Project Report: Refuge for Victims of Domestic Violence

Grantee: Kitezh, Moscow

Project: To build a network of shelters for women in Moscow and the Moscow region, using networked IT to ensure women are not turned away unnecessarily.

Kitezh is the only low-threshold refuge in Moscow and receives a huge number of calls not just from Moscow but from all over Russia, elsewhere in the CIS and neighbouring countries. Since it was established we have hosted women from Altai, Kamchatka, Trans-Baikal, Central Asia, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Moldova, Africa and even Venezuela. With such demand we are often obliged to turn people down, and steer them to other shelters such as those for young mothers, rough sleepers, or shelters run by Protestant or Muslim organisations.

Kitezh is working to develop a network of cooperating shelters for women and girls within Moscow and the Central Region.

So we drew up a project supported by the BEARR Trust that would systematise re-direction of clients that we could not accommodate, or provide housing for women who leave our refuge – sometimes after their immediate crisis has been overcome they need further lengthy rehabilitation. We realised that the staff of these other places would need re-training, so we included in the project three round tables: one on assessing demand, one on drawing up a joint strategy, and the third devoted to commemorating Human Rights Day and an international event “Sixteen days against violence”. In these round tables we included training and mini-training events (ethics of working with victims, gender sensitivity) and resolved working issues using psychological training sessions on how to say ‘no’, and on working with victims of domestic violence. We organised meetings of supervisors; and meetings with lawyers and a psychologist were possible within the project Sister Kitezh in the tower of the Novospassky Monastery.

The project coordinator spent the first month using mobile phone chat, then we linked up the private switchboard (Mango-Telekom) that connects our shelters, and added a system for sorting calls, using cloud storage for data. We monitored the number of calls by analysing the cloud-stored data. This made our interaction with clients more transparent, and enabled us to use modern IT to allocate places in shelters more quickly, ensuring the safety of the clients. Safe evacuation procedures from the shelters was another important theme. We had learned about moving victims to safety between different regions at a training event in Budapest in 2016, as a means of ensuring the privacy of accommodation of clients who are being threatened. This system of moving clients away from their home region takes account of their situation when they arrive – where they are resident, health conditions, number of children, citizenship – to develop a network of cooperating shelters of various types within Moscow and the Central Region.

Since its foundation, Kitezh has hosted women from countries including Central Asia, East Siberia, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Africa and Venezuela.

A meeting of this ‘coalition’ of shelters as envisaged in the project funded by BEARR took place on 29 November 2019 at the Novospassky Monastery. We noted at the time that the coalition had been in operation for a year, and included not only refuges but also organisations helping victims of people-trafficking and victims of modern slavery: Alternativa, Safe House, Health and Life, and Caritas. We worked together for the whole year, and moved about 300 clients. Many of the active participants in the coalition live far away and don’t have transport, so many were not able to attend because of travel problems or ill health, but this did not prevent us from working very productively for about 4 hours. We got to know new participants in chat sessions, and talked about common problems. The summaries of these meetings, written by the participants, covered the general problems faced by refuges: insufficient psychotherapy support, the need for public taxis to move clients, and for written best practice guidance for running refuges, helping the people in them, dealing with domestic violence victims, a joint project for finding work for clients, and the need for further work by the coordinator of the whole project.

On International Human Rights Day on 10 December 2019 the team at Kitezh held a training session within the BEARR-funded project for the newly opened crisis centres, including in Rostov Veliky and Kostroma. It was specially focused on help for victims of domestic violence. This was a joint project. During the event we had theoretical and practical sessions and promised our future colleagues help with further training, supervision and case management, and discussed legal questions concerning our further work and the need for legislation on domestic violence. A meeting over a buffet devoted to discussing the outcomes of the project was held on 15 January. It focused on legislative work, working with the police, and social protection. We agreed to continue to hold such meetings, and to continue to discuss legislation on domestic violence.

The long-term aim of our project remains as before – to establish a system of shelters to house women in a secure environment in the Central Region, which includes Moscow and the Moscow, Vladimir, Ivanovo, Yaroslav, Tver, Tula, Kaluga, Smolensk and Ryazan regions, including a system for collecting and storing data and for analysing requests for help with refuge services. In the course of the project we came much closer to achieving our aims, and hope in the future to find resources to consolidate what we have done.

Photos by Alena Sadikova

Alena Sadikova
Kitezh, Moscow

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