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The main objectives of the program are to increase capacity to provide legal and social support to victims of domestic violence and strengthened public support for reducing incidents of domestic violence through increased public awareness of the legal rights of victims. The ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) is creating a network of trained domestic violence intervention professionals, who will be armed with legal knowledge and practical skills to support victims of domestic violence. ABA ROLI is also working with the law faculty of Bahçeşehir University to develop a domestic violence certification course that will expand Turkey’s capacity to provide legal assistance to victims over the long term. Finally, ABA ROLI is implementing a multifaceted pilot public awareness campaign that includes community awareness events and Internet-based education activities designed to increase public understanding of the negative consequences of domestic violence, change public attitudes against the acceptance of domestic violence, and increase awareness of victim’s rights and legal resources at their disposal.
Thus far, ABA ROLI has trained more than 300 professionals, including police, prosecutors, judges, lawyers, teachers, social service workers, psychologists, and imams and representatives of the Religious Affairs Office, on recognizing gender-based violence, exploring its effects on individuals, families, and societies in Turkey, understanding Turkish laws dealing with gender-based violence, as well as designing and implementing intervention plans, with attention to special populations. ABA ROLI’s professional training activities has reached out to broad swath of professional groups, and has not only contributed to enhancing the country’s institutional capacity to support victims of domestic violence but it has also laid the foundation for a sustainable network of domestic violence professionals. In addition, participants attended the 40-hour domestic violence certificate courses in late 2011 and early 2012. The intensive four-day course led by Turkish and international experts, including members of the Women’s Rights Committee of the Istanbul Bar Association, and is recognized by the Istanbul Bar Association.
The public awareness raising campaign of ABA ROLI’s program has thus far reached more than 500 attendees. ABA ROLI’s professional capacity building workshops and public awareness events will eventually be carried out in cities across Turkey, including Ankara, Istanbul and select cities in East, Southeast, Central Anatolia and Black Sea regions, which have the highest rates of domestic violence in the country. ABA ROLI developed a website www.bizeneleroluyor.com (“What is happening to us?”) on domestic violence prevention, which aims is to reach professionals (lawyers, police, social case workers, doctors etc.) who work in the field of domestic violence to activists, researchers, and government officials, and most importantly the public at large.
The website allows individuals to register as members, which enables them to provide daily updates on news and developments related to domestic violence in Turkey. Currently, 50 individuals representing a number of women’s non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have registered. Members use social media tools, such as Twitter and Facebook, to share website content. After viewing ABA ROLI’s website design and content, a representative of the women’s NGO Flying Broom commended ABA ROLI for designing a website that is attractive to users and that succeeds in creating interest in the topic of domestic violence and inspiring users to take a more active stance against domestic violence.