Domestic violence is arguably one of the most pressing social issues facing Armenia today. It is estimated that one in four women in Armenia are subjected to abuse in their lifetimes. Too often, victims who decide to speak out are simply told that it was their fault and are dissuaded by their families, peers, and even law enforcement officials from documenting abuse. For this reason, the problem remains a silent epidemic – one that is seldom discussed outside of the home until a woman’s life is in severe danger.
Alarmingly, the number of domestic violence homicides has sharply increased this year, with at least nine women killed in the first half of 2018 alone. A better functioning criminal justice system, a dismantling of the culture of shame that surrounds domestic abuse, and greater shelter assistance could have prevented these deaths and the daily suffering of thousands across the country.
Though challenges remain, the Armenian government has initiated steps to address domestic violence at a national level, adopting national programs and action plans and passing a law earlier this year. With growing public pressure to tackle this epidemic, the state continues to hand off responsibilities to local women’s organizations who now help to shape domestic violence policy in Armenia. Among these groups, the Women’s Support Center (WSC), based in Yerevan, is considered the most established and professional center dealing with victims in Armenia.
Currently, the WSC is the only organization in Armenia that offers shelter to victims fleeing abuse in addition to comprehensive services, including walk-in and hotline services, counseling, trial defense, group sessions and workshops, and an economic empowerment program. For WSC’s beneficiaries like Karine (pictured above), these services are truly lifesaving and give them the opportunity to reintegrate into society and live free of abuse.
Shortly after the adoption of the domestic violence law in 2018, there was a sharp rise in reporting and more women seeking refuge, as women have begun to feel that the state will protect them in situations of abuse. However, there remain only a handful of shelter spaces in the whole country. To meet this growing demand, the WSC is embarking on a long-term partnership with the Ministry of Social Affairs, which is providing them with a three story building outside of Yerevan to convert into a domestic violence shelter that will accommodate 15 women and 40 children at any given time. This type of public private partnership between the Armenian government and a women’s organization is unprecedented. The All Armenia Fund has also committed to this mission and will help with the costs of renovating and refurbishing the new safe house. However, with an estimated $168,000 needed to convert the space into a shelter, the WSC is still in need of support.
This holiday season, the WSC has launched a crowd-funding campaign to secure donations for the new shelter and ensure that beneficiaries have a proper safe space in which to rehabilitate as they access services. All contributions will go directly to serving numerous women and children in Armenia who desperately seek to work through trauma and rebuild their lives. Donate today to make a difference in the lives of women and children across Armenia.
Established in 2010, the WSC is dedicated to its mission of combating domestic abuse through the protection, rehabilitation, and empowerment of survivors and changing the legal, educational, and social conditions that contribute to a culture of silence surrounding domestic abuse. They uphold a zero tolerance policy for violence against women and seek to create an environment where women and girls are protected, defended, and nurtured.
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