AOAV: Could you tell us about the work of the Office of Domestic Violence and how you collect information?
Analía Monferrer: The Office of Domestic Violence is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year, and is directly related to the Supreme Court. It offers interdisciplinary attention to the people who have experienced, either directly or indirectly, an act of domestic violence.
Upon arrival to the office, the victim is attended to by a psychologist, a lawyer and a social worker. Our team carefully listens to their story, records what has happened in a report, notes the level of risk that the person is in, and if necessary, facilitates a medical examination of any injuries that may be present.
This interdisciplinary approach means that in the same initial meeting, we are informed of what violence has occurred, have prepared a report, and have taken a medical analysis of the victim. With this information, the judges are then able to decide if they will put in place protection measures or not.
The Office of Domestic Violence came about at the request of judges from both the civil and criminal courts, as a way to facilitate access to justice, and to improve the response that the justice systems can offer to the people who have been affected by domestic violence.
Every case that is brought to the Office is registered in a management system, which monitors the characteristics of each incident. Consequently, we know how many people have ever come to the office, the types of violence inflicted (physical, psychological, sexual, economic or symbolic), the age of the victim and the aggressor, the level of education, the social-economic group that they belong to, different indicators of risk, and the details of each case which have passed before justice systems.
This information is then used to adapt the available resources to meet the real needs of the victims of domestic violence. This comes into effect on a number of levels. Internally, within the justice system, the information gathered serves to improve the response that the legal authorities can offer, it facilitates a better dialogue between the judges and the Office of Domestic Violence, and improves the interaction between the judges themselves.
At the Office of Domestic Violence, we also monitor the data we receive and adjust our operations accordingly. For example, having observed a larger volume of cases admitted year after year, we have expanded our personnel and have adopted longer and more flexible hours of availability.
AOAV: With all the information that you have collected in these five years, how have you made an impact on the public debate of the subject? How do you distribute the information, and how do you utilise the media to bring this information into the public domain?
AM: Since the beginning of our operations the media has been supportive of the project. In fact, there is a parallel between when the Office of Domestic Violence was set up and a more prominent media presence about domestic violence. This is reflected in the number of articles that have been written on the subject which include the data that we have gathered here. It is rare for an article to be published without information produced by us.
In addition to this stronger media presence, there have been positive steps in changing the language used when talking about domestic violence. For example, expressions which are misleading, such as ‘emotional violence’ or ‘passion crime’ are less frequently used, and are instead being replaced by the correct terms, ‘domestic violence’ or ‘gender violence’.
AOAV: Could you give us some specific examples of the data you have collected about the reality of domestic violence? How has this data impacted your work?
AM: There are various myths around domestic violence that our data is working to dispel. For example, one common misunderstanding is that domestic violence only occurs in lower socio-economic groups. However, if we take the first 10 neighborhoods with the highest victim rate, we find Palermo and Belgrano, two neighborhoods which are considered upper or middle class.
Another myth is that the level of education plays a part. It is often implied that incidents of domestic violence involve people without education. However, we have recorded a number of cases of people with very high levels of education.
The data we have gathered has impacted the operations of the government and the justice system, locally and nationally. For example, having gaged that domestic violence can occur at any time, 24 hour centers have been set up to meet the needs of the victims.
Furthermore, a unit within the federal police has been created to specifically deal with cases of domestic violence.
In short, the data collected by the Office of Domestic Violence is used to allocate resources to where they are most needed, to provide an efficient and effective response to incidents of domestic violence.
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