Report: One in three women in Finland experience relationship violence

Thursday marks the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

"A woman's place is alive," UN Women Finland's campaign slogan reads. Image: Petri Aaltonen / Yle

According to the Finnish branch of UN Women, one in three women in Finland experiences intimate partner violence at some point in their lives.

UN Women is a United Nations entity working for gender equality and the empowerment of women.

This makes Finland the second most dangerous country for women within the EU, the NGO's statistics suggest, adding that nearly half of girls and women over the age of 15 experience some form of physical or sexual violence during their lifetime.

The United Nations launched its 'End Violence against Women' campaign on Thursday, which will see 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, and is also known as the UN International Orange Days.

The colour orange has been selected to mark the two-week period as a symbol of hope for a future where a violence-free life is everyone’s right.

The annual campaign begins on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, Thursday 25 November, and will end on Human Rights Day, 10 December.

Crisis workers receiving more calls, police paying more visits

Reports of violence against women in Finland, particularly intimate partner violence, have increased according to figures released by the Satakunta Social Services Emergency Department.

By November 19 of this year, the department's emergency number received around 333 calls regarding cases of violence. In 2020, the corresponding number of reports was 250.

Satakunta crisis worker Anu Ahosmäki said that the increased number of reports are likely linked to more time spent at home during the Covid pandemic.

"The situation has been especially challenging for homes where there has been violence in the past. Tensions may be higher," Ahosmäki said, adding that increased calls may also however be attributed to an increase in awareness about the services available for victims of relationship violence.

Some 550 Finnish addresses were visited three or more times last year following reports of violence, a National Police Board of Finland study revealed. Around 20 homes received up to 11 visits in the year, accounting to nearly one visit per month.

Southwestern Finland Police Department sergeant Teemu Huttunen agreed that intimate partner violence is now becoming better recognised as an issue.

"This is a very challenging phenomenon for the various authorities to identify and address. Fortunately, the police have learned how to better recognise it, and the means of tackling it are also more effective," Huttunen said.

While statistics suggest that officers made more home visits due to domestic violence alerts during the coronavirus pandemic, the increase is not as stark as in the figures for social emergency services.

"This may be due to the fact that it is often easier for a victim of violence to contact social services than to ask the police for help from the emergency centre," Huttunen said of the gap in the figures.

Awareness is key

"It is important to be aware of intimate partner violence as a phenomenon. I emphasise that one in three women still face intimate partner violence," social worker Ahosmäki said.

She added that she is pleased with the support available at crisis services, emphasising that people have been more concerned about their neighbours, friends and acquaintances as a result of the pandemic.

"Be worried about a friend if they are absent, crying, withdrawing, or if there is a bruise on their cheek. Ask whether everything is fine. Let’s at least give that person the chance to say no," the social worker said.

In case of emergency, dial 112. You can also contact the MIELI Crisis Helpline at 09 2525 0113.