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Elephants in the Room: Ethnicity and Violence Against Women in Post-Communist Slovakia

NCJ Number
Violence Against Women Volume: 16 Issue: 1 Dated: January 2010 Pages: 99-125
Gabriela Wasileski; Susan L. Miller
Date Published
January 2010
27 pages
This essay examines the complexities in understanding the issues related to intimate partner violence in Slovakia, with attention to the cultural factors and the efforts of the European Union that influence the quest to implement measures designed to document, eliminate, and prevent violence against women in pre- and post-communist Slovakia.
In addition, the essay addresses the general toleration of domestic violence in Slovakia's cultural climate, particularly when it occurs within the Roma ethnic group. The essay also examines the attitudes of government entities, public authorities, and nonprofit organizations in their reform efforts. Since the post-1989 transition period, the establishment of women's nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) has led the way for political change and a wider recognition of social issues that affect women, such as violence, health care, education, and the promotion of economic and political participation. Since the issues that NGOs address are not supported with resources or interest from the government, NGOs rely on volunteer labor, and their emphasis on social services is defined by a framework used by Western feminist donors. Slovak NGOs have done little to change gender stereotypes or address issues such as domestic violence. Nonetheless, NGOs and international donors provide stopgap and necessary services to combat violence against women when state institutions fail to respond adequately and systematically to changes in laws. Given the scarcity and limits of existing data on domestic violence in Slovakia, future research efforts should continue documenting the incidence and prevalence of violence against women, using both qualitative and quantitative methodologies. Special efforts should focus on the specific needs of Roma battered women. Exploratory research might also question victim service personnel in NGOs and the Slovakian Ministry of Justice and other government programs in order to determine what strategies of apprehension, prosecution, punishment, and/or treatment are most effective. Special emphasis should explore minority populations so as to ensure that programs are inclusive and services include culturally specific needs of all community members. 22 notes and 72 references