We try to answer the most commonly asked questions:

  • What are the myths surrounding domestic violence?
  • What causes domestic violence?
  • What is domestic violence?
  • Who does domestic violence happen to?
  • What is the situation of protection orders?

What are the MYTHs surrounding domestic violence?

There are many myths surrounding domestic violence. By believing them, we allow the problem to continue.
(Click on each statement to find out more)

Many men are violent when they are sober. Many men who drink never abuse their partner. Blaming drink or drugs is an excuse, a way of denying responsibility. Both may be the trigger for a particular attack, but they are not the underlying cause.

Anyone can be abused, no matter where he or she lives or how much money he or she has. Abused women come from all lifestyles. You only have to think of the celebrities we hear about in the papers to realise that money cannot protect you from domestic violence. Men who abuse women are as likely to be lawyers, accountants and judges as they are construction workers, cleaners or unemployed.

It can be extremely difficult to leave an abusive partner. The abused woman may fear what her partner will do if she leaves, particularly if he has threatened to kill her or her children. She may believe that staying with him is better for the children. There are also practical things to take into account. She may not have access to money, or have anywhere to go. She may not know where to turn for help. If she is emotionally and financially dependent on her partner, she may be very isolated.
An abused woman’s self-esteem will have been steadily worn down. She may not believe she will manage on her own, or that she has any other options. She may feel ashamed of what has happened and believe the abuse is her fault. She may hope that her partner will change. She remembers the good times at the start of the relationship and hopes they will return. In emotional terms, she has made a huge investment in the relationship and she wants it to work.

This is not true. Growing up in a violent home is a risk factor and some children who experience abuse do go on to be abusive in their relationships. However, many do not. Instead, they are repelled by violence because they have seen the damage it causes. They would not dream of hitting their partner.
Abusers learn to be violent from the society in which they grow up. Inequality between the sexes means that men have more power than women do – inevitably, some of them abuse or exploit that power. People who blame violence on their childhood experiences are avoiding taking responsibility for their actions. Violence is a choice an abuser makes.

Women do not enjoy violence, or find it a turn-on. Most abused women live in fear and terror. This is a way of blaming the victim for what is happening.

Women are often attacked by their partner for no apparent reason. Even if a woman has behaved appallingly, she does not deserve to be beaten. Violence and intimidation are not acceptable ways to solve conflict in a relationship. Again, this is a way of making excuses for the abuser’s behaviour. It allows a violent man to avoid responsibility for his actions.

The vast majority of men who abuse women are not mentally ill. Research shows that the proportion of abusers with mental health problems is no higher than in society as a whole. Moreover, if an abusive man were mentally ill, why is it that he only abuses his partner – not his colleagues, strangers or friends?

Some men who abuse their partners do suffer from stress. Again, this is a factor – not the underlying cause of the abuse. Many men who are stressed are never abusive. Similarly, many men who do abuse their partner cannot claim to be under stress. Women experience stress too, yet they rarely beat or abuse their partners to the extent that men abuse women.

People argue that an abusive man “loses his temper”, or is “out of control”. The truth is that he is very much in control. Abusers are usually selective about when they hit their partner, e.g. in private or when the children are asleep. They choose not to mark her face or other parts of the body that show. They never “lost their temper” with other people. This suggests they are very aware of what they are doing. Many men abuse their partners emotionally and psychologically, without ever using physical violence. This shows the extent of their control.

For too long domestic violence has been allowed to happen behind closed doors. People think that what takes place in the home is private, and not their problem.

Domestic violence is a crime. It is against the law.

We are all affected by domestic violence, and we all have a responsibility to speak out against it. Only then will it end.

What causes domestic violence?

There is no single cause of domestic violence. It comes from a combination of factors, including society’s attitudes, community responses, and the individual psychological experiences of the abuser and the abused.
Domestic violence is the result of an abuser’s desire for power and control. Women are considered less important by many in our society and this creates an imbalance of power between the genders. Consequently, male abusers are too often allowed to get away with their actions.

What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence is the abuse of one partner within an intimate or family relationship. It is the repeated, random and habitual use of intimidation to control a partner.
The abuse can be physical, emotional, psychological, financial or sexual. Anyone forced to alter their behaviour because they are frightened of their partner’s reaction is being abused.

Who does it affect?

Domestic violence can happen to anyone, regardless of age, social background, gender, religion, sexuality or ethnicity.
Statistics show the vast majority of domestic violence incidents are carried out by men and experienced by women.

When does it happen?

It can begin at any stage of the relationship and is rarely a one-off incident. Episodes generally become more frequent and more severe over time.

What causes domestic violence?

Domestic violence is caused by the abuser’s desire for power and control and stems from an imbalance of power between the sexes. It is not caused by alcohol, drugs, unemployment, stress or ill health. These are only excuses and not justifications for an abuser’s behaviour.
A combination of factors allows it to continue:

  • individual experiences of both the abuser and the abused (jealousy, fear of abandonment, low self-esteem)
  • society’s inadequate response (e.g. failure to prosecute, insufficient housing, lack of childcare, tendency to blame the abused woman)
  • society’s stereotypical beliefs and negative attitudes towards the roles of men and women (e.g. “the man is the woman’s head and she must obey him in everything”, “It’s your bed, you sleep in it”

What is the history of domestic violence in Romania?

Before 1990, domestic violence was not treated as a social issue and public awareness of the problem is a relatively recent development that started to develop in the mid-1990s. The most prominent issue at that time was child abandonment.
The Penal Code was amended by Law no. 197/2000, which created sanctions for persons who perpetrate acts of violence against family members, including a new provision that created a new offence of marital rape that attracted a harsher punishment. Other important changes were made to the law on rape including the withdrawal of the stipulation that a perpetrator could escape punishment if, after the offence, he married his victim.
Law no. 217/2003 on the prevention of family violence was Romania’s first specific law dealing with domestic violence and was substantially amended in 2012.
The current 2012 Domestic Violence law has brought important new changes, especially in regard to protection orders against:

  • verbal violence (aggressive language, insults, threats, humiliation)
  • psychological violence (including controlling behaviour, provoking psychological harm and anxiety on the abused, endangering animals, destroying property, making threats, brandishing weapons, being excessively jealous and other types of controlling behaviours)
  • physical violence (several acts being included such as slapping, punching, poisoning)
  • sexual violence (rape, including coercing and harassing a partner for sexual activity)
  • economic violence (including preventing employment, depriving family members of food or clothes and forcing minors to work)
  • social violence (including isolating the abused, forbidding them to see family or friends and preventing minors from attending school)
  • cultural violence (stopping family members from pursuing cultural, ethnic or religious interests, or forcing them to pursue particular beliefs or spiritual practices)

What is the situation of protection orders in Romania

In Romania, 808 people were killed in domestic violence incidents in 2008. Unfortunately, the laws on domestic violence do not appear to be strictly enforced – one year after the 2012 law, despite 1,009 applications for protection orders; only 23% ended in criminal proceedings.
To ensure the best possible outcome for our beneficiaries, we use the services of an experienced lawyer who is passionate about supporting women and children experiencing domestic violence.

Recognising abuse

Domestic violence is caused by an abuser’s desire to gain power and control over their partner. Abusers use a range of different tactics – physical, emotional, sexual, and financial – to achieve this.

Domestic violence takes many different forms

Physical abuse
Physical abuse is the most recognisable form of abuse. It can range from a slap or shove to a black eye, cut lip, or broken bone. In extreme cases, it can result in death.
Physical abuse does not always leave visible marks or scars. Having your hair pulled or having food thrown at you is domestic violence too. Do not underestimate what is happening to you. Over time, the violence usually gets worse.
Emotional abuse
Many women experience domestic violence without ever being physically abused. Sometimes they are not sure if what is happening to them is domestic violence. They worry that no one will take them seriously if they talk about it.
If you alter your behaviour because you are frightened of how your partner will react, you are being abused. Emotional abuse is an attack on your personality rather than your body.
Emotional abuse can be just as harmful as physical abuse. It often leads to physical violence over time.
Sexual abuse
Your partner should not use force or threats to make you have sex. He should not make you perform sexual acts with which you are uncomfortable. He should not criticise your performance.
If he does any of the above, he is using sex to assert his authority and control you.
Financial abuse
One of the most powerful ways a man can control his partner is by using financial abuse.
There are many different forms of financial abuse, but it might include things like your partner taking your money; stopping you from working; placing all the bills or debts in your name; or monitoring how you spend money and other financial resources e.g. the telephone.
If you feel that your partner is limiting your financial independence, you are experiencing financial abuse.

Domestic violence – the facts

Every year in Europe, 1 in 5 women and 1.8 million children are victims of domestic violence. Since not all cases are reported, the numbers are likely to be substantially higher.
In Romania, there is no legal obligation to report such cases and, consequently, reliable statistics cannot be prepared. However, we do know from an important study carried out in 2003 that ever day:

  • 2,190 women reported experiencing frequent domestic violence
  • 931 children reported witnessing frequent scenes of physical violence between their parents
  • 1,013 children reported witnessing frequent incidents of verbal abuse between their parents or between adults in their household

According to the National Agency for Family Protection (NAFP), there were 47,334 reported cases of domestic violence between the beginning of 2004 and the end of 2008, with 677 of cases resulting in death attributed to violent acts. The agency also stated that 71% of domestic violence victims were women, with around 71 % being aged between 25 and 45 years of age.
Despite the NAFP records, showing only 489 people being brought to trial for domestic violence in 2008, the High Council of the Judiciary stated that in the same year, 6,191 persons received final sentences for offences of domestic violence. Even taking into account that the High Council’s figure might include trials for offences committed in previous years, the two figures appear to be irreconcilable. National statistics on domestic violence are a major cause for concern in Romania.
The High Council of the Judiciary report that during 2008, there were 6,191 persons who received a final sentence for domestic violence in all its forms.
Every day an average 17 people were convicted for domestic violence offences every day in 2008:

  • homicide (715)
  • battery causing death (93)
  • every day an average 2.2 people died because of domestic violence
  • bodily harm (938)
  • grievous bodily harm (535)
  • battery or other violence (2,462)
  • every day an average 1.8 people suffered physical assault because of domestic violence
  • deprivation of freedom (81)
  • every week an average 1.6 people were denied their freedom because of domestic violence
  • rape (416)
  • sexual intercourse with a minor (155)
  • sexual corruption (17)
  • incest (9)
  • every day an average 1.6 women/children were raped or sexually abused because of domestic violence
  • family desertion (636)
  • every day an average 1.7 people are abandoned by a person they depend on (the NAFP database shows that in the same year, 1,228 people experienced family desertion, of which 1,169 were children – an average of 3.2 children every day)
  • ill treatment of a minor (10) (in the first 6 months of 2013, Help lines received 1,154 allegations of child abuse and domestic violence – see below)
  • prostitution (74)
  • pimping (50)
  • every week an average 2.4 women were sexually exploited for money because of domestic violence

A small 2007 – 2008 Bucharest-based study by the National Forensic Medicine Institute (NFMI) found that 61.14% of domestic violence victims were living with the abuser at the time of the abuse. Another 13.51% of victims were living with the abuser, although they were in the process of divorcing or separating, whilst 5.69% of victims had been separated from the abuser for a certain period and 19.67% stated that they had ceased living together.
More than half of respondents stated that they were aware of the legislation on domestic violence and the specialised institutions that offered support to survivors.
In the first six months of 2013, the Child Helpline Association together with Romtelecom’s “Child Helpline 116 111” received 51,059 calls and registered a 23% increase over the previous year in allegations of child abuse and represented a 43% increase over the same period the year before.
In 2003, the Centre for Equal Partnership conducted the first research on domestic violence in Romania – the “National Study on Violence in the Family and at the Work Place.” The data raised alarm on the dimension of violence in the family and in the work place:
  • about 800,000 women stated that they were frequently subjected to family violence in various forms
  • over 340,000 children under 14 years said that they frequently witnessed scenes of physical violence between their parents
  • more than 370,000 children under 14 stated that they had frequently witnessed incidents of verbal abuse between their parents or between adults in their household
  • compared to the data at the EU level, the population of Romania is significantly more tolerant towards family violence, in all its forms
  • a higher tolerance, together with the use of clichés referring to violence, often result in viewing violent behaviour as normal
  • violent behaviour, when viewed as normal, can be passed on from one generation to another

When comparing the 2003 study with the more recent NAFP report, it is clear that there is a large gap between the number of women and children experiencing domestic violence against the number of incidents reported.

Effects of domestic violence on women

Abused women often experience conflicting emotions such as fear, anger, shame, resentment, sadness and powerlessness.
An abused woman lives in fear, unable to predict when the next attack will come. She may find herself isolated from friends and family, and become increasingly dependent on her abuser. In this position, it can be very hard to make sense of what is really happening. Over time, her self-esteem may be worn down and she may start to believe her abuser’s insults. Often she will blame herself for the abuse, or deny that it is taking place. She may ignore it, hoping that her partner – the man she loves – will change.
Abused women are not weak, submissive victims. It takes huge strength to live with an abusive partner. Women have to be strong and resourceful, adopting all kinds of coping strategies to survive each day.
Casa Ioana recognises the enormous courage it takes for a woman to escape domestic violence. We support her and her children every step of the way. We empower them to rebuild their lives – free from fear.

Effects of domestic violence on children

Two thirds of the beneficiaries in our family shelters are children. They make up some of the most vulnerable children in society.
The physical, psychological and emotional effects of domestic violence on children can be severe and long lasting. Some children may become withdrawn and find it difficult to communicate. Others may act out the aggression they have witnessed, or blame themselves for the abuse. All children living with abuse are under stress.
Many people think that a child who has experienced domestic violence will inevitably become an abuser or victim of abuse later in their lives. Most children do cope with and survive abuse, displaying extraordinary resilience. Nevertheless, witnessing or experiencing domestic violence represents one of the most serious risks to children in our society.
Casa Ioana believes that no child should have to live with violence or fear. We protect the children using our services and support them to rebuild safer, happier lives.

How can we end domestic violence?

Domestic violence is a problem for society, not individuals. It will only end when social attitudes change and we all take responsibility for speaking out against it.
Casa Ioana recognises that a clear, nationally co-ordinated response, with adequate funding is needed to provide:

  • a wide range of services to meet the diverse needs of abused women and children
  • preventative strategies, including training for professionals, e.g. teachers, Family Doctors, police officers and judges, and a public awareness programme, particularly for children and young people
  • a strong response from the police and criminal justice system to show that violence is unacceptable and that abusers will be punished

Ignoring domestic violence means condoning it!

Barriers to leaving

Repeatedly, people ask, “Why doesn’t she just leave?” The truth is that there are many practical and psychological barriers to ending a relationship with a violent partner, for example:
Safety – the woman may be fearful of what the abuser will do to her and the children if they left or attempted to leave
Lack of self confidence – the woman may believe that she deserves the abuse and would never find anyone else if she left
Denial – she convinces herself that “it’s not that bad”
Shame – she is embarrassed of people finding out
Guilt – the abuser makes her believe that she is to blame for his actions
Financial dependence – the woman may not be able to support herself and her children independently
Loyalty – she may be devoted to the abuser regardless of his actions
Fear of being alone – she fears being lonely
Hope – she believes that things will improve with time
Lack of support – she doesn’t know who to turn to
Pressure – family and friends pressurise her to stay and ‘make it work’
Religious/community beliefs – she is under pressure not to break up the family
Love – despite the abuse, she still loves him
Jekyll and Hyde – the abuser switches between charm and rage; the woman thinks, ‘He’s not always like this’
Intimidation – the abuser threatens to take the children or pets away
Parenting – she wants the children to be raised by both parents together
Rescuer – she believes she can make him change
Gender roles – she might normalise his behaviour because he is a man – ‘that’s how men are’. She may believe it’s the woman’s role to put the needs of others first
It takes a great deal of courage to leave someone who controls and intimidates you and research shows that women often attempt to leave several times before making the final break.

For women

Below are the answers to the most commonly asked questions asked by women experiencing domestic violence:

  • I feel like I am being controlled – but my partner does not hit me. Am I being abused?
  • Is the abuse my fault?
  • What about my children?
  • What is a domestic violence shelter?
  • What should I take with me to a domestic violence shelter?
  • Where can I get help?
  • Where can I go?
  • Will he change?
  • Will the police take me seriously?

Abuse is not only about physical violence. Domestic violence comes in many forms, including emotional or psychological abuse. Many women say that emotional abuse is as devastating as physical abuse.

You cannot make a man hit you – it is his choice and only he is responsible.
Whatever anyone says, the abuse is not your fault.
Your self-esteem has been eroded and it may be that you believe some of the things your partner says when they are not in fact true. Try to break your isolation by speaking to someone you trust, or an organisation that deals with domestic violence, about what is happening to you.

Even if you think your children are not aware of the abuse, it is likely that they are. The vast majority of children are in the same or next-door room when a domestic violence incident takes place.
Your children may feel responsible for what is going on and will find it hard to talk about it. You can help them by talking to them and explaining what is happening. Reassure them that they are not to blame for the violence. This is a stressful time for them but any damage does not have to be permanent.

Domestic violence shelters are a safe place to stay for women, with or without children. Any woman who is experiencing domestic violence can go to a shelter.
Shelters are all different, but you and your family should be allocated your own room. It is not an institution. Most shelters mean you will share areas like the living room, kitchen and bathroom.
Trained staff is there to provide you with emotional and practical support.

If you have time and you are sure you are safe, it will help if you can bring certain things with you when you go to a domestic violence shelter. Some of the important things are documents like birth certificates, marriage certificates and legal papers, also keys, money and phone numbers. It will also make your early days in the shelter easier if you can manage to pack a bag for yourself and your children with clothes, toiletries and other possessions.
If you leave in a hurry, shelters can provide you with essentials like food and toiletries when you get to the shelter.

Talk to someone you trust or call a domestic violence organisation like Casa Ioana – they are there to listen, support and help you. All calls are confidential.
Breaking your silence is an important first step towards rebuilding a life free from abuse.

If you have decided to leave your partner, even for a short while to give yourself a break from the abuse and space to think, you have several options. Perhaps you have a family member or friend who can give you a bed for a while, or maybe you can afford to pay for your own accommodation in a hotel. The most important thing is that you go somewhere where you are safe.
Domestic violence shelters are places where you can be sure your partner will not find you. Each shelter is staffed by workers who are there to support you emotionally and practically. You can stay in a shelter for up to one year in Casa Ioana for example, although each shelter will have its own policy on how long someone can stay.

It is rare for an abuser to change, although it can happen. However, please do not rely on this happening – research shows that domestic violence gets worse over time.
If your partner is serious about changing his behaviour, he must accept responsibility for his actions. He must acknowledge that you have the right to live your life without being dominated and controlled and learn to respect you.

Domestic violence is a serious crime – it is against the law. The police have a duty to offer you protection and investigate. They should take you seriously and arrest an abuser where there is evidence of abuse.

For children and young persons

Below are the answers to the most commonly asked questions:

  • My friend is being hurt at home – what should I do?
  • My mother is being abused. What can I do?
  • My mother talks about leaving my father. Where will we go?
  • What about seeing my father after I leave?
  • What causes domestic violence?
  • What is a domestic violence shelter?
  • What is domestic violence?
  • Who does domestic violence happen to?
  • Why does my mother put up with it?
  • Will I be violent too when I am older?

If your friend is being hurt then you should tell someone – even if he or she asks you not to. Talk to someone you trust like a teacher or your parents and do not feel bad about whether you are doing the wrong thing or not. All children should feel safe in their home and with the people who are supposed to look after them. By telling someone what is happening, you could help to stop your friend getting hurt.

If you or your mother are being hurt and need help right away, you can call the police by dialling 112. You should give your name, address and telephone number and tell the police what is happening. Do not close the phone because the police might want to call back to make sure the call is genuine and this could give your father, step-father or mother’s boyfriend the chance to tell them everything is okay and the call was a mistake. It is better to leave the phone open so they can hear what is happening. The police will come to your house and talk to your mother, father or any other adults. They may even talk to you. They should certainly make sure that you are all right and that you have not been hurt. They may take away the person who was violent, or shouted at or threatened your mother. Whatever happens, you should remember that it is not your fault and your father, stepfather or mother’s boyfriend got himself into trouble.
If you are not in immediate danger, the best thing you can do is speak to an adult you trust about what is happening – maybe someone like a teacher, or a relative. You could also call the national Child Helpline on 116 111 or get in touch with an organisation like Casa Ioana that specialises in domestic violence.
Many people can help you and your mother – you do not need to feel alone.

If your mother decides that it is best for both of you to move away from your father, there are many places you could go. Some people have friends or family who can offer them a place to stay; others go to a hotel for a short time while they find somewhere more permanent. Many children go with their mother to a domestic violence shelter like Casa Ioana – a safe place full of other families who have left home because of domestic violence.

If your father has been violent to your mother and she decides to leave, taking you and any brothers or sisters with her, you might have some questions about keeping in contact with him. Some children who have lived with violence and abuse have been so upset by the experience that they would rather not see their father again. Some children have been hurt by him too but have not told anyone about it because they are scared about what might happen if they speak out. If this is the case for you, tell people how you feel. Tell your mother, your teacher or a social worker. All of these people have a duty to protect you from harm if you are in danger of being hurt.
If you want to see your father, but are worried that he might hurt you or your mother again, make sure that any contact between you and your father is safe. That might mean seeing your father with other people close by to make sure you are okay or using the services of a domestic violence organisation like Casa Ioana.
Once a decision has been made about contact, it can be changed if things get difficult or if someone is hurt. You and your mother have rights and it is up to the professionals to protect you.

Many people think that drink or drugs cause domestic violence but they do not. Plenty of men who drink or take drugs never hurt their wife or girlfriend – alcohol and drugs are just an excuse. Some men who have a drink problem are abusive when they are sober.
Domestic violence is about power and control. Men who abuse women are exploiting their power in order to control them.

A domestic violence shelter is a safe place where women and their children can go when they are not safe at home.
In most shelters, you will have to share a bedroom with your mother, brothers and sisters but you will share the kitchen, bathrooms and living room with other families.
The people who work in domestic violence shelters are there to help you and your mother settle in and feel at home. There will probably be other children your age in the shelter and women for your mum to make friends and talk with.
The addresses of domestic violence shelters are kept secret to make sure everyone living there stays safe.

If one person hurts another person in the family, this is called domestic violence. Domestic violence can take many forms and can involve emotional and verbal abuse. The abuser is normally a man and the abuse can happen even after two people have broken up.
Domestic violence can include different things and not everyone will experience them all:
  • physical violence – hitting, punching, kicking and slapping
  • emotional abuse – calling someone names, insulting them, saying they are useless or making them feel bad about themselves, stopping someone going out, telling them what they can and cannot wear and getting jealous
  • sexual abuse – making someone have sex when they do not want to
  • Financial abuse – not letting someone have their own money, or spending all the other person’s money
  • Using the children – making children say or do things to hurt their mother, or hurting her children in front of her

Domestic violence can happen to anyone, but the abusers are usually men.
Any woman can be abused – it doesn’t matter how old she is, whether she is rich or poor, what culture, religion or ethnic background she is from, if she is disabled or has other kinds of difficulties or where she lives.

It is hard for a woman to leave her husband or partner, even if he is treating her badly. Maybe your mother still loves him and hopes that one day he will change. She might be scared about what will happen if she does leave or be worried about how she will manage without any money and no place of her own. She may think that staying is the best thing for you and your brothers and sisters because you need to be around your father.
Leaving is even harder if you do not know where to go or who to contact for help. Nevertheless, there are solutions – encourage your mother to talk to someone she can trust about what is happening.

Many children worry that they will be violent like their father or stepfather when they are older. Living in a house where there is violence does not mean that you will be violent too one day.
  • Learn to respect women.
  • There are other non-violent ways of handling feelings of stress and frustration.

Many people who grow up in violent homes would never hurt anyone because they understand what it feels like to be treated in that way.