Violence grows in Norwegian homes

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An estimated 20,000 women are subjected to violence and abuse in Norway every year, and officials are sounding alarms that the numbers are rising. Reports of violence within the home tripled from 2006 to 2009, according to national crime unit Kripos.

No one can say for sure what’s behind the increase, but some officials and counselors dealing with battered women suspect the finance crisis is involved. Even though Norway hasn’t been nearly as hard hit as most countries, “we have discussed whether the finance crisis can be blamed,” Monica Velde Monsen of a women’s crisis center in Stavanger told local newspaper Stavanger Aftenbladet. “Maybe the families have tighter economies. We can’t hide the fact that many of the women who come here have other problems.”

Several of her clients are dependent on their husbands for financial support. While immigrant women used to make up the majority of residents at the crisis center, locally born Norwegian women now are the largest group.

The center Monsen runs in Stavanger has seen the number of its residents rise every year and their beatings have become more severe, with 13 of last year’s arrivals narrowly escaping death. More than 100 adult women now live at the center, in addition to 94 children.

In Østfold County, southeast of Oslo, the numbers have also risen dramatically, with 2,739 women seeking help last year compared to 956 in 2006, reports newspaper Dagsavisen. A third of all murders in Norway are now committed by close relations of the victim, according to researchers at the national police academy.

State officials are keen to publicize the rising violence. “We have to change local beliefs that this is a private matter,” Loveleen Brenna of a newly appointed government Women’s Panel told Dagsavisen. “Then Norway will really be on the way towards equality between men and women.”

Battered women in Norway can be offered alarms to wear around their necks, secret addresses and even new identities in extreme cases, to help protect them from abusive men. Many women live in fear the men will find them anyway.

“We must dare to talk about partner violence and murder,” said Brenna. “And we can’t let the responsibility lie with those who are the victims.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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