This year over 120 children will spend their summer vacation in a Crisis centre, or battered women’s shelter here in Norway. Many of these will live behind locked doors for several months before a safe new home is found for them.
It seems to be that this situation is completely absurd, although I see it time and time again. The person who has put these women and children in danger remains in their home, and it is the women and children who are forced to flee and live at a secret address for their own protection.
In spite of tough laws in Norway against domestic violence, the accused normally does not get more than a warning and the woman an order of protection which is supposed to prevent the accused from having contact with her. However in many situations of violence the order of protection is not respected by the accused and the family cannot return to their own home.
I was shocked when I returned to work to find our shelter literally overrun…and pretty much stood on end…by a house full of children. Outdoor activities are of course the ideal, however we don’t have the staffing to organize many group activities, the Red Cross which normally runs a volunteer program for us closes the program down in the summer because of lack of volunteers, and many of the mothers are afraid to take their children to the parks or public play areas for fear that their husbands or his family may get to them.
So we spent much of our time and energy at work this weekend trying to keep 17 children of all ages out of trouble, not fighting with their siblings, and entertained. No easy task, I assure you…spent the evening cleaning up paint and organized a popular ‘movie night’ complete with popcorn and juice after the youngest were finally in their beds.
More needs to be done to protect the rights of these families, and help them to stay in their own homes, and rather force the assaulter out of his comfy little bed. However it seems to me that it is a typical womans issue, which doesn’t get enough attention or resources in society in general. The assaulter is normally a man, and the victim normally women and children – and the entire issue is met with excuses. Although the laws protecting the women and children’s rights are in place, the usual excuses – lack of evidence, lack of witnesses, lack of resources in the police force, investigators, and the legal system to give ‘domestic’ cases enough priority.
Meanwhile it is the victims who lived locked up, for their own safety, behind closed doors and security windows and I just keep on popping popcorn and washing up paint…and doing the little I can to make it better.