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THL: At least 130,000 in Finland suffered domestic violence in 2017

Nearly five percent of all women and 2.5 percent of men in Finland experienced threats or violence during the year, says the public health watchdog THL.

Nainen menee sisään Oulun turva- ja ensikodin ovesta.
Some 94% of adults seeking refuge at shelters are women. Image: Yle

A report published by the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) on Thursday suggests that more people in Finland are experiencing domestic violence – or at least are more inclined to reach out to a state helpline or shelter for support.

Nollalinja, a 24-hour support line, received nearly 8,000 calls last year – or nearly one per hour.

The free phone number, which is supported by the THL and the Justice Ministry, began operations in December 2016, so no comparable long-term figures are yet available. However, the number of callers to the service rose steadily throughout 2017.

The service offers free, anonymous 24/7 counselling in Finnish, Swedish and English to anyone who has experienced psychological, physical or sexual violence or threat of violence in an intimate or family relationship.

During the past year, 130,000 people were victims of violence that had occurred within intimate relationships, says the THL. It estimates that nearly five percent of women experienced threats or violence during the year, along with 2.5 percent of men.

However the institute notes that many cases of violence in intimate or family relationships remain unknown to authorities. A 2012 study suggested that police only learned of about one-tenth of cases of serious violence against a partner involving people over age 15.

Psychological abuse most common

Based on calls received by the service, the vast majority of violence is male-on-female. Men only reported being victims in about 15 percent of the cases.

The aggressor was usually a current or former spouse or partner. In less than one-fifth of cases, the perpetrator was some other relative.

Nearly all callers reported repeated incidents of violence. Psychological abuse was the most common form of violence in intimate or family relationships. As defined by the European Institute for Gender Equality, psychological violence may include isolation, verbal aggression, threats, intimidation, control, harassment or stalking, insults, humiliation and defamation.

Nearly half of callers reported physical violence, while one in five spoke of threatened violence. About one-tenth said they had been subjected to financial or sexual violence.

More turn to shelters – nearly half underage

The number of people seeking protection at Mother and Child Homes and Shelters rose by nearly a quarter last year. More than 4,300 individuals sought shelter, including 2,300 adults and more than 2,000 children. Ninety-four percent of the adults were women.

"The expanded number of places offered by shelters and their free-of-cost services can be seen in the growing number of customers,” THL senior researcher Johanna Hietamäki said in a statement.

In 2014, a study by the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency found that Finland was the EU’s second most violent country for women, with 47 percent of women experiencing physical or sexual violence from the age of 15 on.

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