|Administrative Data Collection on Violence against Women, including Domestic Violence, in the Council of Europe Member States||Text version|
During the Third Summit of the Council of Europe in May 2005, the Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe reaffirmed their commitment to eradicating violence against women, including domestic violence. In adopting an Action Plan envisaging the launch of a Campaign to Combat Violence against Women, including Domestic Violence, and the institution of a Task Force on the same topic, they defined future activities by the Council of Europe in this field. This study concentrates on one of the core objectives chosen by the Task Force for the Campaign to Combat Violence against Women, including Domestic Violence. This objective is data collection.
This study intends to assess current efforts to collect administrative data by Council of Europe member states, identify legal and practical obstacles to enhanced data collection and issue recommendations to all member states on how to set up a model system to collect such data.
The study was implemented in several phases. It was started by mapping the situation of administrative data collection on domestic violence against women in Finland. Based on the information collected from different data sources in Finland, a questionnaire on administrative data sources in all Council of Europe member states was drafted. The questionnaire comprises several sections that contain questions on authorities and agencies that work with the issue of domestic violence. According to the contract made between the Council of Europe and HEUNI, some of the Council of Europe member states were to be visited by HEUNI staff during the study in order to gain more detailed information on administrative data recording in these countries. These countries were Spain, Switzerland, France, Sweden and Czech Republic.
The replies we received during the country visits and with the questionnaire indicate clearly that the most comprehensive data collection practices can be found in the police and within the social services, NGOs and third sector actors. According to our knowledge, the situation is least satisfactory in health care and within judicial authorities. The problem in data systems used by judicial authorities is that public prosecutors and courts do not distinguish cases of domestic violence in many countries. Cases are coded according to crimes as defined in criminal codes, and criminal acts. Because of this, cases of domestic violence can not be distinguished in the systems of public prosecutors and courts, if domestic violence is not a specific crime of its own. A further problem is that criminal law administrations are as a rule not recording statistical information about victims of crimes, or about the relationship between victim and perpetrator, and consequently there are usually no data that could describe domestic violence against women by partners or ex-partners.
As far as health care is concerned, the problems in data collection are somewhat different. Some respondents said that medical and nursing staff might feel that it is not their business to find out if the patient is a victim of domestic violence. Their responsibility is to take care of injuries, not so much to find out what caused them. Difficulties in identifying the problem are one reason for poor data recording in health care. Medical and nursing staff members do not always have the skills and tools for identifying the kinds of injuries that are typical of domestic violence. Also, asking about domestic violence is not easy, especially if there is no certainty about it. It can also be argued that asking about domestic violence might endanger the confidentiality between the patient and the doctor and discourage the patient from contacting health care agencies. It thus becomes a matter of treatment ethics. These problems could be solved, at least partly, with additional training on how to identify the problem and how to discuss it with the patient. Another kind of problem that might lead to poor recording in health care in many countries is the increasing number of patients per doctor/nurse and the need to prioritise tasks. In this kind of situation recording data on domestic violence may not be considered to be among the most important tasks. Data collection might be improved by allocating more resources to health care. However, asking the patient about domestic violence and being interested in recording information on domestic violence is also a matter of attitudes. Changing attitudes combined with adequate training is probably a bigger challenge than additional resources.
Our main guideline is that data collection should be disaggregated by sex and age of the victim and perpetrator, the type of violence as well as by the relationship of the perpetrator to the victim. These are the minimum requirements for data collection and these things should be recorded in one way or another in all agencies working with violence against women.
The project was completed in March 2008.