By Andreea Anca, IFRC

Survivors of domestic violence are being offered support to share experiences, rebuild confidence and access their rights by the Daphne initiative. The programme is implemented in Denmark, Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary, and led by the Danish Red Cross.

In the past 15 years, Danish Red Cross volunteers established a social network that helps women who lived in a shelter to manage the transition of going back to everyday life. At present, they operate 20 support networks (Q-nets) with 150 trained volunteers supporting 259 women and 176 children in Denmark.

Encouraged by the promising results of the domestic networks, the Danish Red Cross has launched the Daphne programme for sharing best practices with volunteers of other European countries. Now there are 11 volunteers in Budapest, 10 in Bucharest and 19 in Plovdiv working in the Daphne programme.

In Budapest, up to 20 women meet once a month to find solace in each other and in the kindness of specially trained Red Cross workers. A 30-year-old member of the group described the long-term effects of abuse.

“The father of my first child used to beat me, steal my money and then he kicked me out of the house,” said the mother-of-two. “Since then, this sad feeling inside always stays with me”.

According to figures, one in five women in Hungary has experienced domestic violence – a crime that was officially recognised in 2013.

For more than a decade, the Hungarian Red Cross has been running emergency shelters across the country for women escaping domestic abuse but in 2015 it launched the bespoke programme to focus on the long-term needs of female survivors of domestic violence.

Red Cross workers tailor support for each woman and take on a mentoring role. By providing a safe-space, women are able to share experiences and get access to information on their rights as well as medical and legal services. There are also cultural events and beauty sessions designed to create a positive atmosphere.

The Hungarian Red Cross’s Zsuzsanna David, who runs the group, said: “This is an empowering project. Our aim is to tap into the inner strength of women and provide them with the support they need for changing their lives by themselves.”

Lisa Maria Akerø, protection and gender specialist at the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, links the entrapment and long-term consequences of an abusive relationship to destitution and social isolation. She said: “The programme provides women with references other than the abuse which is important. Restoring a sense of social belonging and self-esteem, helps people build faith in their own ability to cope and recover after having survived domestic violence.”

The programme is a part of the Daphne initiative supported by the Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme of the European Union (REC).