This article was prepared by Laura Wimmer, Deputy Head the Women´s Department at the city of Vienna.
The City of Vienna has intensified its efforts to prevent gender-based violence in recent years, building on the experience and expertise collected throughout several decades of targeting the issue.
“Women who experience violence need fast and unbureaucratic help. This is why we have doubled the means for organisations working on the protection against violence,” says Kathrin Gaál, Deputy Mayor and Executive City Councillor for Women’s Issues.
Over the past decades, a comprehensive approach has been developed to prevent gender-based violence in Vienna. A broad spectrum of actions and services has been implemented by continuously addressing the issue and raising more funds in recent years.
Public administration and civil society: close-knit network against violence
The City’s Department for Women’s Affairs runs a 24-Hour Women’s Emergency Helpline to provide women and girls who have become victims of violence with immediate help 24 hours a day. Furthermore, the city fully finances the Association of Vienna Women’s Shelters, which offers women affected by violence and their children a safe refuge. Associations and projects, which provide problem and target-group-specific counselling, support and information to girls and women living in Vienna, are being promoted.
The 24-Hour Women’s Emergency Helpline is a contact point for all women and girls from 14 years old, who experience or have experienced sexual, physical and/or psychological violence – no matter how much time has passed since then. Women receive immediate support, crisis intervention, and counselling by trained psychologists, social workers, and lawyers.
“In addition to our services for victims of gender based violence the 24-Hour Women’s Emergency Hotline is a member of numerous inter-institutional working groups and coordinates the network of victim protection groups in local hospitals and the working group on violence against female senior citizens. In our field of work, the exchange of information with other organizations is particularly important” explains the head of the 24-Hour Women’s Emergency Hotline, Heidemarie Kargl.
In four women’s shelters and nearly 50 aftercare flats, victims of violence receive adequate support. A fifth women’s shelter will open in late 2022. Thus, Vienna fulfils the Council of Europe´s recommendation to care for women’s shelters.
The extended funds also support associations and projects to offer low-threshold activities to promote the escape from violence. Prevention and intervention are the focus as well as sustained support to victims. Activities are anonymous, confidential and free of charge.
Manifold forms of violence and target groups call for a variety of actions
More city funds support the prevention of violence through working with offenders and offering counselling to men. The anti-violence trainings for men are being expanded.
The youth programme‚ Respekt. Gemeinsam stärker‘ (‘respect. stronger together’) has been extended by focusing on violence-prevention by working with youth in schools. Safety in the public space is being promoted by the project‚ Rettungsanker‘ (‘lifeline’).
Cyberviolence, as a new and dynamic form of violence, is posing a challenge. Vienna has implemented a competence centre against cyberviolence supporting victims in defending themselves against such attacks.
On the occasion of the “16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence” high-profile public campaigns, for example, on civil courage in 2021, and specific actions are implemented annually.
Vienna coordinates the network FemCities for gender equality in European cities, which enables public administrations to exchange best practices and learn from different approaches to combat violence against women.
“Combating gender-based violence needs action on all political levels and in all political fields. We need to guarantee an environment where women can live independently and in a reliable social system”, says Councillor Marina Hanke, representative of Vienna in the Eurocities Executive Committee.
The fight against gender-based violence is a long-term process; Vienna, therefore, has taken a comprehensive approach to cope with all dimensions and target groups.
This article is part of a series on how cities tackle gender-based violence and eliminate violence against women in Europe to celebrate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the 16 days of activism until Human Rights Day on 10 December. Previous articles in this series include: