Balkan Criminology at International Conference on ‘How to help victims of domestic violence and what can be done better?’

Prof. Dr. Anna-Maria Getoš Kalac, Assist. Prof. Dr. Reana Bezić and Mrs Petra Šprem participated in the work of the International Scientific Conference ‘How to help victims of domestic violence and what can be done better? – review of existing solutions and proposition of new activities’ held September 29th to 30th 2022. Prof. Dr. Getoš Kalac gave a presentation on ‘Tackling Domestic Violence Through Criminal Law: Focus on Empirically Based Crime Policy’, Assist. Prof. Dr. Bezić on ‘Domestic violence victim protection in Croatia – main challenges & new solutions’ and Mrs Šprem on ‘Fighting domestic violence – how successful we are?’.


Tackling Domestic Violence Through Criminal Law: Focus on Empirically Based Crime Policy (Getoš Kalac)

During the past few decades the phenomenon of domestic violence has worldwide slowly but steadily been transformed from a “private” matter to an issue of extraordinary “state/public” concern. This transformation is firmly rooted in the victims’ rights movement and closely related to the general and continuously growing trend to (re)focus the states’ attention on victims of crime. There is no doubt that crime policy has thereby shifted its traditional attention from the criminal towards the victim and various types of vulnerable groups (in particular children and women), whereby criminal law and criminal justice have meanwhile become the main tools for tackling domestic violence. There are however little if any sound and empirically based evaluation studies that might shed some light on the question whether such a criminal law approach has in fact managed to successfully tackle the phenomena of domestic violence, esp. to protect its (actual and expected future) victims. By “creating the crime” of domestic violence and through raising awareness about the need to report, investigate, prosecute and penalize it, the phenomenon as such keeps steadily growing, which creates the impression that there is more and more domestic violence. But without a solid empirical basis to check for the criminological and victimological realities behind this impression and considering the many unknowns of domestic violence (esp. the dark figure of crime) it is challenging to assess whether crime policy solutions are efficient and effective. A particular challenge we are facing concerns the mid-generation of both perpetrators and victims of domestic violence who were socialized in a setting that considered many of the forms of domestic violence we criminalize nowadays as socially acceptable. How this prospectively “forgotten” and presumably rather large group of addresses of criminal law might me better reached is a challenge that still needs to be discussed and tackled.

Domestic violence victim protection in Croatia – main challenges & new solutions (Bezić)

From the 1980s to this date, global justice systems have experienced a normative “explosion” in the field of domestic violence victim protection, and a whole series of legal instruments which deal with the issue of the position and rights of victims has been adopted. One of those documents is Directive 2012/29/EU which plays a significant role in the European legal system by establishing minimum standards for the victims, their rights, support and protection. The mentioned directive was implemented in Croatian legislation by amendments to the Criminal Code. However, apart from the already unquestionably sufficient normative framework for the domestic violence victim protection in criminal proceedings, the question arises as to whether victims truly receive the protection and support in practice? How often do domestic violence victims ask and get police protection? Do they get notified when their abuser gets out of the prison? Who does individual victim assessments? Do victims get an adequate psychological, legal, financial support? The aim of this presentation is to point out the key challenges in dealing with victims of domestic violence within the Croatian criminal law system and to offer ideas for some better solutions that will ensure that real protection does not remain a dead letter.

Fighting domestic violence – how successful we are? (Šprem)

Accumulated knowledge about the devastating effects of domestic violence over the last few decades has forced the countries of the world to test their willingness and capacity to effectively protect victims of domestic violence and reduce the occurrence of this phenomenon to an optimal level. In this sense, a lot has been done – from international documents, hotlines, shelters, advertisements to normative changes and programs. Although the significant efforts in suppressing domestic violence resulted in a paradigmatic perception change of the phenomenon in question, the question arises as to how successful societies are in suppressing domestic violence? This presentation strives to provide an insight into societal changes regarding domestic violence which were made in the last decades, but also to point out still existing challenges and key obstacles in that area. The main goal of this presentation is to explore an indicators of society’s success in dealing with mentioned phenomenon and answer the leading question: whether domestic violence is decreasing or increasing?

related readings: Getoš Kalac, A. & Šprem, P. (2022). Obiteljsko nasilje u doba pandemije – preliminarni rezultati kriminološke analize. Zbornik Pravnog fakulteta u Zagrebu, 72 (4), 1037-1073. OA available here: