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Estonia: Sexual Violence Resources

Writers: Rosha, Vedanshi

CW: Discussion of and sexual violence


According to the UN Women database, the lifetime prevalence of physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence in Estonia is 20%, while the lifetime prevalence of non-partner sexual violence is 9%. In addition, 2% of women in Estonia have experienced physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence in the last 12 months.

 

According to the European Institute for Gender Equality, there is no specific definition of “sexual assault” in the Criminal Code of Estonia. However, the following acts are listed as criminal offenses: satisfaction of sexual desire by violence (Section 142), compelling person to engage in sexual intercourse (Section 143), compelling person to satisfy sexual desire (Section 143). 


 

Say someone is assaulted, or experiencing harassment or abuse. We’re going to share some available options for seeking support. When someone is assaulted, their choice is taken away from them. When deciding what kind of police action or medical support to seek, the choice is in the survivor’s hands, every step of the way.


If someone’s life is in danger, you can call 112 which is the single emergency number in Estonia1. You can ask for the police, fire department or ambulance depending on the situation.


If someone has been sexually assaulted, it was not their fault. They may not remember what exactly happened, and that is normal.


 

Medical help:


If a victim is hurt with life-threatening injuries, it is important to ask for an ambulance by calling 112. Even if they don’t have any apparent injuries, it is a good idea to go to the hospital and ask for a rape kit to be performed- this is a sexual assault examination performed to collect evidence after a rape. If they think they may be pregnant, they can also ask the medical professional for options. They can also test the survivor for any sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).


All hospitals in Estonia treat victims of sexual assault from both genders. Turn to the nearest hospital’s emergency department or gynaecologist as soon as possible. On arrival at an accident and emergency department, you will be immediately assessed by a nurse and given a ‘triage code’.


Sexual Violence Crisis Centres


As per their website, you can get help from sexual violence crisis centers if:

  • sexual intercourse has taken place, for which you could not give your consent;

  • you have been raped or you suspect you have been raped; 

  • you are forced to perform other sexually explicit acts, regardless of your gender or age.


In the sexual violence crisis center:

  • you will be heard

  • you will be supported and advised

  • you will be offered a medical examination with collection of evidence, in case you want to contact the police later

  • if necessary, you will be offered a referral to a psychologist, psychiatrist or other specialist

  • you will be offered contraceptives

  • you will be offered preventive treatment against HIV and hepatitis B

  • you will be supported if you want to contact the police

  • examinations and treatment are free

  • you can also get help if you don't remember what happened to you, but you suspect sexual violence


 

Mental health support:


Survivors may feel vulnerable, angry, confused, depressed, or another way after a sexual assault. There are mental health professionals who can help with the healing process, but more immediately, survivors may find comfort in your ‘Safe Buddies’. These can be trusted friends or family members. For mental health related support and helplines, follow the links to see which one is suitable for your situation:


Eluliin

Provides a collection of hotlines to support victims of traumatic events, including the following:

  • Emotional support phone (service provided in Estonian): 655 8088

  • The Elulin telephone line is an emergency psychological assistance telephone for people who are in a crisis situation, depressed, experiencing a feeling of loneliness, grief, experiencing violence, experiencing various family, social difficulties or ready to commit suicide: 655 5688 (operates from 7 pm to 7 am)

  • Counseling for those involved in prostitution

  • Tallinn ATOLL center: 655 6140 (3 pm - 7 pm)

  • Jõhvi AVA Center: 775 1893 (Mondays, 11 am - 4 pm)

  • Tartu Toome Center: 631 4600 (Thursdays, 11 am - 4 pm)


Republic of Estonia Social Insurance Board: Victim support crisis helpline

Local number: 116 006

International number: +372 614 7393

“The victim support crisis helpline offers support and being heard if you have experienced violence, loss, found yourself in a traumatic situation or it has happened to a loved one or acquaintance. Crisis helpline counselors listen, share information about help options and, if necessary, connect you with the right specialists.”


 

Police action:


Survivors have the choice to decide whether they want a police report filed and press charges against their assaulter(s). This can be done by calling 112, reporting it online (if the survivor has an Estonian ID card), or by going to the nearest police station. The survivor will be asked to recall a description of the attacker, the location, or any details they can remember for the official statement. If the attack was less than 48 hours ago and the survivor has not visited a local hospital for forensic examination, the police will send them to the nearest hospital. If the survivor remembers further details about the attack, they are encouraged to share them with the police right away.


The police and prosecturo's office will decide within 10 working days whether or not to launch a formal investigation based on the collected statements and evidence. To stay updated about the case, the investigating police officer's contact information can be requested at  Border Guard general information line +372 612 3000, or at www.politsei.ee 


We’d like to thank the Gender Equality and Equal Treatment Commissioner of Estonia for telling us more about the Web Police, full details of which can be found here: https://www.politsei.ee/en/web-constables 


As per their website, Web Constables can be a source of support if you suspect that someone is impersonating you online, if you are the victim of bullying/harassment, or if you would like to report sexual or other abuse. The contact details of Web Constables can be found directly from their website, as linked above.


 

If someone is in an abusive relationship, there is help available. First of all, if anyone’s life is in immediate danger, call 211


There are many forms of abuse. Specifically, domestic abuse, or intimate partner violence, is a form of abuse used by the abuser to maintain power in a relationship through verbal, emotional, mental, sexual, reproductive, financial, or physical abuse and coercion.


The survivor can find a ‘Safe Buddy’ to help them, and check-in on them regularly- be it, friends or family. This person can help alert authorities if they don’t respond to a check-in text, call, or email within a reasonable amount of time. They can also come up with a code word if there are concerns of their abuser reading their messages.


If the survivor is looking for support services online, and is concerned their abuser will see them, they can use ‘incognito’ web browser features, which ensure that searches and web activity cannot be tracked on that device.


Survivors can also reach out to local women’s shelters. In Estonia, Women’s Support Centres provide victims or survivors of domestic violence with wrap-around support. Their website: https://sotsiaalkindlustusamet.ee/en/child-and-adult-need-help/support-victims/womens-support-centers


In order to get help, call the victim assistance crisis line at 116 006 (or from abroad +372 614 7393) and request information on the nearest women’s support center.


Services offered, as per their website:

  • Primary psychosocial crisis support 24/7 both by phone and on site at the support center. We listen to you, we believe and support you, and we tell you what kind of help is available to you and your children.

  • Counseling to help you cope with what happened. We value and support your security, explain to you your rights and help communicate with the necessary parties to find suitable solutions.

  • Psychological counseling or psychotherapy. We support your emotional well-being and movement towards positive changes in order to achieve the goals that are important to you.

  • Legal advice. We provide you with primary legal assistance, help prepare documents and support you in securing your rights (including in court if necessary).

  • Safe temporary accommodation. If you can't stay in your current place of residence and you don't have another safe place, you can stay with us with your children.


 

If you’re worried about the safety of a loved one, how can you help?


If their life is in danger, call 211.


Otherwise, you can share resources and information, like this article. Be kind, understanding, and above all else, non-judgemental. Victims are often unaware they’re in an abusive relationship, or they depend on their abuser for things like a home, an allowance, or they are being gaslighted. Gaslighting is when the abuser denies ever being abusive when confronted about their actions and behaviour, and is a form of mental and emotional abuse. 


For the person you are trying to help, even though they may not immediately leave their relationship, you showing belief in their experience validates it, and may give them the strength and assurance needed to leave.


As an ally, you can also offer to go with them to the police, the hospital, to court, or be with them when they call a crisis line or shelter. When victims are isolated from their support networks, it, unfortunately, gives their abuser more power over them.


Believe them. Stand with them, no matter what they decide. Be an ally.


 

Sources for further reading:

 

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