The elephant in the philanthropy room: Violence against women in Europe

Karin Heisecke

Violence against women (VAW) is a widespread human rights violation across the world, including Europe. In the EU, one in three women from age 15 onwards has experienced physical and/or sexual violence (one in five of those by a partner), and less than 15 per cent of them contacted the police. More than half of women in Europe have experienced sexual harassment, and also more than half have avoided places or situations for fear of being physically or sexually assaulted.

On the day of the release of these survey results by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency in 2014, members of  Ariadne, the European Human Rights Funders network gathered to discuss the response of philanthropy to violence against women in Europe. As the data showed the enormity of the issue, the group discussed what needed to happen in order to respond to this human rights crisis.

In a way, the fact that it took until the second decade of the 21st century to generate Europe-wide data on the prevalence of violence against women, was indicative that the issue had been neglected - “what is not counted doesn’t count”. And this even despite the fact that the cost of violence against women was calculated to amount to a staggering € 226 billion annually in the EU, and despite research that showed that increasing spending on prevention of domestic violence in the EU by one Euro, 87 Euros of costs related to this violence could be saved. In many ways, violence against women seems to have been the elephant in the room that was ignored when decisions about public policies and philanthropic programmes were made.

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