Swedish officials and social workers hope that abusive partners will lower their hands, take a breath and call a helpline, an unorthodox solution to a surprisingly common problem in ultra-progressive country.
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The helpline is a two-year pilot project organized by local authorities in the nation’s capital of Stockholm and the southern region of Skane, where Sweden’s third-largest city Malmo is located. The service will start accepting calls in January.
While confidential helplines for abuse victims are already commonplace, providing support to the abusers themselves is a novel approach, one the organizers say will help them overcome shame, make amends, and stop hurting their loved ones.
There is “no obvious way of getting into contact with those perpetrating the violence,” but this project can change that, project leader Christina Ericson told state broadcaster SVT.
Trained social workers and psychologists will be ready to advise and counsel the perpetrators who want to stop hurting their partners. They will also work with people who experience thoughts of beating their loved ones, and help them to avoid violence.
Some abusers are aware of their own actions, would like to change their ways, but are reluctant to actually reach out for help, the organizers say. The hotline will “send a signal” to such people and “reduce the shame a little,” so those in need would be open to seek help, Andrea Hansson, a social worker at the Crisis Center in Malmo, told local media.
While Sweden has become a byword for ultra-woke progressive policy – the country’s largest trade union introduced a ‘mansplaining hotline’ in 2016 for instance – an EU report found that the Nordic nation’s domestic violence rate is fourth out of the 28 EU states, and half of the Swedish women surveyed had reported physical or sexual violence in general.
This phenomenon has been dubbed ‘The Nordic Paradox,’ as it also affects Sweden’s closest neighbors, Norway, Finland, and Denmark. All countries have excellent gender equality ratings, but similarly high rates of domestic violence against women.
In the 2000s, a similar phone line for domestic violence perpetrators was launched in the UK by charity group ‘Respect.’ The National Domestic Violence Hotline, operating in the US, is also open to abusive partners and their victims.
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