By Andreea Anca, IFRC
Survivors of domestic abuse in Budapest are being offered support to share experiences, rebuild confidence and access their rights by the Hungarian Red Cross.
Up to twenty women, most of whom live in an impoverished area with high unemployment, meet once a month to find solace in each other and in the kindness of specially trained Red Cross workers who run the programme.
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 last year it launched the bespoke programme to focus on the long-term needs of abused women.
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.”
Group members are also able to pick up clothes and toys – a welcome addition for low-income families.
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 being abused.”
The project is implemented in Denmark, Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary. It is led by the Danish Red Cross with support from the Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme of the European Union (REC).
This story is linked to the Social Aspects topic of the Florence Call for Action, a series of commitments made by all National Societies in the Europe Region at the 9th European Regional Conference. For more information click here.