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Violence against women quadruples in three years, Red Cross says

To combat this, the organization helps to put on a self-defense program for the victims of abuse


24 November 2017 04:41 PM


ACN | Barcelona

The Red Cross found that violence against women has risen – quadrupling from the numbers in 2015. To combat this, the organization’s program ATENPRO serves more than 2,787 women who have suffered some form of violence. The program includes various facets, as well as a pilot self-defense class for the victims.

The ATENPRO program was put on by the Red Cross and the DIR Foundation to empower women in potential situations of violence through a self-defense course. The director of the program, Gemma Roces, noted that in 2017, 4.1% more women were helped compared to 2016. Indeed, attacks are becoming more and more frequent, especially when one accounts for the environment of the attacker. Roces explains that the aggressor’s friends and family sometimes perpetuate the violence on the victims.

The head of the program also explained how, often, perpetrators know they can’t put themselves “at risk,” so they act on those closest to them. For the head of the Red Cross program, this is, in fact, a sign that society itself is accomplice “to this violence, and this is why measures must be taken.” 

Violence has quadrupled, with increasingly young couples

This year’s data accounts for 65 incidents in 2016 – double those of 2015, which were already two times more than 2014. The data also shows that both the attacker and the victim are getting younger and younger, and the services are including increasingly young couples, as early as pre-adolescence, although the average age is 35-45. To combat this, Roces believes that action must be taken – above all, in schools. The organization is also working to halt the advancement of these behaviors at a young age – as early as adolescence.

The Red Cross data also follows numbers released by the Barcelona City Council which show that one in every three women in Barcelona have been victims of a serious act of violence throughout their lives. These first figures were released a few days before this year’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, on November 25

Learning how to “guard” oneself

The Red Cross and the DIR Foundation have put forth many programs, including the pilot of the self-defense course for women who were victims of violence. The first group consists of seven women. In the course, women are taught how to “guard” themselves, and how to walk and act in certain situations.

The course supervisor, Samuel, explained how they start by teaching basic aspects of self-defense, moving up to simple techniques so that the women involved can learn to use them to their advantage. No complex techniques will be taught in the course, added Samuel, but instead to make their own more effective. The work that’s undertaken in the class is also very emotional, in order to give the participants the tools to use what they’ve learned in the appropriate moments. For this, explained Samuel, one must “train their mind.”

A “very significant” improvement

Indeed, Samuel noted that from the very first course, he’s already seen a “very significant” improvement, from when women didn’t express themselves. “It’s completely different” eight sessions later, said Samuel, because now they have self-confidence and more security because they “came together” to motivate each other. This, the supervisor said, is a “pretty big” emotional change.

It’s a “strategy”

One of the participants explained her situation. In her case, physical abuse began with her children, and it wasn’t until she tried to leave, that the abuse she herself was suffering changed from psychological to physical. She is one of the women who called the Red Cross phone service to ask for help. In order to feel safer, she volunteered for the pilot ATENPRO program.

She’s only been attending for a few days, but she likes it, she explained. She explained that she feels that she is “very weak,” which she notices depending on which partner she practices with. Still, she added that she is aware that it is a “strategy,” and she hopes this course will improve her safety.

Apart from the ATENPRO project, the Red Cross also works in various other ways against gender violence. The organization also helps, for example, with labor integration of women who have suffered attacks once they are safe. Indeed, it’s been shown that in 90% of gender violence cases, the victim’s partner was the one who controlled household income, and only 30% of the victims were actively working. The head of the program also highlights what the children experience, even if they themselves are not directly the recipients of the violence if they see their mother suffering abuse. She feels that they are “silenced,” and adds that the Red Cross also provides psychological support to the victims of violence so they can provide new parenting models for their children


  • Participants in the self-defense class on 24 November 2017 (by Elisenda Rosanas)

  • Participants in the self-defense class on 24 November 2017 (by Elisenda Rosanas)