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18 Aug, 2021 15:41

Silent epidemic: Two thirds of murdered Russian women killed by domestic violence, say researchers using code to scan grisly cases

Silent epidemic: Two thirds of murdered Russian women killed by domestic violence, say researchers using code to scan grisly cases

If a Russian woman is murdered, the chances are the killer was someone she knew and trusted. That’s the chilling finding of a new study mapping out the cause of death of nearly 20,000 wives, daughters and mothers from court cases.

The research, published on Wednesday as part of the ‘Algorithm of Light’ project, backed by the Russian Consortium of Women’s NGOs, found that 66% of fatal killings where the victim was female were perpetrated as part of domestic violence. The vast majority of these women were killed by their partner, accounting for 53% of incidents, while a further 13% died at the hands of a relative.

Activists say that the shocking statistics are the result of inadequate protection for women, citing a 2018 World Bank report that found Russia was lacking in legislation to clamp down on domestic violence, workplace harassment and sexual violence. The report categorized Moscow alongside nations like Yemen, Iran and the UAE.

Also on rt.com Russian experts warn of increase in domestic violence & other crimes during coronavirus quarantine

The women’s charity group, which has helped more than 2,000 people since it was founded in 1993, say that many of these deaths could have been prevented. In one tragic case just three years ago, police officer Sergey Gusatnikov stabbed his wife Elena Verba more than 50 times after finding out she intended to divorce him, before going into work and leaving their young child with the corpse. In March last year, Ekaterina Telkina was brutally murdered at home in Moscow. Police had visited her home twice previously over domestic abuse complaints, but no action was taken against her partner.

That same month, Russian experts warned that the Covid-19 crisis and the requirement for people to stay home was worsening the situation for women in abusive relationships. “This is the first time we are facing a quarantine, but, of course, the situation [with domestic violence], in my opinion, will worsen,” said lawyer Marie Davtyan, head of the Center for the Protection of Victims of Domestic Violence. Other nations such as the US and UK have reported similar spikes, with women disproportionately paying the price for public health measures.

In response to the warnings that pandemic prevention measures could lead to a rise in abuse, three Russian MPs – Oksana Pushkina, Irina Rodnina and Olga Sevastyanova – proposed the urgent establishment of new shelters for women fleeing violence, and the introduction a requirement for police to respond immediately to allegations and complaints.

Also on rt.com Russian MPs seek to create safe havens for domestic abuse victims during quarantine

Despite high profile cases in the past, a 2018 survey conducted by the Public Opinion Endowment found that 42% of Russians feel domestic violence is only an issue in a minority of households, while almost one in four believe it is a problem in more than half of families.

The year before, the country was accused by women’s groups of having effectively decriminalized ‘first time’ domestic violence, in a move designed to draw parity between supposedly one-off attacks on family members and those on strangers, which are dealt with under the Civil Code rather than by criminal courts. Proponents of the rule change say it created an absurd situation where parents would receive harsh punishments for hitting their children, while complete strangers could do it with impunity.

Despite the fact that civil provisions can still lead to fines and arrests, the policy was panned by rights groups and international observers. Around 55% of those sampled in the Public Opinion Endowment’s survey said that the law should list domestic violence unambiguously as a criminal offense, while one in four felt it should be dealt with as a civil matter.

Also on rt.com Majority of Russians oppose decriminalization of domestic violence, poll shows

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