How do victims of domestic violence live in a crisis centre, what help do psychologists and lawyers provide them, what activities are they engaged in to cope with the bad experience and what support do they receive after their stay in the centre is over?
Representatives of the Council of Europe and the Kingdom of Norway, who are monitoring how the 2014-2021 Justice Programme of the Norwegian Financial Mechanism (NFM) is being implemented in Bulgaria, got acquainted with this. The head of the Programme Operator is the Minister of Justice Krum Zarkov.
The representatives of the Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Public Security, the Norwegian Correctional Service, the Norwegian Judicial Administration, the Office of the Financial Mechanism and the Council of Europe met and spoke with women accommodated in the crisis centre of the PULS Foundation in Pernik, whose services are used by over 300 victims of violence annually.
The guests got acquainted with the conditions and services provided by the centre. They witnessed the living organism of the place where victims and their children live, viewed the specially equipped premises for psychological consultations and the creative workshop for art therapy.
During their visit, representatives of the delegation talked with women who benefit from the Foundation's programmes. One of them said that she herself sought the services of the centre after another severe act of violence by her husband. During her six-month stay there, she and her children received complex care. The Foundation's lawyers helped her prepare the documents before the court to obtain a restraining order. Psychologists worked weekly with her and her two children to deal with the effects of the abuse. The Foundation's team assisted the woman in applying for and obtaining municipal housing, as well as in searching and finding a new job and enrolling the children in kindergarten and school. The woman was adamant that she would not return to her husband.
The PULS Foundation is one of the non-governmental organizations implementing a project funded by the NFM under the Justice Programme.
The main goal of the "Introduction of effective integrated approaches in the field of domestic violence and gender-based violence" project is to support the development and introduction of effective integrated approaches aimed at improving the status and opportunities of Roma women and girls, victims of domestic violence.
Ekaterina Veleva, Chairman of the Foundation, explained to the guests that the centre in Pernik has been supporting victims of violence for 24 years, and at the moment its team is making efforts to develop this service in the town of Kardzhali, where no services have been developed yet to support victims of violence.
"The funds we receive from the Norwegian side will also help us to upgrade the services in Pernik and to develop the capacity of psychologists and social workers who work with the victims in the Kardzhali region", Veleva said.
The head of the project Yuliya Andonova thanked for the support NFM provides to Bulgaria and shared that the programmes and services it finances are of key importance for organizations such as PULS to improve support services for victims of violence in Bulgaria.
The visit was part of the programme of the two-day Cooperation Committee between the donor - the Kingdom of Norway, the partner organizations of the programme and the Programme management team at the Ministry of Justice.