (Alytus, Jonava and Ukmergė), where it has been developed, but can be adapted to other areas. Lithuanian municipalities.