Such NGOs do not have state support – the patriarchal ideas promoted by the Kremlin go against supporting a woman’s decision to leave her aggressor and get a divorce. At the end of 2019, human rights activists had managed to get a federal law on preventing domestic violence written and had found support among MPs. But at the beginning of 2020, Vladimir Putin stopped the initiative, probably due to lobbying by the hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church
, who insist on “not allowing strangers to invade the family space.”
Therefore, funding for nonprofit organizations is often project-based and short-term, usually for a year. Center directors are constantly looking for donors and sponsors around the world. There is no sense in counting on private donations within the country. Because of the war, Russians’ donations to NGOs plunged, with 40% of NGOs noting a decrease
in total funding over the year. Sadikova from the Kitezh Center laments:
I am constantly thinking not even about the budget for tomorrow, but about what it will be in a year. You must know now what you and your employees will have in a year. We do not have 100% certainty that we will get any grant. So, we write up projects and we do not know which one will “land.” After all, we need something to feed our clients, pay utility bills and base salaries for employees. Any other business can be wound down or moved online. But you can’t move our activities there…Digital surveillance of women who have fled their families
Besides branding as “foreign agents” organizations that help women, the state is also increasingly using digital technology to find runaways and return them to their families. There have been high-profile stories – usually, women from Muslim regions (see here
). Sadikova explains:
The Moscow government introduced a digital surveillance system, all Moscow intercoms were connected to video cameras and a common database. Over the past year, we had several cases when our client was detained in the subway based on facial recognition. We had to redo all our security protocols. The police have the ability to track geolocation, do call histories and use metadata. There were cases when our clients were being found every week. We… have invented some new methods, we feel like partisans, sitting in the basement, trying to deal with the Ministry of Internal Affairs. But who are they? And who are we? A couple women and frightened girls who stop breathing when you mention the name of the aggressor in front of them.
The Council of Europe, of which Russia was a member until last spring, recommends setting up one shelter for domestic violence victims per 10,000 people. Violence.No made an interactive map
of shelters and assistance organizations. There are about 200, mainly in Moscow, St Petersburg and the central part of Russia. Beyond the Urals it is almost empty. There are regions, like Buryatia, Kalmykia and Tyva, where there is not a single shelter.
“We called each of the centers,” says Barseghyan, who helped put together the map, “to understand what kind of assistance they offer and how their specialists handle victims… There are very few crisis centers… There are places which we wanted to learn from and share practices with, but there are also organizations where they can be nasty.”
As research data
from other countries shows that domestic violence is more common with veterans, and military personnel, it can be suggested that the need for crisis centers will inevitably grow as soldiers return from the war in Ukraine, often with post-traumatic stress disorders.