Associations which protect victims of domestic violence have been registering more and more requests for help on a daily basis, notably since the lockdown caused by the coronavirus epidemic, when many victims were forced to spend all of their time with their abusers.
Even though official statistics show a mild decline in the number of cases of domestic violence, police are not ignoring the problem.
They point to the fact that a growing number of such cases are now reported as felonies and not as misdemeanours and call on all who have witnessed domestic violence to report it without delay, including anonymously.
Anita Matijevic of the Police Directorate has said in an interview with Hina that the number of misdemeanours and felonies connected with domestic violence dropped by 2.7% in the first eight months of 2020 from the same period of 2019.
She noted that the number of domestic violence misdemeanours had decreased by 11% or 1,133 fewer cases.
"At the same time, there has been a 42% increase in domestic violence cases treated as a felony," she said, noting that this year police have acted in 9,220 cases related to domestic violence and that those cases had the characteristics of either a misdemeanour or a felony.
Perpetrators increasingly prosecuted for committing felony
Matijevic noted that in the same period of 2019 there were 9,483 cases of domestic violence, 3% or 260 cases more than this year.
This year has seen an increase in the number of cases of violence treated as a felony because police have been trying to make sure all offences that can be prosecuted as a felony are prosecuted as such.
Associations flooded with calls for help
Livija Plancic, head of the Bijeli Krug nongovernmental organisation, which helps victims of violence, warns that the problem of growing domestic violence has been aggravated by the coronavirus crisis as victims were forced to spend entire days with their abusers.
Apart from a mentality in which relations, mostly between men and women, are perceived in a strange way, domestic violence is also triggered by alcohol and drugs as well as by an increasingly difficult financial situation, Plancic said, adding that police were the first to come into contact with the victims and that they should be the ones to provide protection the fastest.
Tools for victim protection not used sufficiently
She believes, however, that police do not use sufficiently instruments of victim protection, from a restraining order to removal from the common household, and calls for maintaining professional education to increase the level of competence of those who deal with victims and witnesses, from judges, prosecutors, attorneys, social workers and representatives of non-governmental organisations to police officers.
On September 22 Croatia marks the national day of the fight against violence against women, commemorating a brutal murder which happened in 1999 when a man killed his wife, a judge and an attorney and severely wounded a court reporter, all women, during divorce proceedings.