Jenni Tuominen and Ljudmila Kettunen
Photo Päivi Arvonen
By Päivi Arvonen
Victims of violence can receive help anonymously and on the Internet.
Nearly half of all adult women in Finland have experienced physical or sexual violence. Many of them stay alone with their problem, because the threshold to seek help is too high for them. However, support and help are easy to find. Help is available on the Internet, and you can call helplines anonymously.
Finland is one of the most violent countries in Europe for women. According to an extensive survey conducted by the European Fundamental Rights Agency published last March, 47 percent of Finnish women above age 15 have experienced physical or sexual violence. Only Danish women experience more violence than Finnish women according to this survey, which included all 28 EU countries.
Many experts believe that there is more violence in Finnish homes than the statistics report, because many women do not have the courage to seek help.
“Every one of us has the right to a safe life free of violence,” says Merja Rankinen, a planner for violence prevention and counteraction at Women’s Line (Naisten Linja). “Talking about the problem is the first step toward breaking the vicious cycle. You shouldn’t stay alone with your problem. You can talk about it confidentially in an environment in which you are heard and supported.”
Women’s Line is a national, toll-free helpline for all women and girls who have experienced violence or threat of violence, as well as for their friends and relatives. The helpline receives 1,100–1,300 calls annually. In addition to weekdays, Women’s Line has been open on Saturdays since the beginning of the year and on Sundays since September.
“Women’s Line gives you an opportunity to discuss your concerns anonymously. The helpline listens to you and supports you. As necessary, you are directed to other services,” Rankinen explains.
The City of Helsinki provides funding for peer-support groups organized by Women’s Line. These groups are open to all, and they are free of charge. No registration is needed. The groups allow you to share your experiences with others and learn about your rights. The group discussions are always led by two experts.
Violence is not part of any culture
“Violence experienced by immigrant women doesn’t usually show in statistics,” says Ljudmila Kettunen, Director of the Mona Shelter of Monika – Multicultural Women’s Association in Finland. “Immigrant women often don’t know that domestic violence is a crime in Finland, and their language skills are not good enough to seek help.”
Monika offers support and help for immigrant women who have been victims of violence and those living under the threat of violence. Monika’s services include a national 24-hour helpline, a resource centre and a women’s shelter. The services were used by women representing 60 nationalities last year. As possible, Monika seeks to help everybody in their own language. The staff speak 13 different languages, and they are complemented by trained volunteer and professional interpreters as needed.
“We wish people would intervene in problems that they see or hear in their neighbourhoods. Violence is not part of any culture,” says Monika’s director Jenni Tuominen.
Kettunen and Tuominen remind us that everybody can get help. You can go to the Internet at a city library, and you can call helplines anonymously.
Translated by Johanna Lemola
Women’s Line: www.naistenlinja.fi, helpline 0800 02400 Mon–Fri 16–20 and Sat–Sun 12–16.
A peer-support group meets on Tuesdays every two weeks (“even weeks”) from 2 September to 9 December 2014, 18:00–19:45, at the National Council of Women of Finland, Fredrikinkatu 39 C 22, 00120 Helsinki. For more information, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other helpful connections: https://www.naistenlinja.fi/en/public/helpful+connections/
Monika – Multicultural Women’s Association in Finland: www.monikanaiset.fi, 24-hour helpline (09) 629 2304.
For more information on peer-support groups and other activities, email us at email@example.com.
City of Helsinki social and crisis emergency services: http://www.hel.fi/hki/sote/en/Emergency+services
Support and help 24 hours. Crisis emergency support: (09) 310 44222. Emergency social services: 020 696006.