As part of our series on successful projects from the previous years of the EEA and Norway Grants, we would like to present you a project supported by the Norway Grants under the Let's Give Wo(men) a Chance Programme this time. This is a project called “First Aid for Persons at Risk / Affected by (Domestic) Violence”. The project was led by one of the longest-running non-governmental non-profit organizations in the Czech Republic the Bílý kruh bezpeční (hereinafter BKB), which has been long time involved in the assistance of victims of crime and domestic violence and provides them with professional and free assistance. Coincidentally, we visited the White Circle of Safety on 4 September 2019, exactly on the day of its 28th anniversary.
During the interview, we communicated directly with the President of the organisation Ms Petra Vitoušová, who has been long time in the position of the head of the organization and has an extensive experience in direct aid to the victims of crime. She was also behind the main idea of the project, it means to set up the Victim Assistance Helpline (crime and domestic violence). But lets do not anticipate and start from the beginning of the story.
Already in September 2001, the BKB launched a DONA line (Domestic Violence Helpline) providing immediate assistance to persons at risk of domestic violence. At the same time, a paralel helpline focused on helping victims of crime also operated parallelly. Both lines were charged and their availability was therefore limited by the solvency of the callers and their technical equipment at that time. The aim of the project in 2015 was therefore to create an unique free non-stop telephone line with a modern equipped telephone exchange.
At the right moment, appeared the opportunity to use financial support from the Norway Grants and from the programme Let's Give Wo(men) a Chance in particular, operated by the Open Society Fund. The BKB succeeded in the open call of the Programme and could thus start to fulfil its goals. So what was exactly done within the project?
On 1st January 2015, a national non-stop telephone line with the European harmonized number “116 006” was launched, linking the topic of domestic violence with the topic of crime. The line has been toll-free, which means that all people in difficult social situations, homeless people or people economically dependent on a violent person are able to reach the line anytime. The technical conditions of the line have also improved. All this has led to a multiple increase in the number of callers, which now stands at around 8,000 calls per year. Thus, the BKB is currently providing continuous and irreplaceable professional and discreet assistance to women and men from all social classes affected by any kind of violence. The organization also has expert advisors, therapists and case managers who are ready to go personally to particularly vulnerable victims or survivors.
The project also trained professionals of all cooperating entities. Experts from the BKB trained e.g. staff of law enforcement, social services, probation and mediation services, doctors etc. The toll-free hotline was also the subject of a massive nationwide media campaign. The aim of this campaign was not only to promote the line itself, but also to positively influence the professional community to persons affected by domestic violence and violent crime. They are often in the first contact with the BKB. Promotional activities took place at the national and local level.
Establishing and deepening international cooperation was also an unintended outcome of the project. During the project's activities, the BKB representatives managed to organize the first international meeting of representatives of the founders of helplines to help victims of crime and domestic violence operating on the single number "116 006" in the EU countries. This historically first meeting was described by all participants as very beneficial and inspiring and the exchange and transfer of very interesting information, valuable experience and good practice was realized. The multinational organization Victim Support Europe, of which the BKB has been a member since 1996, has subsequently taken over the organization of further meetings and this year will be organized already the fourth annual international meeting.
International cooperation had also the bilateral dimension, as the Fund for Bilateral Relations managed to support reciprocal visits related to the exchange of experience between the BKB staff and the representatives of the Norwegian Ministry of Justice together with the Oslo Krisesenter Women's Asylum House.
One of the reasons why this project was chosen for promotion was also the fact that the project still simply lives. The line is now successfully operating mainly with the support of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs of the Czech Republic and the Ministry of Interior of the Czech Republic. We greatly appreciate the fact that such a service has been created for citizens who can call for assistance in the cases of a threat of violence, and that the Norway Grants were at the beginning of this service. Finally, we would like to use the slogan that was used at all educational events related to this project: “Seeking help is a manifestation of the strength of the victim”. Therefore, if necessary, do not hesitate to contact the helpline for advice.