In Georgia, police training improves response to violence against women
When they interviewed her, the 17-year-old girl was sitting in an armchair, not making eye contact with anyone, recalls Detective Gvantsa Gogava, who investigates domestic violence against juveniles in Georgia.
“When she talked about the perpetrator, who was a family member, she did not use a word for a human being; rather, she used a word for a soulless creature,” recounts Gogava. An experienced investigator, Gogava was used to talking to women and girls suffering from violence and she knew that gaining her trust was fundamental.
“I told her, ‘We believe you.’ That was a milestone that made her feel free,” says Gogava. “Once she felt she could trust us, her body language changed, she made eye contact.”
For a decade, the teenage girl had been raped by her family member. She’d decided to report him because her little sister was turning the age she had been when the rape and sexual assault began.
Preventing and stopping beating, rape and other crimes against women is one of the goals of the “Empowering Community for Gender Equality” project being implemented by the Network of Centers for Civic Engagement (NCCE) under the “EU4GenderEquality: Together Against Gender Stereotypes and Gender-Based Violence,” a European-Union-funded programme implemented by UN Women and the United Nations Population Fund in six countries.
By enhancing police officers’ knowledge of the best ways to handle gender-based violence, the programme seeks to protect more women and girls.
In spring 2021, 74 police officers (52 men and 22 women) from the Tbilisi, Imereti and Guria regions of Georgia received NCCE's training supported by the EU4GE project. Participants increased their understanding of gender-based and domestic violence and the importance of supporting victims and ensuring due diligence. After improving their knowledge of the legislation and its effective use, they now have the ability and knowledge to substantiate their actions with arguments and case law. The trainings also cover the protocols for restraining orders and judicial decisions that impact gender-based-violence-related casework.
“The trainings that we delivered aimed to increase the awareness, sensitivity, and professionalism of the police officers working in the Ministry of Internal Affairs and those responsible for the prevention and response to domestic violence,” explains said Nina Khatiskatsi, Executive Director of the NCCE. “During the trainings, police officers and investigators had the chance to discuss the practical difficulties associated with evidence-gathering and talk about the importance of community support in reporting domestic violence. It is very important that the Government and civil society work together to end gender-based and domestic violence.”
The police trainings stem from a partnership with the Department of Human Rights Protection and Investigation Quality Monitoring of Georgia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA), which monitors the performance of police officers and investigators.
“The pandemic has not affected the quality of work related to combating domestic violence and violence against women In partnership with the UN and international donors, MIA is offering us different trainings to enhance our qualification to better serve the community,” says Gogava.
In addition to the police trainings, EU4GE is rolling out additional projects, like behaviour-correction programmes for perpetrators of violence in Georgia.
Often the first people to learn about domestic violence cases, police are uniquely placed at the frontlines to counter crime and correct harmful social norms.
In the case of the raped teenage girl, “The girl was blaming herself,” says Gogava. “She’d always worried what other people would think.”
Supporting law enforcement as they protect women is challenging, but the rewards are crystal clear. With the perpetrator in jail and the investigation almost over, Detective Gogava said the girl was studying again and she had a new hairstyle and look.
“It makes me happy when someone is safe – and saved,” says Gogava. “I have a 13-year-old daughter. I want girls to be safe from fear and violence and have a happy life.”