Daniel Ivanoski, a young lawyer from Bitola - a city in southern Macedonia – is a family law practitioner who assists his clients with divorces, inheritance and other domestic issues. Before participating in the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative’s (ABA ROLI) Gender Based Violence (GBV) training, he had never represented a client in a case involving domestic violence. In June, 21 advocates and civil society representatives participated in a two and a half day GBV training organized by the Balkan Regional Rule of Law Network – a defense advocacy network supported by USAID and its implementing partner ABA ROLI. Gender based violence is a key concern throughout the region where police and social services do not respond to domestic violence victims believing that violence in the home is a private matter.
The course began by discussing the unique psychological issues of power, control and the cycles of violence involved in GBV cases, as well as the serious and sometimes lifelong, psychological harm on children who witness domestic abuse. The training also covered domestic and international protection mechanisms and included interactive exercises and roundtable discussions regarding possible strategic work to address GBV issues. During these discussions, advocates and civil society members identified a lack of support for victims of domestic violence by courts and social welfare institutions as a critical issue. Each lawyer who participated in the training committed 10 hours of pro bono work for victims of GBV. While working on hypothetical cases at the training, Daniel had no idea that few weeks later he would be involved in a case of GBV that would end up involving all the other participants in the training.
A client who had recently consulted Daniel regarding a divorce, had later been hospitalized for serious injuries from a physical assault by her husband, and again reached out to Daniel for help. This assault was not the first time she was abused by her husband and it took place in front of their young children. Daniel immediately filed a complaint for domestic abuse with the Bitola District Center for Social Affairs and local police. When he and the victim met with the social worker, the victim was advised to “get some sleep and rethink the whole situation.” They were met with a similar attitude by police who advised the young lawyer to “stop running around and to understand that it’s not worth it.” This lack of support only deepened Daniel’s resolve to ensure the victim received a protective order and other support to which victims are entitled by law. Daniel advised the Center for Social Affairs that he would be filing complaints against them and began building a case in support. He filed interim measures with the court and won a protective order for the victim against her husband. They are seeking a similar order for the children. At each step in the case, Daniel consulted with fellow lawyers and civil society members from the training. Fortunately, Daniel received enormous support from his fellow colleagues thanks to the virtual network created from the training and as he put it, “the success is not just mine, it is a result of strong teamwork and advice from the entire team.”
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