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Domestic Violence and the COVID-19 measures

Following the Dutch government’s regulations to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus, many people are spending much more time at home. Unfortunately, for the 200,000 to 300,000 people per year who experience domestic violence in The Netherlands, the ‘stay at home’ situation can have serious consequences. Even if you have never experienced domestic violence previously, the additional stress arising from the enforced close quarters may trigger violent behavior in some people. Luckily, there are ways to obtain help, if you, or someone you know, is suffering from it or its affects.

It is important to note that both child abuse and senior abuse are included within the domestic violence definition. While women are significantly the largest group of victims, men, children and the elderly can also be victims. Domestic violence occurs at every level of society, within each age group, and geographical area.

Ways to get help

Doctors, nurses, and other professionals are required to follow a five-step protocol if they suspect any domestic violence. A full list of those trained can be found on this page. They can also be contacted separately and in confidence, as can the police. As always, if there is an immediate threat, call 112 and ask for the police.

There is also a service called ‘Veilig Thuis‘, which is a state-run advice and reporting point for any domestic violence or child abuse. You can always call it (for free), 24 hours per day, on 0800 2000. The service also runs shelters, gives advice, and provides support.

Exclusion orders, sentencing, prosecution

Even before anyone commits domestic violence, the police (upon reasonable suspicion) can give a 10-day domestic exclusion order. Support will also be made available for the victim(s), any children affected, and the offender themselves. The idea is that this prevents any crime from occurring in the first place, and anyone that has been given an exclusion order cannot contact their partner or children during this time. Exclusion orders can be extended to up to four weeks.

Anyone that does not comply with their exclusion order will be arrested, and can be sentenced to imprisonment (or another sanction). Domestic violence can be included within several criminal categories, such as physical or sexual violence, stalking, or threatening behavior. Each crime is prosecuted individually, and heavier sentences can be imposed for assault if the victim is a family member.

Even if the victim does not lodge a criminal complaint themselves, the Public Prosecution Service (Dutch: Openbaar Ministerie) and police will gather as much evidence as possible and will prosecute anyway.

What do I do if I can hear what I think is domestic violence?

If you think that someone in your neighborhood is suffering from domestic abuse, you should report it to the local gemeente. The points for reporting are called ‘meldpunt zorg en overlast’, or ‘meldpunt sociale overlast’, or similar. The gemeente will then pass on the information to organizations such as ‘Veilig Thuis’, or to the police. You can of course also contact the gemeente directly and ask to be directed to the appropriate department.

Meldpunt Gemeente Groningen

Meldpunt Gemeente Leeuwarden

Meldpunt (via the GGZ Drenthe) for Drenthe